Seven Years Ago Today
Seven years ago today, Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They had built a special life together, one that focused on family, faith and friends. And they taught their Six Wonderful Kids to be kind, to give back and to work hard.
We didn’t know then that Mom would be diagnosed with
lung cancer the following March, and that we would go through such deep pain for nine months. And we certainly didn’t see anything changing with Dad last year. He had just won “The Irish Open”, a family golf outing, and Dad enjoyed telling us he played some of the best golf of his life.
Today would have been Dad’s 57th Father’s Day with us. And to anyone who knew Dad, the word “Dad” was perfect for him. While Mom was our heart, Dad was our rock. And he was especially strong while Mom was getting sicker, supporting her, crying with her and praying for her.
The Best Man
The Best Man I have ever known always talked about “Life is to be celebrated”. Those simple, and yet profound words, were a hallmark of Dad. We all know we are here for a certain amount of time, so let’s make it great!
As Dad’s second child, I watched as he did everything possible for each of us. He worked three and four jobs at a time, saving for vacations and eventually our high school education. Dad worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer, “stuffing newspapers” on Saturday nights at the age of 40 to make ends meet. On those nights, he went to the 5:30 AM mass on the way home, got to the house around 6:30 and was ready to go out to “The Matthews Family” picnic at noon. We each realized years later how incredible Dad’s sacrifice was on those weekends and throughout his life.
As we got older, Dad and I grew closer. When Beth and I married in 2004, Dad, and my son, Johnny were the best men. Yup, THE BEST MAN I have ever known. We had many meals, went to games, went on vacation and fought lung cancer, together. And on this Father’s Day, I have three stories to share to give you a window into this very special man.
The Best Babysitter, Listener and Protector
Over the past few years, he became The Best Babysitter for the younger grandchildren. Whether it was a fever, a cold or just wanting to spend time with Grandpop, young grandchildren got sick. And sure enough, he was always there to “nurse them to good health” with his unique combination of Starburst, TV, smiles and a heaping of love.
When I started graduate school almost thirty years ago, he was The Best Listener. I often wondered whether I should continue pursuing my Masters Degree, and Dad would listen and listen and listen. And then he would say something like, “Well, it looks like you are making progress. Maybe take one more class, see what’s what and take it from there.” And four years later, I graduated.
Lastly, when my brother, Bob, and I were about 12 and 13, we were at the playground playing hockey. Dad was at a different part of the playground and got word that we were being picked on by a large group of “Bigger Kids” in their late teens and early twenties. Being The Best Protector, Dad approached them without any hesitation and made it very, very clear that you don’t mess with his kids. I was scared for the three of us, Dad was strong and the situation was quickly over. It was the only time I ever saw Dad lose his cool in public. But it was simple. His family was his life, and nothing would stop him from protecting us.
The Best Family Man
You can ask Karen, Pat, Tom, Dan and Bob, and they would each say Family is always what mattered most to Dad. He and Mom lived it every day. And when Mom passed away, Dad took on new roles in life, including being the heart of Kathleen’s Krew. The Annual Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation 5K became a deeply meaningful day to him as he did his part to fight for all lung cancer patients. Dad and I also went to the Lung Cancer Alliance National Advocacy Summit last year, the last time he and I would go away together. And Dad thoughtfully, and with a heavy heart, explained to members of Congress why more needed to be done for all lung cancer patients.
So, while today is very difficult for our family, we will absolutely celebrate. It is what Dad would want, and we will gladly raise a pint and share some stories in his honor. We do know that life IS to be celebrated, so please join us today celebrating the life of a wonderful person.
To my Daddy, Happy Father’s Day. We love you, and we miss you. Give Mom a hug and a kiss from each of us, and we’ll see what’s what and take it from there.