Reflections on My Father: This Very Special Dad & Grandpa Is an Inspiration to His Kids & Grandkids by Elisa Schmitz
Dads have a special place in my heart. I can't remember a time when I didn't feel that my father was there for me. Like so many of us do, I've had many ups and downs over the years. And throughout the roller coaster of my life, no matter what I was going through, including a very difficult divorce, he was the steady presence that helped me through. Yes, my father has always been my rock.
As a child, I'll never forget him telling my sister and I that we were the prettiest girls in the world (even though we knew we weren't). All that mattered was that in his eyes, we were. He also supported and encouraged our academic, artistic and athletic endeavors. I'll never forget the time he delayed our family vacation to Niagara Falls so that I could play in the Little League baseball championships. I was the only girl on the team, and we ended up winning the city championship. (I was even interviewed by legendary sports broadcaster Tim Weigel after our victory.) I remember feeling that my dad was really proud of me. Girls need that self-esteem, and he made sure we had it.
As the patriarch of our family, my dad set the example of how to live life as a good person. Looking back on his parenting, as a parent now myself, I can see how hard it was for my parents to raise three kids while working full time: Mom as a public school teacher and Dad as Chief Architect, a job that also required him to travel. His career took our family as far away as Beirut, Lebanon, at a time when it was becoming a war zone. While I don't know that I would have made the same decision for my young kids, I do know that my dad's heart was always in the right place and he wanted the family to stay together. To me, he always seemed to make the right decisions, and he was a true role model for his kids.
As a grandfather, my dad has maintained this steady presence and leadership by example. My children already have had many ups and downs in their young lives. And throughout it all, Grandpa has been there to steady the boat and set it back on course. My son, CJ, got his personal mantra from Grandpa: "Do not be afraid." Wherever he goes and whatever he does, CJ bears those words in mind, and they help calm and protect him. I believe my kids would tell you that Grandpa is their role model, and I'm so grateful they have my dad in their life. He's the best grandfather any kid could ask for.
On Father's Day, I love recognizing this special man in different ways. But the reality is, when it comes to him, every day is Father's Day!
(The photo above is my dad with my three kids at our family lake home in Lake of the Ozarks, my father's "happy place." It's there that he taught us all to fish, to connect, to work hard, to relax and enjoy.)
Update on June 19, 2020: This post was originally written several years ago. I felt compelled to write an update, since so much has changed since I first wrote it. My dad is aging (as we all are). It has been very hard for me to process the fact that he (and my mother) both suffer from health conditions that will likely never be "cured."
I will never forget the trip a few years ago to our beloved "happy place," our family home on Lake of the Ozarks, when my father wasn't feeling well and, even though he didn't want to go, I rushed him to the local emergency room. It turned out that he had been having a series of heart attacks and no one knew, not even him. He needed surgery, so I arranged to have him (and my mother) taken by ambulance on the nine-hour ride back home to Chicago.
Within 36 hours, he'd undergone a successful quadruple bypass. While he lives with congestive heart failure and is very hard of hearing, he lives. He maintains his beautiful backyard garden, does continuing education and attends webinars to maintain his standing as a registered architect, and is a caregiver to my mother, who is in the early stages of dementia. The struggle is real, but my father continues to be a source of strength and inspiration for me, and for all of us.
I share this update because I want to remind us all that time is fleeting and we never know when we will lose those who are most important to us. If you're still lucky enough to have your parents, hold them in your heart even more closely. If you have lost your parents already, please accept my deep sympathy and feel the virtual hugs being sent your way.
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