Reflections on Father’s Day…Dad was brave!


During the 50’s a man’s job was to bring home the bacon and rule the roost. My Dad was not an exception. He did have a special chair like Archie Bunker, but that is where the similarities ended. A quiet man, and a voracious reader, he read at least 3 and 4 newspapers a day to get all sides of the news stories of Chicago and the world. Every night he would arrive home, settle down with a beer and a cigarette while devouring the news. Meanwhile Mom put the finishing touches on dinner, watching the clock until a suitable amount of time for relaxing had passed, before she would call the family to the table.

After dinner he would usually talk to me, when he was relaxed and everyone else had scattered.  He would move to the front room and watch the news, chain smoke and leave later to get the late breaking newspaper, which he attempted to read over the noise of the family and the television until bedtime. Life was pretty good.

Fast forward, to the late 60’s, when esophageal cancer threatened to leave him without a larynx.  This was a disaster with epic ramifications for a salesman, husband and father of four. He did recover from cancer and was clear for 5 years which the Dr. attributed to prayer because Dad intermittently continued to smoke.

My Mother, with the best of intentions, periodically would corner us (and other relatives) to talk to him about giving up smoking. Nothing anyone could say or do would make him stop smoking, but we didn’t know why. This was before it came to light the tobacco industry planned to keep people hooked.

In 1979, he entered the hospital because he could no longer swallow. Test revealed the scar tissue from the cancer treatments had virtually closed his throat off to the size of a pencil tip. After I visited him the call came; he had suddenly passed away. His second wife said he just slipped away while she had left the room and found him with a big smile on his face.

A few weeks passed when Dad’s former hospital roommate phoned to inquire how my Dad was doing after his throat surgery. There was a stunned silence on the other end of the phone as she delivered the news he had suddenly passed away.  The roommate then revealed my Dad had made a pact with him. Dad would stop smoking forever if he would come back to the Catholic Church and the sacraments. My Dad was braver than I can even imagine.




A Great Book…

I wish I had read this book years ago: Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, by Ellen Notbohm. It would have enhanced my relationship with my grandchild who has Autism. Now I get it! No wonder he is uncomfortable and retreats to his bedroom; he probably can’t stand the noise in the room. Now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the moments he chooses to be in my presence, either at the table, or outside in the yard. We can sit in the present moment.

I now understand why he loves Macaroni and Cheese. He takes great delight in receiving a box for a gift and I make sure he doesn’t see it until there is an immediate opportunity for it to be cooked and consumed. I even secretly give the gift to his parents or brother to hide for an appropriate time or even another day. I no longer have to see him open it and disrupt everything. My joy is a lot like being a secret Santa. I know that whenever he receives it he will be as joyful as a Cub fan sitting at the World Series. I want to make this clear to all who care deeply about a child with Autism: do not rush out and by boxes of Macaroni and Cheese. That is not the secret to pleasing your special loved one; that is only one of my grandchild’s preferences.

All children are different, even children with Autism. As a result of reading this book I now observe how he behaves and remember what clues I picked up from Notbohm about Autism. Then I can start to unravel how I can attempt to communicate effectively in the future. This book gives me hope!