A man for all seasons – Part II

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2003

He was not a big man – just average. But &uot;average&uot; never touched him except in size. He was charming, very smart, witty and he could listen (and did)! He was father to eight, and I was one of the eight. Being an Irish father he carried a lot of weight as they always do. Believe me!

Education was so important to him. Especially for the eight he sired. (Love that word!)

He had younger twin brothers and as a young boy his mother, my grandmother, ordered him to mind them as she had a pantry (remember them?) to organize. Dad had a game to pitch (he was good I’m told.) He tied them to a tree and went to pitch. I have no idea whether he won. I know he got away with it. Later in life I found out why. Grandma told me he had an Irish charm about him and could explain away anything! She also told me he was her favorite but would deny it if I told the others.

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Now to the twins he took care of: One became superintendent of schools in my city, the other ordained in Rome. At this point let me add this: Irish mothers thought that if they had a son who became a priest automatically they (the mother) was given a free pass into heaven no matter what kind of life she had. My Dad tried to change this, but it was not to be. She believed it fully. Right now she’s siting up in heaven. Hopefully he’s beside her and she’s saying, &uot;See? Didn’t I tell you? Always listen to Mother.&uot;

Dad was great with figures – could add long rows in his head. I hate figures – want no part of them.

He raised successful children. My brother Michael (always one in an Irish family) went into the Coast Guard when WWII came our way. From seaman First Class he came out as a captain. Just under Admiral in the Coast Guard. Brothers left all went Navy. Brother Jack was a radioman. Coming out he worked for the telephone company in New England. Retired as a telephone executive. Father was proud but said he expected it.

All his children did well, and as the years passed they married and began families. Here, Father had no control Irish or not. They produced granddaughters and he loved them all dearly but a grandson he lacked and this Irishman wasn’t use to not getting his way. Finally I had a son. To the Catholic hospital where I gave birth came a telegram which said, &uot;Thank you for putting a colt in my stable.&uot; Even the nuns enjoyed it. It sounded like him. Not the usual – not him!

Florence Arena is a resident of Hillcrest Retirement Center and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.