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.