My father lived the American Dream. The son of an immigrant shoe maker from Greece. He eventually rose to the top of a manufacturing business. If you have flown in an airplane with jet engines recently it probably had at least a few parts in those engines his company helped design and create.
He grew up on Chicago’s north side and later in Grinnell Iowa, He worked his way through Grinnell College and held a good job during the Great Depression because he was needed to play on the company ball team. He played baseball and football for Grinnell as a catcher and 170 lb offensive guard. Things have changed a bit since he played . When he was at Grinnell they played teams like Michigan State . He said that was okay playing power teams as long as you were losing to them but being ahead made them very very angry.
He worked hard for his family. He was a business man and you rarely saw him, before retirement, during the week or on Saturday without a starched white shirt,tie and Fedora. Business casual was not on his radar. He was not the perfect father by modern standards but he was a good father. He wasn’t perfect because he worked and mom ran the house and in his mind that was the way it was supposed to be. He disciplined when necessary but generally gave me the freedom to learn from my own mistakes. Many many times he let me learn from them. He deeply appreciated loyalty and recovering from those mistakes. He often, rather than talking at you, would simply communicate by looking at you with the expectation you would do better. It was a powerful tool and one that I still respond to from others. If it was your responsibility it was your problem and you were expected to fix it.
When you came home at night and he was standing in the door you knew that he already knew what you had done. The concept of neighborhood was strong. You learned to be careful of how you asked because once you had a firm “No” that was the final word with no further questions available to be asked.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery he should be flattered because I would really like to be like him, a goal still beyond my reach.
He loved to fish his whole life. He was a walleye fisherman and that was the goal. Sometimes he noted to a somewhat impatient child that you had to spend a lot of time fishing to get to the catching. I think that may be a life lesson? Many of my best memories took place in a boat, somewhere in Canada or at West Battle Lake. Sometimes however fishing was just too tiring to avoid a little nap on a hard rock wearing the latest insulated underwear fashions.
One of his true skills was the ability to take a short nap anywhere in any position often with a lit cigarette still in his hand. He also had the ability to smoke a complete cigarette without ever taking it out of his mouth. Rolling it from side to side and flicking the ash off with a little movement of his head. He claimed that when you worked piece work in a glove factory you could smoke but the job took two hands and the money only reflected what you got done. I think he learned to do it so he could keep both hands on his fishing pole.
I often wonder what he would say about today’s world as he once told me that , ” Every generation is sure the next one is going to Hell in a hand basket.” I would say that I miss him but I know he’s still there right behind my eyes still giving me that , ” You’ll learn look.”