Lessons My Dad Taught Me

Last night I received the sad news that my father, Roy Giovannetti, passed away. His downhill slide was extremely fast and his death was sudden. In fact, the news came one hour after I’d finished booking flights to Florida for the next day. His sudden passing was a blessing to him, in that he no longer suffers the ravages of cancer. It was however sad to me, because I didn’t get to say good bye. I don’t know if loved ones in heaven can see what goes on here on earth — in fact, I doubt it. I think they’re preoccupied with Christ and a thousand better things. But just in case, here’s to you, Dad.

1. Thanks for teaching me how to play baseball. I loved those days when you’d come home from work and told Bob and me, “Go get your mitts.” We’d stand on the sidewalk and  play catch. You taught us to always catch with two hands. That way, if we bobbled the ball, the other hand was already there to save it. I still catch with two hands. Of course, your time as a Triple-A player for a Cubs farm team helped a lot. These last few years, I’ve held out the pathetic hopes that the Cubs would win a World Series for you. Sorry they didn’t. I always loved calling you in Florida and talking baseball. Those memories are precious. Thanks for them.

2. Thanks for serving our country in the military. I’m not sure how the story goes, but if I boil down the various versions over the years, you served as a gunner on naval fighter planes. You enlisted young, lying about your age to get in. I am so proud of you as a veteran. You fought for your family before you had a family. You didn’t hesitate when duty called. You moved into the thick of the fray instead of moving against it. You didn’t talk much about higher-order values, but you didn’t have to. You modeled them, did your duty, came back, and lived a life. You didn’t whine, didn’t feel sorry for yourself, never bragged, and never saw the need to trumpet your achievements. I am proud to bear your name.

3. Thank you for laughing at yourself. Dad, the older I got, the more I have admired your sense of humor. You are a damn funny guy. Remember the time in my twenties when a group of friend drove from Chicago to Florida to hang out on beaches and visit Disneyworld? You and mom squeezed us into your home in Englewood, FL. I’ll never forget that dinner the day before we were to visit Disney’s Epcot Center. You kept calling it EPCOCK. Every time you said it, my friends and I smiled, and then laughed, and then cracked up. Epcock, Epcock, Epcock. Finally, you got that something was wrong. “What? What’s so funny,” you said. “Dad, it’s EpcoT,” I said. “Yeah, why, what am I saying?” you said. “You’re saying EpcoCK….” We all busted out laughing, and you laughed the loudest. A couple years ago, when we brought the kids to Florida… we told them that Grampa was an elf. That you were a cute elf. My son said, “What, like Dopey?” You got such a kick out of that, and let us call you Dopey. You never took yourself so seriously that we couldn’t laugh at you. You were so REAL. You never put on airs. You had this easygoing way about you. You put people at ease. You could talk with anybody. Years as a bartender made you a natural.  You never pretended to be someone you weren’t. Thank you.

4. Thank you for making me go to Sunday School. I know it wasn’t your thing. I know you’d drop Bob and me off at Grace Gospel Church (Elston and Bryn Mawr Aves in Chicago)… and then go buy yourself a paper, coffee, and donut, and sit in the car till we were done. But you made me go, and for that I’m grateful. I especially remember the time in high school when Bob and I stayed out late for some reason — a reason you didn’t buy into — on a Saturday night. We intended to sleep in; you intended otherwise. You barged into our bedroom at 7:00, woke us up and said, “Get dressed. You’re going to to church.” You made sure I had biblical values instilled from childhood. Thanks for that.

5. Thank you for the courage to get baptized at age 82. You’ve never been a religious guy, but you were always a man of truth. And when, at age 82, you said you wanted to come to Chicago and get baptized, I was blown away. It was one of the high points of my life as a pastor, and my great privilege, to baptize you. I now know you were doing this for us, your family. You knew your time was short, and you didn’t want us to worry. Dad, you gave us an amazing gift of hope. The older I get, the more your manly humility means to me. I know you’re in heaven, not because you were a good man — which you were — but because you had received a good Savior, Jesus.

6. Thanks for teaching me how to play poker. I loved that big stack of poker chips in the caddy. Blue chips worth a quarter, red chips worth a dime, white chips worth a penny. Poker, Five card stud, Seven card stud, Blackjack. I’m not a gambler, never have been, but I’m glad I know how to play, and we had so much fun together doing that stuff. You taught us how to fish. You taught us how to put a worm on a hook. You let us taste beer and try your cigarettes. You taught us how to drive and didn’t freak out like mom did (hahaha). You didn’t want your church-going sons to go through life so pristine that we couldn’t sit down and enjoy a few worldly pastimes. Thanks for teaching me to shuffle, deal, and hold my cards close to the vest.

7. Thank you for never complaining. I can’t remember any time you complained about the hardships of life. In these last many decades, when you struggled through 5 different cancers, countless surgeries, unimaginable pain, and the rapid loss of dignity… you never lost your DIGNITY. You never complained. You never felt sorry for yourself. You kept your humor, and pressed through huge trials. Again, you are a giant of a man to me, and I can only hope to walk in your steps as a man.

8. Thanks for making me think we were rich. You worked two jobs to put food on the table. As a truck driver for the Enameled Steel and Sign Company (used to be on Addison, near Kimball), you braved Chicago winters and got the job done. I loved those times you brought the truck home and let us climb into the cab. I was so proud that my Daddy could drive this massive truck. Your second job was as a bartender. Actually you scheduled all the bartenders for the banquets at the Sheraton O’Hare. So after 8 hours driving a truck, you’d come home, join us for dinner at the table, get dressed, and go back to bartend on weekends. You always put bread on the table, shoes on our feet, clothes on our backs, and a miraculous pile of presents under the tree. I never once felt deprived; never once thought we were poor; never once imagined the price you paid to put bread on the table — again without complaint. Thanks for being an example. Dad, you’re my role model.

9. Thanks for moving that fridge. I remember the time you had to move a refrigerator, and you just did it. Alone. No help. I was in awe, because my dad was strong enough to move a refrigerator all by himself.

10. Thanks for sticking up for us when that neighbor accused us of smashing his Christmas lights. I’m not saying we did  or we didn’t, but you told him, “I gotta stick with my sons.” I never felt more secure than at that moment. Thanks for sticking with your sons and defending us from an adult making charges against us.

11. Thanks for putting family first. Not just our immediate family, but grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, everyone. I watched as all our family members came to you for help, and you never failed them. Money, loaning a car, painting a room, opening our home… anything anyone needed they could get from you. You blew me away with your generosity and kindness. I want to be a man like you.

12. Thanks for worrying about my eye. One last story… when I was maybe 8 years old, I was playing pirate. I got hold of the first aide stuff, and wrapped a patch over my eye. It looked like a real injury. You came home from work and saw me. I’ll never forget the look on your face. It was immediate — a look of panic. You rushed to me, took hold of me, and with fear written across your face asked what happened. Your relief was as great as your fear. In that moment, i I felt massively cared for and protected. I knew you treasured me. I knew you valued me above all else. Yes, you worried a lot. But it was because you loved a lot.

Your quiet courage during these years of battling cancer stands as a testament to your greatness. You kept your grace and your humor through it all. You never once felt sorry for yourself. You accepted your lot in life with a magnificent heart. Wow, Dad, you amaze me.

I’m sure time will expand this list. I’m already thinking of stuff I’ve missed. But today, on the morning after your passing, I wanted to start saying my good bye. I wanted the world to know what kind of dad I had. I wish you could have held out another couple of days. But that wish is selfish. Your examples of selflessness, generosity, humor, courage and love will be with me forever.

The world got bigger and scarier and a little less secure for me yesterday. But I’ll be okay. You showed me how.

I love you Dad. I always have.

But you have always loved me more.

I’m proud to be your son. You were a great dad, a faithful husband, and a true, honest, courageous man.

I miss you so much already. Have fun in heaven.

See you soon.

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37 thoughts on “Lessons My Dad Taught Me

  1. I cried through the whole thing Bill. Your Dad (my Unc) is going to be greatly missed. And I thank him for teaching my boys to fish, he just loved that. Oh how he is fishing and golfing now. Eat drink and be merry my dear Uncle Roy…..

  2. Thank you for introducing us to your father. How you will miss him. I look forward to meeting him someday since I feel like I know him now. May your memories of him enrich your life until that day you are together again.

  3. Your dad sounds like an incredible man. With tears in my eyes I pray that your family will feel God’s comfort during this time.

  4. Mr. Bill what an amazing glimpse into the life of your Father. May You hold the strengths that You saw in your Father close and always share them with Your children. Prayers for You and the entire Family.

  5. Bill,
    I’m sorry you didn’t get to say goodbye, but your dad will always be a part of you, and stay in your heart forever. Thanks for sharing these beautiful memories. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  6. Thank you for sharing your dad with us thru this amazing tribute. Heaven is looking better and better each passing day! Our prayers are with you and your family.

  7. thanks for sharing this Bill….We prayed God would have mercy on him and his family during his last hours. I loved the part about his sense of humor…I laughed along with you guys. I’m crying with you now. Sending hugs and prayers.

  8. Bill,
    I am so sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. My heart goes out to you as you relive the memories of the man that molded you. He would be so proud of the heartfelt tribute to his life and contributions to your family. It’s amazing how the “simple things” mean the most. I look forward to more of your “memories of Roy”…
    God Bless you and your entire family during this difficult time. My prayers are with you.

  9. Read your beautiful thoughts of your dad with a tear in my eye. You and Bob are a reflection of his strengths. Sorry for your sadness.

  10. Hi Pastor Bill. Your dad sounds amazing. Your article made me giggle, and it made me cry. I can feel the love he had for your family, and I am so happy for you that he was your earthly father. I can’t wait to meet him one day.

  11. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your dad with us Bill. Very touching and special. It helps me reflect on my own father. He lives in PA and is a huge NASCAR fan. I have tried for several years to convince him to join me in FL for the Daytona 500. This year he agreed and I will be taking him to the race on Sunday and to Phillies spring training workouts on Monday. It was already going to be special for me, but your perspective on your father will help me appreciate the specialness of my opportunity even more. Thank you.

  12. Bill,

    Beautiful tribute to your father. Having lost both parents I know your feelings. May the Lord wrap you and your family in His arms as you miss him here on earth but rejoice in his home going. Blessings to you.

  13. Bill, that was lovely. Inspiring, actually. Although your Pa may not be able to see or know the goings-on on Earth, I am optimistic that our God relayed this beautiful message on your behalf.

    And, I must add that your Pa was a stunningly beautiful man.

    May God surround you with his infinite peace and love; may you nearly be able to feel the warmth, strength and comfort of his embrace. Safe travels to you and your family.

    Feel the hug!
    With deepest sympathies and love,
    Jen

  14. Bill, your dad is an encouraging and convicting example. Thank you for sharing. You are blessed to have such a great person in your life.

  15. Bill, your tribute to your dad was breathtaking……I am still shedding tears……I loved him so and I remember when he and Uncle Jim would talk baseball, and you know what team that was, of course, the Chicago Cubbies……I am sure they are together up there in Heaven now…….talked with your mother just an hour ago, and from what she told me about the last couple of weeks of your dad’s life was a mirror scene from Uncle Jim’s last two weeks. Cancer is so ravishing and all consuming, painful and unfair. I know Uncle Jim was ready to meet his Lord as was your father and I look forward to that moment when we all will be reunited in Heaven. See you there! God Bless your family. Aunt Helen

  16. Dear BIll-
    Your words to your Dad were so touching! Our hearts are heavy with your loss but, we are rejoicing that your dad isn’t suffering anymore! I (Sue) lost my dad about 18 months ago from cancer. I praise God that he came to a saving faith in Jesus before he left this world.
    Our love and sympathy are with you and your family-
    Jeff & Sue

  17. Dr. G: Our condolences to you on the loss of your sweet daddy! I lost mine when he was 82. There is such comfort in knowing they’re both in heaven rejoicing in their freedom in heaven and release from the troubles on this old earth. Makes heaven for us even sweeter!

    Our prayers are with yours for peace and comfort for your entire family!

  18. Beautiful tribute Bill. My Dad was killed when my mother was 4 months pg with me…your letter reminded me how much I missed. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  19. Your tribute makes us appreciate our fathers even more. So sorry to hear that you have lost your Dad here on earth, but excited that he is experiencing the promise we have of heaven.

  20. Never knew much about your Dad. I’m sorry to hear
    of his passing. You have a good sense of humor too!
    My favorite about your Dad is when he’d drop you off
    at church and then read the paper in the car with a
    cuppa — very Chicago. Condolences.

  21. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I loved how you shared your memories of him through your eyes as a child and then as an adult. It let us – who never got to meet him – get a glimpse of the man, husband, father, family member and friend that was loved so dearly. I agree with you too that this is but a temporary separation and we WILL see our loved ones soon!

  22. Bill, you have been left with a great gift, and after reading what you wrote about your dad, I know you know that. You have been very blessed to have had a father that not only loved you, but showed you his love through his actions and words. A blessing that I was not given, which makes my heart hurt for me, but rejoices for you. Bill, you know how much I appreciate you (as a pastor and a person), so I hope you know, I am truly filled with joy to know that the memories you have of your father are of love, joy, honor, respect, truthfulnes, and thankfulness. I can feel the grief you suffer for his loss through these pages, and yes, the only comfort we have now, is that he is with THE KING, out of pain, and you will see him again. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT!!!!! I love you all!!!!

  23. Thanks Bill for introducing me to your Dad. I would have liked to have met him in this life . Someday I hope you will do the honors in Heaven. He sounds a lot like my step dad who raised me. Same generation, from the same town (Chicago) , same manly attributes. Praying for you and the family.

  24. Pastor Bill,
    Thank you for sharing your relationship with your Dad. It brought back some memories of my Dad. I pray GOD will help you feel the loving thoughts coming your way from people around you.

  25. Thank you Bill for sharing with us your tribute to your dad. You made him come alive for everyone reading this.

    You have my deepest sympathy at his passing, and the understanding of the Blessings that God has given you because of the dad he gave you in this life.

    God Bless,
    Katie

  26. You know what I really appreciate?….I love how you honor your dad by remembering him at his best. I want to do that for others as well. The world must feel a little more lonely when your daddy is not in it. God has stacked up his provisions for you already. Your wife and children, for one, are amazing and love you dearly. Comfort to you and your entire family….

  27. Bill, Bob, Gina and Mrs. G. and all of your families-

    As you grieve the loss, yet celebrate the memories of such a special man, I hold you dear and more importantly, uphold you in prayer. I extend sympathy to all of you and it is my fondest belief that God will raise you in supernatural comfort, peace and strength.

    I still remember the Sunday evening special program at church, when our dads and Mr. Ward were surprised to see one another after the service in the lobby…as it turned out, they played pool and shared an occasional beer at “The Hamm Tree…!” Who knew??? Rest and enjoy the time you have together.

  28. It’s so rare to see a very old person submit to water baptism – the character that is required is just too much for most. It’s a big deal, Bill, as you well know and – though I haven’t known him – I am very proud of your Dad. He must have felt very blessed to have brought a son into this world who loves the Truth more than anything.

  29. Bill, I never met your Dad, but he sounds like a wonderful father. I’m thankful that you have many fantastic memories together. may the Lord bless you and your family during this difficult time.

  30. Dear Bill,
    I read this tribute with tears streaming down my face. Sometimes laughing, and then crying. It so hits home with me as my own father is almost 82, and has also battled numerous cancers and had a stroke about 8 yrs. ago that has aged him tremendously.
    I see so much of my own father and how I relate to him in the description of your father. That great, midwestern, blue collar, Chicago guy. A service guy. That work ethic. They just don’t make em’ like that anymore.
    I can’t imagine your lonliness with him being gone, but I will pray for you as I have been, and I love that he got baptized at 82! Can you believe it?! What a gift…to you and to him.
    May you feel enveloped by God’s love and comfort.

    Hugs,
    Ronda

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