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A Long Overdue Thank You to My Mom and Dad

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It’s been 30 years since we lost my mom to kidney cancer. My dad was with us much longer; yet we lost him nearly 17 years ago. I think of them almost every day and am forever thankful for all they did for me and my two brothers. But it occurs to me that I never really expressed my thanks to them… until now.

Thank you, Dad, for getting up every morning and going to work, including most Saturdays.  Whatever work ethic I have, I owe to you. Thank you for the seven months you spent driving or dispatching for a cab company 12 hours a day, every day, while your union was on strike. I’m sure you and Mom must have struggled financially, but we never noticed. Thanks for that as well.

Thank you, Mom, for always having a sense of humor. We thought of you and your best friend, Doris, as our own Lucy and Ethel. My friends always clamored for you two to be chaperones on our class trips. Thanks for turning me on to the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. When I come across old clips on TV or YouTube, I’m immediately back on the couch with you laughing so hard it hurts.

Thank you, Dad, for all the volunteer work you did for Good Shepherd Church and School. From calling out Bingo every Thursday night to taking it upon yourself to open up the gym on weeknights so the kids could play basketball, you gave so much of your limited free time to the community you loved so much. I never truly understood the impact you had until your wake, when so many strangers (to me) showed up and expressed their gratitude for all you’d done for them. Any volunteer work I do is simply a tribute to you.

Thank you, Mom, for all the great meals you made each and every day. Your homemade meatballs, Sloppy Joes, and macaroni and cheese had no match. I only wish you’d written down recipes. And thanks for that bacon-and-egg sandwich you brought to me in bed that one Sunday morning I was hungover; it was perhaps the best meal I’ve ever had.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for our never wanting for anything. Only after Dad died and I was sorting out his affairs did I learn how little money you had. How did you manage? We were always well fed and well clothed. Our tiny apartment had one bedroom, so you slept on a pullout couch in the living room for as long as we were home. You somehow managed to send the three of us to Catholic schools, and we had an annual weeklong family vacation, usually a couple of short trips in a rental car. Our Christmases were always bountiful, and to this day I’m deeply ashamed I once felt cheated that you gave me a pair of sneakers that were not the name-brand variety I had on my list. Amid these thank yous, I’m sorry about that.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for coming to see me every day while I was in the hospital for two long months after breaking my femur when I was 7 years old. I’m sure most parents would have done the same, but that doesn’t make me any less appreciative for each and every visit.

Thanks, Mom, for convincing Dad to let us get our first pet, a loving tabby named Slipper. Our love of animals began then, and over the years, my brothers and I have adopted a menagerie of cats and dogs. They thank you, too!

Thanks, Dad, for teaching me about sports but never caring so much to make them the all-encompassing parental passion that has poisoned so much of youth sports. While I wish you were there to see my only Little League home run, I knew you had to work. Thanks also for crying tears of joy with me on the phone after the New York Rangers finally won the Stanley Cup in 1994. It’s one of my favorite memories.

Mom and Dad, as humble as you both were, you would be the first to admit you were not perfect. But I thank you for your imperfections as well because I’m sure you would have expected us to learn from your mistakes and be better persons, husbands and fathers for it.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for raising me to be a person of faith. It’s that faith that gives me the comfort that the words I write here are known to you not just now but always. It’s that faith that makes me sure of your response: “You’re welcome, Tommy.” 

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Originally published: November 28, 2014
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