Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Remembering Papa

I feel terrible that on May 9, my late father-in-law's birthday, I didn't remember to dedicate my blog to him. Dad died in 2003 at the age of 75. He was one of the most wonderful people I've ever known.

Dad had a great life, and during his last 10 years or so he would often talk, with tears in his eyes, about how blessed and happy he and Mom were and how much they loved their family. He would also say that he hoped he'd die quickly, either on the golf course or on the ski slopes. He pretty much got his wish. Dad was playing golf with some friends one September day, finished 9 holes and didn't feel well, went home, had my mother-in-law drive him to the hospital, and was gone within 48 hours. He'd had an aortic aneurism that had burst; he survived the surgery but never recovered from it, and his heart gave out under the strain. Before he went into surgery, Dad received Last Rites from a priest and gave the love of his life a kiss. As sad as we were to lose him, those of us who loved him can't help but be comforted by the holiness of his death.

Dad was the only person I ever knew who said he couldn't wait to turn 70. Why? Because when you're 70, you can ski anywhere in the U.S. for free! Talk about embracing your age and making the best of it. He had such a great attitude about life.

Dad was also the only person I ever knew who said, "I love to hear the sound of a baby crying in the house." By the time he died, he had 26 grandchildren, and he was never happier than when a whole bunch of them were in his house at once--even if they were all crying at the top of their lungs.

My father-in-law had some accomplishments of which he was very proud: having graduated from the University of Notre Dame; having had an exciting career as a Navy fighter pilot in the waning days of the Korean War; having raised eight exceptional children and watching them become eight exceptional adults. But the thing he was most proud of, I think, was being a Papa to his grandchildren. And they adored him.

When Dad died, hundreds of people came to the wake, and it was an eye-opener for my husband. He said, "I always knew what a great father he was, and that I was lucky to have him. But I never knew how many other people he'd touched." There were even some men with whom my husband had grown up who said, "He was like a father to me--more of a father than my own father." Truly, fatherhood was Dad's vocation.

Since the death of his mother in 2009, my husband has commented on more than one occasion that though they weren't perfect people (because no human being can be), his parents were "perfect parents." What a great tribute to them both.

So here's a belated Happy Birthday to Papa, a great man who lived a full and blessed life. We all miss you.

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