Sunday, January 14, 2018

He Is Still "My Dad"

He is still my Dad.

   I don’t know why I feel the way I do today. Maybe it’s from the short, dark cold winter days. Maybe it’s because I’m older and just getting tired. Or maybe it’s just because I am me, and that’s the way I am.

                Today is the first anniversary of my father-in-law’s death and I see so many posts on Facebook from his family and the memories they share. How they miss him and all the things they remember doing or learning from him. It made me think of my own father.

                I find it so hard to relate to anyone who lost their father later in their life time. All the memories they have of them and stories to tell. It must be great to have had a father to be there for them when they are in their 30’s 40’s 50’s or 60’s and beyond. And to lose them after all that time must be devastating. But I can’t say, or be able to tell them I know how they feel.

                See I lost my dad when I was 15 years old and at 62 years of age now I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I listen but it is hard to understand all the stories and memories they have of their fathers.

                I don’t have many memories of my dad but the ones I have I cherish. You see my father never did many things with me, but he was still my dad.  I don’t ever remember going hunting or fishing with him.  He never taught me how to throw a ball or ride a bike, but he was still my dad.  He never showed me how to drive a car, but he did teach me to drive a tractor.

                We never went to a ball game together, unless you count the ones I watched from my aunt and uncle’s house in Hofa Park, when we went to visit on Sunday afternoons, but he was still my dad!

                I remember helping him in the garage and working on cars and in the garden, but I never remember having a heart to heart talk with him, but he was still my dad.

                I never remember him telling me he loved me or was proud of me, though I knew he did and was, but he was still my dad.  My dad never met my wife or had lived to have enjoyed spending time with my children, but he was still my dad.

                He did teach me how to play Sheepshead and Smear but was not around long enough to enjoy time together to do those things, but he was still my dad. He taught me not to be afraid of the storm and to be in awe of the beauty and power of lighting, even though I may be beginning to lose some of that.

                Maybe he knew his time was short with me and didn’t want me to be dependent on him’ to think I couldn’t go on without him. For as the song goes, “And the day he died, all he left us was alone.” But he was still my dad.

                I do remember the first brand new bike he bought me and how we tried to figure out how it shifted gears and wondered how those little rubber pads could work as brakes. I remember how he always loved the same present for Christmas, a new pocket knife, because the one he got last year was worn out. Yup he was my dad!

                I don’t have many pictures of my dad, and even fewer ones of us together, and I am beginning to forget what he looked like. But he was still my dad.

                If you got this far reading, you may think I am having a pity party, but I’m not. I am just telling you to hang on to all the memories you have, share them with your families, and keep telling the stories. but don’t judge me if I can’t relate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing the stories and enjoy the excitement it brings for those telling them. I just get overwhelmed and I’m just trying to hang on to the few I have.

                Even though I may be telling the samething’s over and over it is all I have, to help me remember he is still and will be forever my dad.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Dad's Final Farewell

This past week was a hard one for me as I gave the memorial for my father-in-law before his funeral Mass.
Before I start I want to thank my wife Joan and all my brother and sister in laws for sharing their dad with me. I lost my dad when I was 15 years old and didn’t have that role model in my late teen and early adult life. I learned some things from my dad and many of those things were reinforced by my father-in-law. But I learned many life lessons from my father-in-law, who I will most affectedly call dad from here on in.

Dad was a son, a brother, a nephew, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, an uncle, a friend. He was a wise man, a miracle worker, as tough as nails, as gentle as a warm summer breeze kind of person. His broad shoulders and strong arms could carry the heaviest bag of grind feed or the squirmiest calf, and at the same time hold a sleeping or fussy child or grandchild in their gentle grasp.

There wasn’t anything that he couldn’t fix, and if it wasn’t fixable to his standards then he made something better to replace the broken part. He had a magical bench in his work shed that if anything broken was set on it, it would be mystically fixed.
 Many times, he allowed things to get broken so a life lesson could be taught there, as he would say “Your experience by my expense.”

He helped children and grandchildren alike distinguish when it was time to work and time to play. And he brought a better understanding to what it meant to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, literally.

Learning simple lessons like cutting the twine by the knot so it didn’t get caught when you pulled it off, to finding a tree or post to drive to so you drove the tractor straight for the rock pickers. Or just showing how to find the right piece of grass to make a whistle or picking the best clover flower, and knowing how to get the sweet tasting nectar.

From teaching children how to ride a bike, finding the best place to dig for worms, picking just the right apple from the tree, and finding the best pea pod to open. There wasn’t anything that dad couldn’t do. Well almost, we won’t mention dad’s swimming ability or his attempt at riding a scooter.

Technology had nothing over dad. He could send and receive messages easily, from a towel hanging from a second story window, or a wink of the eye. He could get his message across from a stern look that would turn into a sly smile, to phases like, you have to have a heart, or I guess I’ll need a spade for that. Super speed computers, the Internet, or iPad never entered into any decisions making process for dad. A good night’s sleep was all that was needed as he would say many a time, “Let me sleep on it”

Family was important to dad, whether it was near or far. From Sunday dinners, baseball games in the yard, volleyball in the backyard, seven steps around the house, and of course a good game of sheepshead or pinochle . And the times of piling in the station wagon for a drive to check out the neighbor’s crops and a stop for ice cream, to trips to other states for vacations, weddings, fishing, or hunting. Or just being able to have the one on one talks on the glider swing as you watched the sun go down on another day. Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas was always special family tradition time.

No one was immune from the tricks and experiences, not even the city relatives, when it came to getting squirted with milk from the cows, learning to drink from the water hose or checking to see if the electric fence was on.

His love of mom showed every day. The quick smooch, the loud conversations when they both had their hearing aids out, up till the final days, wanting to make sure mom had a birthday cake for her birthday.

Dad seemed to have a hard time verbalizing his love to others. When his children or grandchildren would leave that would say Love you dad, and his reply was Ya ok. As he seemed to realize his time on this earth was coming to an end, he was the one to say I love you first. Even I got an “I love you” the last time I seen him.

 And so we now say Dad, go with God, to break bread with the one whose life and death has guaranteed the everlasting life we seek. May his angels lead you today into paradise, as you begin your new life, in which health replaces illness, youth replaces age, and certainty replace doubt; as you enter the company of those loved ones who preceded you and as you wait for those who are to follow.
And don't worry dad, we’ll close the gate.

We Love you Dad.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I Miss My Dad


 Have you ever seen that poster that shows how people see their dads at different ages? They go from the dads can do anything to not know anything, and then see what would dad say until age 60 when they miss their dad.

   I have been missing my dad since I was 15, that is when he passed away. I am in my 60’s now and a few days ago I was really thinking about him since his birthday was coming up on March 16th.

   Times were so much simpler back then. Sundays the stores were closed and it was a family day, church, homemade chicken dinner, and an afternoon of 7 handed Sheepshead.

   I miss my dad.

   I remember the family rides to get ice cream at the old store in Cecil and sitting in the park at Shawano Lake. Or going to Hofa Park to watch the baseball game from my aunt and uncle’s house.

   I miss my dad.

   I remember listening to his favorite records, The Laughing Horse Polka, The Iron Casket Polka and Whispering Winds. Or when he would pull out his violin and rosin up his bow and play for us.

I miss my dad.

   I remember waiting for dad to get home from work so I could drive the tractor out in the field. Or the time the front tire went flat and he put an old car tire on because we couldn’t afford a new one. He told me “Now we have a tire for driving on the road and one for driving in the field.”

   I miss my dad.

   I remember some Saturdays going to work with him and watch how he could transform wrecked cars back to their original shape. I turned down approval of work done on a few of my vehicles because I knew they were not up to dad’s standards.

   I miss my dad.

   I remember standing outside with him watching the lighting strikes during a storm. He would tell me it was God’s fireworks show for us. Or the warm summer nights just looking at the stars after a hard day’s work and feeling peaceful.

   I miss my dad.

   I remember the time he got me my very own brand new Spyder bike with 5 speeds from Sears and how we both were trying to figure out how the chain went from one gear to another without falling off.

   I miss my dad.

   I remember when my mom was in the hospital and my grandmother would watch my sister and I during the day. I couldn’t wait for him to get home to tell him how the day went. Then he would let grandma go home and he would take the supper dishes outside and let the dog lick them clean, then put dish soap on the and wash them with the hose and let them dry in the evening warmth. Laughing he would say “Now don’t tell mom.”

   I miss my dad.

   I remember searching the garage for his lost tools only to find them later in the garden where the dog buried them. And how we would go out into yard and pick apples off the ground because he said the bruised ones tasted the best, and he was right!

   I miss my dad.

   I often wondered how he would have loved my wife and children and how they would have loved him. I wondered what he would of think of me being a deacon. I wondered if he would have been as proud of me as I was of him.

   I miss my dad.

   I have wondered how different my life would have been if he was just alive a little longer.

   Happy birthday dad. I love you and miss you, always have and always will.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Which Way Should I Go?

   How many times have you asked yourself that very question? It could be a question about a career change, a health change, or just an attitude change.

   It could be a direction that you want to go that could have earth shattering consequences. Or could just be something simple as, which way do I want to take to get home tonight.
   It could be a question that you put out to God. Which way do you want me to go God? Or maybe it's not the question at all, but just the nudge from God to put you on a certain path, that you have no knowledge of what lies ahead.

   Well tonight on my way home from work it was just a simple question. You see I have about four different ways that I could go to get home from work today, and I just wasn't sure which way I should take. Do I take Highway 29 to Highway 32 and go through Pulaski, or do I turn off at Maplewood Meats and take the back roads going past Anston and Kunush? I could take Highway 41 North to County B and go past Flintville and the cheese factory. Maybe I should stay on 41 a little farther and turn off on Brown Road and then to South Chase Road.

   Well I decided I'm taking the County B route, but just as I was getting to the exit I felt that little nudge that made me decide to go a little farther to Brown Road. 
Now that route is the longest of any of the roads and I really wanted to get home, because it's really cold out tonight and I'm tired from 12 hours of work, but I decide to follow the nudge. 

   I make it to the railroad tracks then around the corner and then turn on South Chase Road. Taking my time, driving slow, headlights on bright, watching the sides of the road, because this road is notorious for having deer jump out in front of cars. 
As I get a little past Schoolhouse Road I notice a light in the ditch and as I get closer, see that it is a car with an elderly man getting out of the driver side. I pull off to the side of the road, put the car in reverse, and back up to where he is. 

   My old rescue squad days kick in and I check to see if he's okay. He is just a little shaken up but his car is in much worse shape, definitely will not be going anywhere soon. He tells me that he was coming from the other direction when five deer came out on the road and one decided to stay in the middle of the road and he hit it. 

   He told me that his son just moved into the area about a mile down the road, that's where he was coming from. He was going to walk back there, but it is bitterly cold out with a wind chill of -11, so I gave him a ride back to the house.

   Now that route was my last choice, but God knew where he needed me to be. And this time, it only took a little nudge.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Present

Another Christmas Eve is here, and as I try to get myself ready to head to my in-laws farm for the tradition family gathering, my thoughts turn back to my younger days. Times where thing were so much simpler. A time where presents were shared that had meaning to the person receiving them. The one that comes to mind is the present I would give my dad.

Did you ever get the same gift year after year and treasure it like it was the first time you ever received it. That was my dad, he always looked forward to Christmas because he knew he would be getting a new pocket knife. You see he used it almost every day and would sharpen the blade until it almost to a sliver of its former shape. Miraculously it would last until the next Christmas and then a new one would take its place.

The look on dad’s face was like that of a child getting the toy he had been wishing for. He would take it and open each blade and gadget, turning it over and over, checking it over as if he had never gotten something like this in his entire life. Ever so thankful and always saying “It will be put to good use.”

It is kind of like every year we get reminded of the gift that God gave us in His son, Jesus Christ. But that gift was different and yet the same. Every Christmas we get the gift of the child Jesus, and hopefully put it to good use, spreading the Word to those who need it, using it every day until it seems to be almost gone. Then we are reminded again, and are renewed in the Spirit each Christmas, and a fresh, new sharp edge, is given to us.

This year may the Spirit of Christmas come to you and fill your life with joy, happiness and peace. May it cut into your soul like a new sharp knife, and open your heart to the many riches of the upcoming year.

May you put those gifts to good use, so that those riches may be poured out to those around you everyday.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Memories Of Death From My Childhood.

   When I was younger, maybe around 9 years old, my next door neighbor's wife died from heat stroke on a very warm and humid day summer day. I remember the rescue squad coming to the house to pick her up. At that time it was a basic pick up and transfer to a hospital with not much immediate care.

   I never really knew their names until I was older, so I would just call them Mr. and Mrs. They were both very friendly and Mrs. would give me treats, and Mr. would always make sure some of the plums from his trees would make it on our side of the fence. He told me that they fell on our property so they were mine.

   I waited anxiously every Sunday afternoon when their grand children Tim and Judy would come over and I had someone to play with for a few hours. Mrs. always had a pressure cooker of chicken soup that she put on the porch and would take the jigglier off to let the steam escape. To this day that is the way I release the pressure from my cooker too.

   I remember sitting in my favorite tree later that day that Mrs. died,  having fun like young boys do, making a lot of noise. I could see Mr. sitting on the swing in his screen porch, just staring at the flower garden. He turned in my direction and yelled at me to be quiet. It was the first and only time he ever yelled at me and I didn't understand why, until today.

   This time of year is very hard for me as on this August 31st it will be one year since my sister Lynn passed away, and on September 1st it will be 44 years that my dad is gone. Just yesterday my wife and I received word that her classmate and friend died. We had just seen her at their class reunion 2 weeks prior.

   This weekend was suppose to be a quiet camping trip for my wife and I that we had canceled last year because of my sister's death. It didn't work out that way because of the many children close by in the campground. I now understand the reason that Mr. wanted some quiet time if only to reflect of the loss of a loved one.

   I also realize that too much alone time is not good either as spending time with my grandson this weekend as well as my cousin and her husband is a time to remember that life goes on and soon we will all be together again

   So Lynn and Dad, when you see John (Mr.) and Mary (Mrs.)Sentowski let them know, that although it took this long, I did learn a lesson that day, and that I still think of them often. I love you Lynn and Dad and will stop by to visit when we get back home.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summers Past

   I sat outside looking out into my backyard this evening, and this is what I saw. Memories of years past when life was at a hectic but doable pace. A time when the sound of laughter and giggles abounded. Where every corner was a stretch to get back to home while not getting caught while playing "7 Steps Around the House." 

   A time of chasing lightning  bugs and grabbing an apple off the tree to eat on a late summer afternoon. And checking the books to see what type of bird was visiting the bird feeders.

  A time of hanging flower baskets from the clothes line post and day lilies blooming around the flag pole.  A time of apple and cherry blossoms.  A time of dark clouds in the north producing the fantastic lightning displays and clear nights of northern lights flashing in the heavens. 

   A time of beautiful sun rises and sun sets. A time of lazy summer days watching the billowing clouds in a bright blue sky, trying to see what each one looked like. A time of lying on your back on the picnic table trying to count the stars and watching for satellites and shooting stars as they zoomed across the sky.

   A time of gathering friends and family for an afternoon of volleyball and just sitting around a campfire, eating hamburgers, hot dogs and roasting marshmallows. 

   A time of sounds of birds, crickets, and frogs filling the air. And the breeze blow through the rustling leaves. A time of colored leaves in the fall and frosted trees in the winter.

   Memories of what once was, and though some of those things are still there, it is not the same tonight. As I sit in the silence with darkness coming in, and the memory makers have moved on to make memories of their own. 

   Ecclesiastes 1:4,9 One generation departs and another generation comes,
but the world forever stays.
   What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun!