“Making a Memory, Creating a Legacy, Changing the World”
by Anita DiGregory
I was sick. Sick, sick…not playing hooky sick. Home from school sick. Probably another bout of strep throat; I can’t remember. What I do remember was sitting in my little room, in my little chair, at my little table, not happy I was stuck at home again.
He walked in in his suit and tie and asked me how I was feeling. Seeing I wasn’t happy, he quietly knelt down at the table, picked up a pencil, and drew a shape on it. A square with a triangle on top of it and an x inside it; it kind of looked like a little house. He slid it over to me. I looked at it, and back up at him. He smiled and asked me to draw it. It seemed simple enough. As I picked up the pencil to begin, he added, “The catch is you have to draw the whole thing in one stroke; you can’t pick up your pencil or go over any lines more than once.”
I tried one way…nope. And another…no. I was frustrated and ready to give up, thinking there must be some trick to it. He encouraged me to keep trying. Eventually with a little coaxing, I was able to complete the task and sat there proudly admiring my work. For those few moments I wasn’t sick; I wasn’t sad; I was transported, engaged in a task and proud of my new found ability.
Isn’t it amazing how memories work? We live a lifetime of little interactions, moments like these. Most we forget somewhere along the way. But then there are these tiny moments, like old snapshots with yellowed, turned-up edges, that stand out so clearly in the scrapbooks of our lives. This one was of me and my dad.
You know what they say about dads and daughters is true. No matter how cliche it sounds, daddies are their little girl’s first love, their first hero. It doesn’t matter how famous they are, what they do, or how much money they make. To a child, daddy is a prince, a protector, and a superhero all rolled into one.
My dad worked a lot. (He still does.) He was out early, worked some nights, and even some holidays. When he wasn’t at his job, he worked around the house. He worked hard. He fixed things, made them better. I always remember being really proud of him.
When I think of fathers, I am reminded of a song by Marie Bellet called “One Heroic Moment.” She writes:
“Sometimes it amazes him that a man can work so long.
He didn’t know till he had mouths to feed he could ever be that strong.
The alarm goes off and in disbelief he pulls it from the shelf
And he thinks how he’d give anything to just be somewhere else.
But in one heroic moment he lifts his sleepy head.
And with both his eyes still closed, he sits up in the bed
And reaching for the light he prays, “Today please be with me.
I know that this is nothing compared with Calvary…”
One heroic moment in an ordinary day
Minute after minute, little steps along the way
He knows he must deny himself for the man he needs to be
And each heroic moment slowly sets him free.”
And that is what fathers do. Every day, in a million ways, they shape lives. They may not be perfect, and they may not wear capes, but they are heroes.
My husband is a father of seven, and grandfather of one. Sometimes, I smile and wonder to myself if he had any inkling of an idea when he was young, growing up with all brothers in a house of mostly guys, of what his life would be like someday. I think about that boy who grew up with family and good friends, playing outside late into the night, that guy who road motorbikes, played baseball and street hockey, lifted weights, and owned a landscaping company. And I smile, wondering if he knew back then how he’d not only have to remember to put the toilet seat down, but have to make midnight runs for diapers, or emergency runs for feminine products for a house full of hormonal girls. Did that boy have any idea that someday he’d be grown and voluntarily driving a daughter four hours from home to stand in a line full of giddy, young girls with her to see her favorite singer, or driving to New York and sleeping in a car just so another daughter could have the opportunity to see her favorite football player (shockingly, not a Steeler) at training camp?
One heroic moment at a time, I have witnessed this man shape my childrens’ lives. I have watched him stay up ‘til the wee hours of the morning, teaching my kids math concepts they don’t understand, even when he had to get up early the next morning for work. He has cleaned up after sick children, who didn’t quite make it to the bathroom in time; spent nights in the emergency room with sick kids; taken pies in the face for a daughter’s birthday party; attended countless plays, recitals, games, and ceremonies; delivered a beautifully touching father of the groom speech (even though he hates speaking in public); and gone in late or not at all to make sure he is always where he is needed, whenever he is needed. If that isn’t the definition of a true superman, I don’t know what is.
Now, my son is a new father. Watching as he makes his way (often, sleeplessly) into this new realm, I have witnessed him follow in his father’s footsteps. Up at the crack of dawn, driving sometimes two hours in traffic to support his family, these are just some of the quiet sacrifices dads make each and every day.
A few weeks ago, I had to say goodbye to another superman when my cousin, Trey, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Trey was a loving husband and father of two young children. He fought that disease like he lived life, with Faith, incredible strength, hope, and courage. There were so many people at his viewing, the toilets at the funeral home went on the fritz and had to be shut down for repairs. At the funeral Mass, I listened to his lifelong best friend and his pastor speak about him and his life. Trey fought that cancer with all he had for a year and a half. He spent the last month in the hospital, unable to eat and only able to have ice chips. When he was finally released, he came home to family and friends, visited and laughed with them, went to Mass, tucked his kids into bed, and celebrated all the small things we take for granted every day. After, he passed away. Trey worked caringly, loved beautifully, and believed immeasurably. He touched people’s lives; he made a positive difference in the world.
That is what dad’s do. Just like that drawing lesson, you may not be able to pick up that proverbial pencil and give up, or go over and redo any “lines” already drawn, but you figure it out, and you pass down that knowledge by example and with sacrifice and love.
Here’s to all the dad’s out there. You are making memories, creating a legacy, and changing the world, one heroic moment at a time.
Drawing by Christina DiGregory