On Saturday, December 1, 2013, my father died. My mother asked me to deliver one of the two eulogies for him (along with my brother) at yesterday's funeral. After several drafts, I relied on a concept developed by a fellow ChicagoNow blogger - so I wrote a list. As a result, here are Seven Things you Didn't Know about My Father.
"If you didn’t know, I write a blog for ChicagoNow – the blogging site of the Chicago Tribune. My blog is called “It’s Never Just Black & White.” This is not mere shameless self-promotion. I was trying to think about how to form my words about my father today and while thinking about one of the blog posts I wrote about the Cubs, I started thinking about one of my favorite blogs on the ChicagoNow site called “Lists that Actually Matter.” From playing softball for ChicagoNow, I have become friends with the writer for “Lists” and decided it would be appropriate to shamelessly treat you to a list. Today’s list is Seven Things You May Not Know about Jimmy Chatz.
1. My father was never 16. According to my father, he skipped his second year of high school and, hence, never experienced age 16. I never questioned his explanation. It didn’t make sense and I don’t think I ever won an argument with him anyway.
2. Jimmy was a restaurant management major in college. My father’s dream was to own and operate a restaurant. He attended Michigan State University which had a top-rated restaurant school. While the death of his father while he was in college hastened my father’s entrance into law school, he followed his dream to become a mess sergeant in the Army. His ability to cook for large numbers of men at one time while in the service resulted in Sunday morning breakfasts in our home consisting of my brother and I being served hundreds of pancakes. As many of you know, there was not much moderation in my father’s personality.
3. My father attended the last World Series in which the Chicago Cubs played. He went to one of the 1945 World Series games in Chicago with his father and I believe the Cubs won that game. In keeping with that theme, you should know that my father was a Cub fan to his dying day. In fact, we all looked to his comments on Cubs players, management and strategy for insight into every season.
This was not a man who called sports talk radio and billed himself as a “life-long Cubs fan.” I hate those people. He was a fan but didn’t preach about it. In fact, my father and I attended the September 2,1972 Cubs game best known for the Milt Pappas no-hitter, but better known as the game where Pappas lost his perfect game on a 3-2 ball four call by umpire Bruce Froemming – affectionately referred to by my father as “that fat jerk.” Interestingly, my father showed patience that day as it rained early in the day and we actually stayed and waited out the rain delay.
Two years ago, I got a call from my father on opening day of the Cubs season. He was beside himself. “I just listened to the Cubs first game of the year from beginning to end while driving home from Florida. You have to write a blog about how bad they are.” Dad, it’s the first game of the year – are you serious? “Yes, I’m serious,” he said, “they stink and you need to write about it.” I did and he was right.
4. My father was not a calm traveler. Yes, I am being facetious here. But, things got so bad on one of our driving trips that we wrote a song that was an ode to Jimmy in hotels: “Breakfast should be fast, dinner can be slow, it’s morning now so hurry up and pack the car, come on let’s go.” On another trip, I had just gotten my driver’s license and we encountered a blizzard driving from the Denver airport to Vail for a ski trip. Not only was I directed to drive through the blizzard – “John, you drive, your mother can’t do it.” Really? What about you pops? And then, after I suggested that we put the chains on the rear tires, my father said – “Good idea John. Go out there and put the chains on.” Really? Have you and my brother lost your ability to walk and move your arms? After chipping the ice off my body, I got back in the car and drove the rest of the way to Vail. Everyone else slept.
5. Andrea Marcovicci was my father’s favorite performer and secret crush. No further comment.
6. My father loved his family. I recently read that you shouldn’t have to repeatedly say you love someone if your actions show your love. I can fairly say that for the past several years every telephone conversation I had with my father included the following questions focusing on all of my children and step-sons: How is Peter doing at work? Is Erica doing ok in Miami/New York/Chicago - …? How is Tyler doing at school; is he keeping up and going to graduate? What is Jesse up to now? And, more recently – How is Andrew doing in football, What’s Austin up to? And, finally, What’s new with Sasha? If you don’t care, you don’t ask.
7. My father never had and never would have a retirement party. I feel like today is my father’s retirement party. When I used to mc/roastmaster retirement parties, I always pointed out to the person being honored how cool it was that they were hearing people saying nice things about them while they are alive and able to appreciate it. While I'm not hosting and roasting anymore, the point is important today. Work was everything to my father – it was his greatest joy and his greatest disappointment when things didn’t go as he wanted them which, thankfully, rarely happened. Work was so important to him that when I showed up at his house on a County holiday, I was routinely met with the question – “Why aren’t you at work?” I’m afraid that if he could speak to all of us now, we’d all be answering that question – why aren’t we at work?
In closing, my father taught me and my brother how to work hard, how you should show your love for your family and friends and, above all else how to give without seeking anything in return. If there is something you don’t know about Jimmy Chatz that you can take away today is that here was a chubby little kid who grew up in Rogers Park, had his father die when he was 19 and he grew into a successful and revered attorney with a large family who treasured his advice and time. He was a man who would give you anything you needed if you had a legitimate reason – and ask for nothing in return.
We should all be so lucky."
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