My dad and me

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 19, 2004

A hero? You bet! In war? Nope! My older sister and I kept him safely at home.

He was a vigorous man and ready to say he was a fighting man and should be helping his country. I think he believed he could have handled the situation in the Irish way. Knock out any and all competition. Those Irish! He was not a handsome man but to me no one would look better. He was smart, keen and terrific with figures. He sure didn’t pass this on to me. I’m lousy with numbers.

Dad (never called Daddy) was one of eight. I think he felt he had to equal his dad’s prowess so he had eight. The Irish are so jealous! But my dad didn’t produce number eight until the June 1 was graduating from college. I was 20! Now that’s producing!


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We had a great relationship, I was his favorite and the others never minded. They figured I could be a charitable voice when they got into trouble – a defense attorney. Pay wasn’t too good.

I disappointed him only once. Brother Bud was failing Spanish I (Jr. High). Since my mother and I wrote identically (parochial school Palmer method) I signed his report card (fee: 25 cents.) My dad’s brother George was the principal of the jr. high and he happened to ask Dad if he had seen Bud’s report card. Big mouth George. Dad said, &uot;No. Mother signs the cards.&uot;

When Big Mouth George left, Dad pointed to the living room – not a word. I confessed immediately. No punishment but his words were like a knife into my heart. &uot;I would have expected it from anyone but you.&uot; How I continued to live I’ll never know. But I did as you can see.

Education was very important to this man. Over the years that passed (and they do) Big Mouth George was made superintendent of schools, his sister Sarah became the first female principal in Cambridge, Mass. Great background I had to live up to.

I was a senior in college when surprise! Surprise! A little bundle arrived at my house – No 8, Brother Richard. Dad couldn’t abide being idle, I guess. As with all of us he was welcomed. Didn’t make much sense to me though. I now needed job as I was finishing at teachers’ college with my degree. Decided to try the city’s teacher’s exam, 300 taking it. I came in 3rd and had to be assigned a class as the rules stated. Got a first grade. Enjoyed teaching and found I was good at it. So I settled it in my mind and worked at it always being told my the only one who counted I was a real Coyne.

Here are examples of his great humor. When I eloped (I wrote about that, remember? I sent a telegram to him. He asked my mother if she knew a Dr. Frank Arena. She said no and asked why. He replied, &uot;He’s your son-in-law.&uot; When I produced his first grandson he sent a telegram saying, &uot;Thank you for putting a colt in my stable.&uot; And comes following the Preakness. Good luck to Smarty. Dad would have loved him. He did so loved a winner.

Happy Father’s Day!

Florence Arena is a regular News-Herald columnist and a resident of Magnolia Manor in Smithfield.