The other day I was over at my parents’ house helping my Dad with some things on his old work computer. He turned 65 this year and retired from his company, but he was able to keep his laptop. The IT department wiped it clean though, so he needed to call his own “Lil Tech Girl” (AKA me) to help him get it back up and running, and navigate the journey from Microsoft Outlook to Gmail/Google Apps, etc.
As my Dad and I both sat there at the kitchen table in front of his laptop, I worked on it and showed him how to use different Google Apps. He sat there and watched intently, glasses on the brim of his nose, as he tried to follow along as best he could. “Here Dad, it’s really easy,” I said as I noticed him looking a little confused and unsure. “Let’s go through and do a sample document together and print it out on your printer so you know how to do it.” My Dad continued to watch my every move as I opened up a new Google Document and typed out the sentence “Dad is an idiot.” I held in my laughter as I watched him lean forward to read, very concentrated, the print and slowly come to the realization of what the sentence said. Very focused he started to say “Dad is a…” and then he started to laugh. “Oh Mo! Look at this!” He said to my mom, who was fixing her breakfast in the kitchen, “Do you see what this little BRAT wrote about me?! Where do you think she learned to do something like that?!” My mom did a half laugh and responded, not even looking up from stirring her yogurt, “She learned it from you.”
Although we are not even halfway through 2023, it’s been a big year for my Dad. After turning 65 and spending 34 of those years at the same company, my Dad decided to retire. When my parents first told me and my four siblings this news earlier in the year, we all had a few concerns. First and foremost, if he retired would his company let him keep his printer in his home office in the basement? Being five grown Millennials all off on our own, OBVIOUSLY not a single one of us owns a printer. We do all our printing through our Dad. Thankfully, they did let him keep it. Our next concern: how would he fill his time? Our Dad likes to stay busy and there is only so much vacuuming and raking that can be done in this world. (His two favorite activities-vacuuming and raking. Mopping the floors and cutting the grass both come in at a close second, though). But, our Mom assured us that he would keep busy somehow and that their marriage would survive his retirement.
So to honor the end of our Dad’s successful career in sales and celebrate his 65th birthday, we had a special dinner with just our immediate family at Mike and my house (luckily we hired a chef so I did not need to do any cooking). In preparing for the party, I was going through some old photos as I thought they might make for some good decorations. One of the photos I stumbled upon was a picture of my Dad and sisters, Bridget and Jane, from a year we celebrated Father’s Day up at our summer vacation spot- Dewey Lake. In the photo my Dad was holding up one of his Father’s Day gifts- the book “Wisdom of our Fathers” by Tim Russert. I remember that Father’s Day back around 2007ish and I remember my Dad asking for that book on his list. At the time, being a punk high schooler, I recall thinking it was just another boring book my Dad wanted to add to his bookcases that were already overflowing with dumb train books in my mom and dad’s bedroom. But seeing the photo and the book as an older and wiser daughter this year made me pause. While I still think my Dad owns a ridiculous amount of dumb train books, the photo got me thinking about all the wisdom and life lessons my dad has passed on to his five children in his 65 years thus far.
Through example, my Dad has taught us how to work hard, be kind, and always try to find the humor in every situation.
Working Hard: I remember when I was in fifth grade and I came home with a C on my report card. My Dad was at work and when I handed the report card to my Mom she was not too pleased. I knew that I should have done better but I had goofed off that semester and didn’t really put too much effort into school. “You’re going to have to show this to Dad when he gets home.” She said, sounding disappointed. It was definitely a threat, as our Dad was always the disciplinarian between my parents. In fact many time when we knew we did something bad and our Dad was away on business we’d beg our Mom, “Don’t tell Dad! Don’t tell Dad!” In this bad report card scenario I probably should have been more worried with my “little talk” with Dad later that night but I knew that for our “good report card reward treat” our my Mom always took the five of us out for ice cream sundaes at her favorite ice cream place. This was actually a reward my mom gave herself, as she loved hot fudge sundaes, so I knew whatever my punishment, it couldn’t be that bad-I’d still get ice cream in the end. When my Dad got home he called me into the living room. He sat on the living room chair “that cost a million dollars to reupholster” according to him, looking at my grades. I laid on the floor, doing weird gymnastics moves, already bored with waiting. After studying my report card he finally looked at me:
Dad: So you got a C in English?
Dad: Do you think you could have worked harder and done better?
Me: [I stopped my living room gymnastics and thought about it for a minute] Yeah. I could have.
Dad: Ok. Work harder from now on.
And with that he handed me back my report card and went upstairs to get out of his business attire. While my Dad was the disciplinary of our parents, he never really got too mad at us or yelled at us. He just had a way of talking to us sternly so that you knew he meant business. From then on I always tried to work hard at whatever I was doing. And from then on I always got A’s in English (Math was a different story, but English I did get A’s). My parents were never too strict with us on getting perfect grades in school, they just always wanted us to put in the effort and do our best. If they knew a C in English was the best I could do they would have been happy with it, but they knew I could have done better.
Kindness: My Dad is one of the most thoughtful and kind people I know. He usually hides this with his insults to us, but throughout his 65 years and 34 year career he has always put others before himself. Many times in college and through our twenties, my Dad would drop us off or pick us up from the bars to ensure we got there and home safely. Even though it was WAY past his bedtime by the time we’d be heading out for the night, he’d give us a ride. He’d usually tell us he had to thoroughly hose down the car to get the smell of the alcohol seeping from our pores our of the car seats too. We affectionately started referring to his car service as “Dad’s Taxi” he drove us places so often.
In addition to his taxi services our Dad also serves as a Grub Hub delivery man. Since we were little he would get us donuts once a week from the local bakery. Even though we’ve moved out of the house he’s continued this tradition, dropping me off a donut and a Dunkin’ coffee once a week at my doorstep. Sometimes I even get a cupcake or apple pie slice too. Am I a spoiled little princess? Yes I am.
Always Seeing the Humor in Life: My Dad is not just a goofball, he is the biggest weirdo I have ever met. (Unfortunately he definitely passed down the weirdness trait to many of his children.) He’s always doing things that you would never imagine like doing weird movements, putting a napkin on top of his head while out to dinner, always trying to either make us laugh or embarrass us.
When we were little, but had outgrown stuffed animals, he’d sneak a stuffed animal in our backpacks while we weren’t looking so that when we got to school and opened our bags, out fell a doll or teddy bear in front of all our friends. When my oldest sister Maggie was in 7th grade, she came home very upset because my Dad had shoved a Simba stuffed animal in her book bag, jamming the zipper, so she could not get any of her books or homework out for school that day. My Dad did manage to get an apology out during his laughter. To retaliate, Maggie put a Barbie in my Dad’s briefcase the next morning, but my Mom stopped it because my Dad had a presentation that day and she did not want him to have to take out a Barbie in front of his customers. Looking back now I often wonder if she did manage to get that Barbie in his briefcase if that would have helped or hurt his 34 year career in sales.
Our Dad has guided us in the business world, serving as a mentor, sharing his experiences and helping set us up for successful careers. As a skilled painter, carpenter and handyman he has helped many of us navigate homeownership. I am constantly calling my Dad for help and advice on things with my old house. And by help and advice I obviously mean I need him to just come do things for me.
Looking back, I think one of the most important pieces of wisdom my Dad and Mom passed on to all five of us was to always keep in mind, and I quote “We have a lot to be thankful for.” In fact I can hear these words echoing through my head, having flashbacks of my Mom and Dad saying this while trying to guilt their tired high school or hungover college-aged children into going to mass.
It is hard to put into words how extremely grateful we are to our Dad for all that he has done and continue to do for his family. Throughout his career, not only did he provide for five children financially-food always on the table, donuts on the reg, clothes on our backs, putting us all through Catholic school, he even managed to somehow pay for that travel coffee mug my sister Jane opened in our hotel in Disney World in 1999, (Honestly my parents were so distraught over the cost of that Little Mermaid mug I’m surprised my dad is risking retiring right now because they must still be paying it off the way they talked about how expensive it was.) But through it all he and Mom provided us with a home that was always filled with love, happiness and laughter. It is because of my Dad and Mom that the five of us kids truly have so much to be thankful for.
After a Saturday morning of working away on the house, my Dad always goes and sits for a little bit in his La-Z-Boy chair in the basement with his Diet Coke and pack of Ritz peanut butter crackers. He’s done this for years and he always loved to announce jokingly to us, “Kids, I’m going on break!” to which the smart asses of us would respond, “We Don’t Care!” So this one is for you Dad. We hope this next chapter brings you more time at the lake and more time to rake. Let’s cheers to Mike Sr. everyone, because he’s going on break!