My Dad—A Labor of Love
My Dad wrote his autobiography. Some of you have read it and others are familiar with the stories he wrote about and of course the life he lived. It should be coming to bookstores soon. He called it a Labor of Love. And that title really summarizes his life. It was a Labor of Love. As we all know, sometimes Love is not always easy—you have to work at it—and it can be hard work. But as My Dad used to say—things are worthwhile only if you have to work at it.
My Dad expressed his love in many ways—and one way he did so was by making sure we followed the rules—especially his rules. That could be hard at times—and some of us rebelled in various ways—some of us more than others. But my Dad was able to teach us to internalize the importance of following the rules—and doing the right thing. He was a man of integrity—and I admired him for that integrity.
I think that was one reason he loved the game of golf so much. It is a game which has many, many rules—and they are rules that the individual golfer is expected to follow. You might be tempted not to count all of those swings—or that putt that lips out—but my Dad always followed the rules. He always counted his strokes. He even counted my strokes. Some of our best times together were on the golf course.
Some have remarked that My Dad—who is also known to many as Papa Ron--may have mellowed a bit over the years—and I think he did—for which I must give a special thank you to my Mom. Of course in some areas he remained very strict—as you learned very quickly if you were unfortunate enough to renege in a euchre or pinochle game—especially if you were his partner.
Family was very important to my Dad and he instilled in each of us an understanding of the importance of family. Many people can talk about the importance of family—but my Dad lived his life dedicated to his family. He made sacrifices for each of us because that was the right thing to do. He took care of his family in so many ways. Growing up we celebrated every holiday, every birthday, every important event together as a family. We had dinner together every night, during which he would ask about our day—what happened at school, what was going after school. Some of us might not have been as responsive, particularly in our teenage years, but he still expected that we eat together as a family. And that is a lesson that we have tried to continue in our own families.
From his early years—he went off to the seminary for high school—and then realized that he did not want to become a priest because he wanted a family. He then joined the Navy—right after his 17th birthday—to see the world. Instead of seeing the world-- he ended up writing letters to my Mom almost every day—and hitchhiking home on weekends to see her. As he said, he joined the Navy to see the world and started his career in the Navy by viewing the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes.
My Dad started his career as a policeman in 1961. My best memories were his years as a motorcycle cop—with the dark uniforms, mirrored sunglasses and jack boots. He would pick me up from school when I was in 4th or 5th grade—sat me on the gas tank of his 1200 cc Harley—no helmet of course—and off we went. We watched him on field day—doing amazing things on a motorcycle—x crossings at 50 mph. As a traffic cop he also liked to pull people over, especially his children—for a traffic stop. Luckily he let me off with a warning. Once he even pulled over my Grandma Hummer—she was not so amused at the time—but they had a good laugh later.
Some of my best memories are of our family vacations. One of our more memorable trips was when we rented a 20 foot motorhome. Imagine driving down to Disneyworld in Florida with 6 kids—with side trip on the way back to Gatlinburg. Especially fun was the harrowing ride over the 2 lane mountain pass after my dad made a wrong turn to get out of Indian territory in Tennessee. After that trip we started the annual vacations to Virginia Beach at the Colony. Hot sunny days, playing backgammon or cribbage with Dad, long walks along the beach, a great game of golf, visits to the dollar store, the pier, crablegs for dinner and then maybe a game of horse collar to finish the night. And then last summer, the Manistee trip. Mom and Dad nice and cozy in the love shack and long days lounging on Lake Michigan with the family. Many many happy memories.
As he grew older, I think my dad might have become more conservative—or as he would say he just became wiser. I think he is still hoping that some of that wisdom will be transferred to his more liberal sons—and that would be Paul and myself—not RJ of course—who is already the wise one.
And my Dad especially loved to debate political issues. I always knew he was feeling better after we had some more heated discussions. My dad was a very intelligent and insightful man. He even extended his political debate to his grandkids—including Michael and Adam. We will all certainly miss those emails that he circulated discussing some of the issues of the day—or poking fun at some of the people in Washington.
My Dad---Papa Ron---We have all been truly blessed. There was a plaque in our kitchen that said there were 2 things to give our children.
Our roots and our wings. Thank you Dad—you gave us both and so many other things.
I miss you