Ode To Joey

14 06 2014

Dad 01Tomorrow is Father’s Day. One year ago, I wrote a post about how celebrations like it can get lost among all of the other “fake” holidays on the calendar. I also noted how much I really like the Father’s Day, and how much more special it was with my Dad after I had children of my own.

I think about my Dad all the time, and he’s been on my mind more frequently leading up to this weekend. I wanted to write about him, and share some of my memories,. But as I started to gather my thoughts it all seemed eerily familiar. Deja vu all over again? Then it hit me… I’ve written this post many years ago.

One of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life was eulogize my Father. It was a sorrowful, yet exhilarating process. I relived some of that this morning as I sat in my living room reading it… bawling my eyes out.

By the time my Dad passed in March 2009, I had become a eulogy veteran. First Mom, then my Aunt… both in 2004. I also reread those two speeches this morning… more bawling! But after reading my Dad’s, it occurred to me that I was going to say anything more – or say it any better – than I did that day five years ago. So I’m going to “steal” from myself.

Some thoughts about my Dad…

I would like to start my speech by going over my Dad’s various nicknames. There is Joe, of course. Joey. Yukon Joe. Daddy Joe. Pop. Pop-Pop Joe. And Jello… my cousin Karen gave him that one. When I moved out and left him with a house full of women, some called him St. Joe. Only one person that I know of called him Joseph, and that was our pastor, Father Dunleavy. I referred to him by a few of those names, but I mostly called him Dad. And to anyone who would listen, I also called him the nicest guy in the world.

This week my sisters and I have been flooded with accolades and stories about my Dad. Almost all of them contained that word – nice. To quote a few… “He was such a nice man.” “The nicest person I ever met.” “He was so nice to me”. A former neighbor called him “the nicest person on Bandon Drive”. I’m sure she meant no offense to anyone of the other neighbors.

In all of my years with Dad, I have never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. Not once. I’m sure you will agree that this is an incredible feat.

Dad 02When we were growing up, my Dad worked two jobs – mostly to keep us in Catholic school. Throughout our childhood, Mom ran the home and Dad was the silent provider. When I was 15 years old, Dad got me a part time job at the Four Chefs Caterers in Mayfair where he worked that second job. It was great to have that extra connection with him, experiences that only he and I shared. I think I worked there for three years or so. Dad had worked there since I was very young, and a couple of years after I left. Looking back I realize how hard that must have been – working 15 hour days three times a week, and most Sundays. In later years I would often say how I missed some of the traditional Father/Son time. But he did it for his family, he sacrificed for us – without question or hesitation.

My Dad was simple man. He worked hard, and delighted in the time he spent with his family. “Ah Family, that’s what it’s all about.” That was one of my Dad’s favorite phrases. When he was getting therapy after the strokes, the therapists would ask me what hobbies or interests he had. His favorite things in the world were his children and his grandchildren. He would rather have a conversation than read a book. He would rather have a laugh with you, and sometimes a cry. He would rather do something for you, than do anything for himself. His favorite thing was just being there in the room, while all around him the chaos of grandchildren would reign. In the middle of it all was Dad, sitting and smiling.

Another of his phrases was “God bless us”. That was usually reserved for when technology was placed before him. Like cable TV versus 3, 6, and 10. Or the microwave that he seldom used. Or the VCR that he never used. He delighted that he had an answering machine after my Mom passed away. I remember showing him my digital camera and explaining that I just looked at the pictures now on my computer or iPod, instead of prints. He would just shake his head and say “God Bless Us”.

He would really enjoy the computer technology that allowed me to print the font on these pages so big that I don’t have to use my reading glasses – what he called his “cheaters”.

Dad 04When cable TV did come to the Langan house, it awakened Dad’s other love – sports. Especially Philadelphia sports. I knew his morning routine by heart… Wake up to watch SportsCenter, listen to KYW radio while making his breakfast, then switching to Comcast SportsRise while eating. Sundays during the fall were spent at my house watching the Eagles. We would always be recapping the previous night’s Flyers games. And when he came to live at our house last April, we got to enjoy one of the finest seasons of baseball ever played in this town – together. We watched almost every game, and even got down to see one in person. As the regular season ended, Dad had another stroke, followed closely by a third a few days later. He missed the playoff run and the championship we all shared. The Phillies Word Series win was bittersweet for me because I didn’t get to experience it with my Dad.

And “so forth like that”… another of his favorite phrases connecting almost every sentence he uttered. 

Having Dad live with us was an adjustment, one we were very happy to make. His first stroke was pretty mild, so after a few weeks he was almost back to normal. Our various routines were quickly established and my sons loved having their Pop around. He was so easy to live with, and he wanted to help with more things than he was capable of. If I was going to the store, or to soccer – or anywhere – it was “Come on Dad” and off we would go. Johnny’s job was to take him for his $5.00 haircut every few weeks. He loved the Senior Citizen Discounts. Dad would delight in seeing Colin burst into the room, usually at 100 miles per hour with a pratfall at the end. He loved that he and Colin shared birthdays, but after the stroke he sometimes couldn’t remember the date. 

And the man never met a meal he didn’t like! Robin loved that about him. She would say, “Are you hungry, Dad?” His response was always, “Getting there.” An hour later came the familiar refrain, “Robin, THAT was delicious!!” But Dad’s best friend in our house was Stan, our dog. They were already buddies before he moved in, and now they were daytime companions. Dad loved to give the belly rubs, and Stan loved to get them. And his frequent walks on our street introduced him to more neighbors than I know.  Some of them probably considered him the “nicest guy on Orion Road”.

Dad 03Last September we all enjoyed Irish Weekend in Wildwood. That weekend produced the YouTube sensation Dad Dancing video (below)… the best laugh you will ever have. One night, Dad and I decided to forego the boardwalk and slip into a bar to watch the Phillies. It was the best of times, and it was also the last drink we had together.

And “so forth like that”… A few days later he was back in the hospital, felled by the first of a series of strokes that eventually brought us to this day. It was only five months ago but it seemed much longer at the time.

Along the way there were many hard days and nights. But in this time I discovered that our family is so strong. My sisters and I have the best and most supportive spouses, and our children make us proud… most days. But I would like to thank several people that helped me through these difficult times.  Bob and Rita Kiessling, Dad’s neighbors for over 40 years – who he missed so much. And all of the neighbors on Bandon Drive who kept him in their thoughts and prayers. My coworkers and friends at Penn Emblem supported me, and granted me the support and flexibility to take care of the things that needed to be done. And if you ever have to go through something like this yourself, seek advice from people who are experienced. I thank God for Marie Gallagher who helped me tremendously, and never told me what a pain in the butt I must have been.

And when it came time for Dad to leave us, we were so lucky to have the staff at the hospice floor at Saint Joseph’s Manor. All of us were there, supported by family members and friends, Dave Carr, Rose Poretti, Chris and Bob Taylor, Helene Borell, and Sandy Bickel and Richard Saunders. For the rest of my life I won’t forget my cousin Joanne Langan stopping in around midnight on Saturday… to say good-bye to Uncle Joe.

Thanks to you all.  “And so forth and so on”…

Forever, when I think of my Dad I will remember his laugh and the smile that never left his face. I’ll never again experience the big greeting I got when we saw each other. But what I will miss most is the sense of peace that he had – very calming to all around him. I won’t be able to watch a Phillies game without thinking about him. And I’ll also remember this past week, last night and today.  When all of his friends and relatives told me what I already knew – that my Dad was the nicest guy in the world.

“Family… That’s what it’s all about.”

That’s what I said five years ago, with a some changes because I’m a bit of an editing nut these days. I have nothing to add, other than I miss him very much.

Happy Father’s Day, Joey.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

One response

15 06 2014
Marie Bradley

John, what lovely memories. Your Dad must be so proud of you, I can hear him say “we did good with that boy, God bless us!” ………and so forth and so on, much love and Happy Father’s Day xx

Leave A Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: