Friday, June 14, 2013

A Father's Day Remembrance

The following blog is from Sheila Garcia, Associate Director for the USCCB's Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

One day, during my first year at college, I was telling my parents about the wonders of campus life. I had gone from a small girls’ high school to a large public university and was thoroughly enjoying the new opportunities for socializing. My father listened patiently, then gently reminded me: “It’s OK to have fun, but remember to keep your priorities in order.”

That bit of wisdom has guided my life far beyond college. As Father’s Day approaches, I remember a Dad who showed me what it meant to be a Christian gentleman and father.

Dad died 17 years ago, at age 72. In his eulogy, my son talked about his Grandpa’s own priorities: God, family, and country.

Dad was an old school Catholic who preached with his actions. Sunday Mass—in coat and tie—was non-negotiable. Being Catholic meant the Holy Name Society, Saturday afternoon confession, and giving up a favorite food or drink for Lent. It meant acts of service, whether Meals on Wheels or president of the parish Leisure Club. And it meant never saying a bad word about anyone. Dad rarely talked about his faith, but it motivated all that he did. When my parents found out they couldn’t have more children, Dad accepted the disappointment. He said he was grateful that God had given them one child.

My Dad understood that a solid family life starts with a solid marriage. He shied away from public displays of affection—not even a little hand-holding—but I never doubted his love for my Mom. He attended to the little things that make a marriage work, such as an unexpected gift of perfume or a helping hand in the kitchen. He worked hard to provide a simple but comfortable lifestyle. When my Mom fretted about her financial situation should she survive my Dad, he laughed and reassured her that she’d be fine. And she has. He loved to spend time with us, and my fondest memories include summer trips to the local ice cream parlor, putt-putt golf, and our week-long vacation in the mountains. He knew that you don’t need a lot of money, or things, to make lasting memories.

After raising a rather sedate girl, I think Dad got a kick out of having two energetic grandsons who shared his enthusiasm for anything sports. I will never forget my younger son, then 13, sitting by himself at the wake, sobbing softly. I am grateful Dad lived long enough to shape my sons’ lives.

Dad served in the Army during World War II and was wounded on Okinawa. He did not discuss his war experiences, but he cherished the freedom for which he had fought. On July 4, his favorite holiday, he and my Mom would pack a picnic lunch and head to the National Mall to watch the parade. He loved the military bands, the flag-waving, and the unabashed display of patriotism.

Until the end, Dad gave me what every daughter wants, the certainty that she is special, that she is loved unconditionally. That kind of love never dies.

Thanks, Dad.

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