Growing up I idolized my Dad. He always had a way with people and everyone seemed to like him. And Mom worshipped him.
He worked hard to provide for us, a mason by trade. We really didn’t have much but you would never know it. I never felt the need for things. We had each other and enough to be happy as a family. And we were.
We had our struggles at times, mostly stemming from my Mom’s illnesses – illnesses that she eventually succumbed to in 1989. Mom’s loss devastated us, particularly my Dad. His world was crushed and he meandered through life for a while like a rudderless ship.
Eventually Dad rallied, got his life back on track and became a loving grandfather for my kids and my sister’s boys. But illnesses eventually caught up to him as well. He battled each and every one valiantly and managed to overcome most. But the last one got him. In his weakened state after fighting through strokes and multiple operations for a litany of diseases that might be debilitating to most, Dad had no answer for pancreatic cancer.
He passed on Monday, at the age of 82.
I owe much to my Dad. His passing has left me temporarily broken but I’m fortunate to have an amazing family and incredible friends who I consider family. I’ll get through this. My pain will heal and I’d happily accept it every single day of the week and twice on Sundays if it meant freeing him from his.
Dad wasn’t a boisterous fellow. His strength was quiet but he absolutely had a presence. He was stylish but not boastful. Stern but not clamorous. Proud but not braggadocios.
Dad, a Media Pioneer
As a kid, Dad instilled in me a love of sports. Back then World Series games were played during the day – even on weekdays, when the Orioles were involved, our school would let us out early in order to go home and enjoy the games, to cheer on the Birds. The games had already started by the time Dad got home from work, so I’d have to update him on all that he missed that he didn’t get from the call on the radio.
In a way Dad was a pioneer of a primitive version of picture-in-picture television. During those Fall Classics involving the O’s, the games were sometimes played while the Colts were on, and of course there was always another football game on at the same time that we HAD to watch as well. We didn’t have remotes back then so Dad figured a way to take it all in simultaneously. We placed two portable TV’s atop the big TV, each showing a different game.
But that wasn’t enough.
We also had to hear the local radio broadcast of the World Series game. Chuck Thompson trumped Curt Gowdy!
That was the nature of life and sports in the Lombardi home during the late 60’s.
I remember during the ‘69-’70 seasons how the Baltimore teams clashed with the New York teams – losing to the Jets, Mets and Knicks. As a 9-year-old sports enthusiast, I was crushed. But Dad always had a way of picking up my spirits, looking for the silver lining and pumping up my hopes for the next season.
In 1970, the Colts bounced back from a disappointing 1969 season, perhaps hungover at least in part, by the loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III. The Colts finished 14-2-1, winning Super Bowl V, 16-13 over the Cowboys. I remember being so nervous for Jim O’Brien’s game winning field goal and when he made it, I went through the house, imitating his celebratory leap, over and over again, much to the delight of my Dad.
Those were the days – the days before illnesses chipped away at the fabric of our family.
Yet I’m blessed in so many ways and I don’t take those blessings lightly.
With the help of an amazing support group, I choose to focus on what was and not fret what will never be. The memories are safely harbored in my heart and they keep Mom and Dad alive. Mom has been gone for quite some time, yet I see so many of her beautiful qualities in my sister.
Dad, well that’s a different story. The pain is going to take a little while. The wound is fresh.
I’ll remember those early games like those described above. I’ll remember my own little league games and high school games that he was part of. I’ll remember the days in my 20’s and 30’s when he ventured out to watch me play flag football and fastpitch softball. I’ll remember the many tailgates and Ravens games; the Orioles games at Memorial Stadium and OPACY. I’ll remember the one-on-one basketball games we played in the backyard.
And I’ll remember the days when he was dog-tired from work but still managed to take the time to have a catch with his starry-eyed little boy who loved him so.
We certainly had ourselves a time, didn’t we Pop?