The unofficial feast day of St. Mike of Chicago is today, December 15th: my dad's birthday. My dad was a big man, who loved his kids and his wife and loved his job. He lived life so fully that even though we struggled with very little money growing up, we kids never knew how lean things really were.
My dad came from the mean streets of Chicago. He and his two younger brothers grew up and could have just as easily become hoodlums as college kids (in fact one of my uncles was pretty lawless there for a while). But dad found a way to channel his energy, get a good education and go to college: he played football. He played football for De la Salle High School in Chicago, a very prestigious Catholic prep school. They gave him a full scholarship. After high school and a stint in the Coast Guard during World War II he played College football for St. Ambrose. He told me once that football was the gift God gave him to show him a way to get an education.
In College, he was studying to be a priest until in his words " I found out just how soft women really were." I think actually it was until he saw my mom across an all male college campus. Mom worked in the registrar's office there, her father was a French and Spanish professor.
My dad and mom got married the fall of dad's Senior year in college, and he quit playing football, much to the dismay of his coaches. He was afraid that he might injure himself and not be able to support my mom and their future children. He took his Philosophy degree and went into teaching.
Speaking of future children, there were nine of us in 13 years. But sadly, ten years after my younger brother was born dad died of a brain tumor. The last three years of his life were a horrible roller coaster ride of misdiagnoses and misunderstandings and humbling experiences, as he was told that he had everything from emotional problems to thyroid disorders. His hearty healthy frame wasted away, and he died a mere shell of a man.
I loved my father. He gave me the gift of my faith. A love for old movies, and good literature. He told the greatest corny jokes, and could whistle so loud you could hear it blocks away. We couldn't go anywhere in town without running into someone that he knew, or had taught, or had coached. He was just so well liked.
Even now, 35 years after he died, I still talk to him. I wish he had been around to meet mrangelmeg. I think he would have approved, they are a lot alike, they both like to watch football on television, they both love to play golf, and they both love the Catholic faith more than anything in this world.
So, today is the day to raise a glass of beer to St. Mike, the German Irish Saint of the half-time nap.
We miss you down here, but we know you are still keeping an eye on us.