Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Thank You to My Dad

I've gotten to like Facebook's new flashback feature, or the feature that shows things I was doing a year ago, two years ago, and going back to my earliest days on that social media site.  
As it turns out, I posted a link to the following story back on August 6, 2011, that link pointing to my long ago abandoned Hockey Diary site.
It was not sparked by Father's Day (as mentioned in the post), but instead I attributed it to receiving a "Like" from my Facebook friend Stevan Meek.  For, it was my remembering that Stevan was originally from Orange, Massachusetts, which reminded me of a Diary entry I did awhile back....  
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It's ironic I thought of this story early today...

I really wasn't thinking in the realm of Father's Day at all. Instead, my grandson had just given me the latest news from around the sports world (he likes doing that), and it caused me to think of the way I was as a kid.

Hmmmmmm, though... Where DID that fascination with the latest sports news come from, anyway?

Aaaaah... Flash-back to a summer day when I was about 10-years old. Our family was packed into the classic sedan, winding our way through the hilly country of Central Massachusetts, and on our way to what had become a traditional summer vacation in those days. Come to think of it, I can pretty closely fix the date, because we always headed to my uncle's farm up in Vermont for the two weeks surrounding the July 4th holiday.

If there was anything unusual about that vacation, it's that we were delayed a bit when the car broke down in a quaint little town (Orange, MA, I believe). Darn, that place was beautiful. But, more on that a little later.

One thing you ought to know is that most folks who lived in farm country back in those days could do most of their own auto repairs (and so could I by the time I was a teen). I suppose it was a necessity for many, although it was also possible back then -- before the auto industry complicated matters. (Ya, I look under a hood nowadays and I can't find or see half of what makes the car run; a lot of years ago, the space under a hood was almost empty, with nearly every part pretty easy to find and access.)

Anyway, we were probably fortunate to have the family car falter close to town. And, with that, dad managed to find a service station that promised to repair things -- within the day. Yup, just imagine... Mom, dad and us kids (although I can't remember how many of the five ultimate Chighisola kids were born by then and on that trip).

Thankfully, it was a beautiful sunny day. Still, what was a family to do to kill almost an entire day, and in a strange town to boot?

Well, when dad returned from the service station, he and mom announced that we were going to spend the day having a picnic in the town park. (All right!)

Did I say we were fortunate to get plunked in that tiny burg? You bet! For, everything -- I mean, absolutely everything we needed -- was within easy walking distance. I recall that mom (and some younger ones) headed to a small grocery store located just across from the park, while dad and I browsed through the magazine racks at the nearby newsstand.

Okay, so here's where that getting-hooked-on-sports-news thing comes into play... While I recall dad grabbing a newspaper or two for himself, he also asked if I'd like to buy something to read. Ha. I didn't have a clue, really. But, I ultimately settled for a thick baseball magazine that promised to help kill plenty of hours.

Shortly later, mom spread a blanket (she'd remembered to grab from the car), and then she began making sandwiches, these accompanied by chips, sodas, and even a few after lunch sweets. Darn, could it get any better for a 10-year old?

Oh, I can still remember the scene today... We're laying there on that blanket in the park, and from there one could see the rustic downtown to one side, plus a river and a mountain to the other side. And, to top it all off, I had a very, very interesting baseball magazine to peruse.

Ya, that magazine... I wonder to this day if it was just fate that had me grab a mag that gave a breakdown on every single Major League team, and every single Major League baseball player. Man, I devoured that thing (maybe more than once). And, by the end of the day, I knew every player in baseball, including the guys who sat on the bench.

It's possible that the above doesn't really click with a lot of my readers. I don't blame you if it doesn't. But, you may have had a similar experience -- with one special book, one special movie, one special whatever. In other words, something that really hooked you, or really changed your life (either in a big or small way).

I'm sure mom and dad were relieved that we were finally able to resume our journey to Townsend, VT by early evening. Nor was I disappointed to ultimately get to my uncle's farm. Ya, when you're 10-years old, it's a pretty big deal to help milk cows, watch deer come down from the mountain near dusk, to splash and chase fish in a frigid mountain stream, to watch the loggers work in Uncle John's woods, to see his team of horses pull a plow, to...

Still, after all these years, why is it I haven't forgotten that sunny day in Central Mass? Hmmmmm...

This aside... Dad passed away from Parkinson's Disease about a year and a half ago. I'm still able to call my mom every few days, though, since she's down in Florida where she and dad had ultimately settled.

Stories like the one I've just shared with you make her sad, however (darn). They only remind her of how much she misses dad, while I keep on trying to convince her that we have memories a lot of others don't. (Oh, I could go on about the family cookouts, camping trips, Whiffle Ball games or games of Home Run Derby in the backyard, Christmas Eve at mom's and dad's house -- even when I was older.)

Okay, so you're wondering why this story is really about dad. After all, he didn't pick the town we'd be marooned in, nor did he pick the magazine that would at least slightly hook me on sport (and maybe even on someday being a coach?).

Naw, what I'd like anyone who passes by here to appreciate is that different human beings could have reacted very differently to that kind of setback. Ya, can't you just hear someone you know swearing bloody blue murder, because fate screwed-up their vacation?

Nope, not my dad. It never crossed my mind that day that anything was all that wrong. He just kept smiling and making the most of things.

Oh, as a grown-up myself now, my guess is that the whole scenario was eating at his insides. But, he wasn't about to let-on; nor was he about to let something like that affect his family in any way. Again, he just kept smiling and making the most of things.

Lastly, my mom was certainly a party to all I've described. But, I'll bet she'd also feel that my dad was the one who could make the most of a bad situation. In a way, that was HIM.

So, on this special day -- especially since I'm not able to get to visit his faraway grave, I want to say, "Thanks, Dad. I can only hope a little of you has rubbed-off on me."

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A very Happy Father's Day to all of my friends.