My Father’s Greatest Gift


All day long, I can be someone’s mom, juggling the roles of nurse, teacher, chef, referee, taxi driver, coach and housekeeper for my children. Yet in a split second, my phone can ring and I hear my dad’s voice on the other end and suddenly I am someone’s little girl again.

Here I am raising children of my own, but when I hear his voice I am reminded that there’s someone who loved me and knew me long before I was a mom.

My dad is truly one of the most wonderful men you could ever meet. I remember being a teenager and people would say how great my dad was and I would just roll my eyes. Today when people tell me that, I grin from ear to ear and tell them they are right.

A few weeks ago, my dad went into the hospital. Those few days of not knowing what would happen were so scary. I would sit by his bed and think how I could not imagine a world without my dad. As far as I am concerned, the sun comes up because my dad is here. In the most challenging of moments, when I didn’t know how to take another step, I was able to do so because of him and the things he taught me.

I grew up watching my dad coach ball. First it was a little league team he coached, which was well before any of my siblings or I could play. Many of my first memories are of evenings spent playing around the ball field at Winthrop Park. It’s so funny to think that one of the little boys my dad coached at the age of 11 is now the principal of a high school.

As we grew up, my dad moved from coaching at the Little League field to coaching whatever sport his own children were playing. Many of our life lessons from our dad came out on the field.

It was never about winning, but always about playing as a team, playing with heart and never giving up. To be quite honest I can’t even remember the record for any sports season because in my dad’s eyes, for every season in every sport we remained undefeated. As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not everything – but making the effort to win is.” It always felt as if, regardless of the score, we won in my dad’s eyes.

After playing softball for eight years and finally making it to the “big” league, which in those days meant we moved from a team named after a flower to a team called the “Bombers,” I suddenly found synchronized swimming. To this day I remember telling my dad that I wanted to do that instead of softball, feeling horrible because I was his youngest daughter and would be ending his girls’ softball coaching career.

He might have been disappointed, but he never showed it. All I remember is that at my first synchronized swimming meet, my dad was there cheering me on.

If you’ve ever wondered what unconditional love would look like in human form, look at my dad. There have been times when I have disappointed him in the choices I’ve made, but I have always loved and admired him for saying, “I am disappointed in you but that doesn’t change how much I love you.” Then it was done.

The day I got married, right as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle, my dad handed me a note that said, “Even though you are grown up and married, this coupon is good for a trip to the batting cage with your dad. I love you.” I had tears in my eyes as I walked down the aisle, not because I was getting married, but because of how much I adored my dad.

Now my dad is known as Papa to 14 grandchildren and the love they have for him seems to be as great as mine. I am so blessed to see my children loving this wonderful man for all of the same reasons that I do.

Jimmy Valvano, whom I had the pleasure of meeting, said something that rang so true in my heart and always reminds me of my dad. He said, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person – he believed in me.”

To the wonderful man who is my dad and always believes in me, I love you.

For even more of the lessons that come with raising a big family while still keeping a sense of humor, visit



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