The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
I have no idea what the address is, but please deliver this note of thanks to my father. If there’s a trout stream in the next world, then that’s where you likely will find him. And because it’s called Heaven, then there has to be a darn good trout stream, right?
Thanksgiving was always my dad’s favorite holiday, so it seems like a fitting time to express the gratitude I feel daily for the manner in which he lived his life and cared for others. The family gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday gave this doctor the platform to showcase his culinary talents and his surgical skills. He could cook, and after thousands of appendectomies, Cesarean sections, tracheotomies, circumcisions, and other procedures, the man could certainly carve a turkey.
Dad, in the interest of full disclosure, I was never a big fan of your oyster stuffing, but I thank you for always making us try different foods. By the time I was 12, I had sampled Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Jewish, Indian, Italian, Irish, Mexican, and French cuisine, and tasted kohlrabi, antelope, jicama, Gefilte Fish, Kumquats, and pork belly.
Thanks, too, for the many walks in the woods and for teaching me how to tell the good mushrooms from the potentially deadly ones. Thanks for the myriad instructional moments as my brothers and I learned to fish at your side.
We could be a 15-minute walk from the stream and you were already educating us on how to observe the insect world around us so we could “match-the-hatch” and use the best flies when we reached the water’s edge.
Thanks for the many lessons patiently delivered to those rambunctious young fishermen at Lake Mohawk, where you stressed the importance of the right bait at the right time, and of not throwing your shadow on the water to spook the fish, and of how to step softly as you approach, because the vibrations sent through the ground were like a warning alerting the fish to your presence.
I have caught myself telling my kids the same things, in the same manner, and it feels good. Thanks for that.
You raised a new generation of bird lovers, so thanks for the guidance on how to care for the wildlife around us while appreciating them from a distance. You and mom didn’t feed the birds — you put out something akin to the buffet at Golden Corral. The birds at our house got such a wide assortment of fruits and nuts and seeds that I am surprised we didn’t have vegans cutting through the backyard just to snack. Maybe it was the suet and bacon grease that scared them off, but the starlings sure loved it.
I’m so deeply thankful for the value you also placed on formal education. You made the countless sacrifices necessary to put 14 kids through 12 years each of Catholic school (that’s 168 years of tuition, if you are keeping score), then got most of them through college and beyond. I wince when I see my kids’ college bills, but you taught me that is likely the smartest investment I will make. Thanks for that, I think.
And you also found the place in your priorities to help pay for the instruction of a young Philippine man who wanted to be a priest, but could not afford the schooling. He did great things with that education — Archbishop Onesimo Gordoncillo passed away two weeks ago after 53 years of serving the flock in a poor area of the Philippines that was just slammed by a typhoon.
Thanks for that vivid example, and so many others, of how true charity and compassion are the gifts one human being gives to another, not something ordered by a formal entity or administered from a tall office building.
Thanks for crossing the tracks decades before it became fashionable, making house calls because you cared about the health and the souls of all of God’s people. And administered 45 years worth of your own brand of affordable care — accepting chickens, yard work, or sometimes just a smile and a handshake to settle a bill.
Thanks for taking me along when you made “rounds” at the hospital after church on Sundays. I am still amazed that you stopped and spoke to every patient and never once glanced at your watch, because often your time and compassion did more healing than all of the medicine and the procedures.
You looked into your patients’ eyes, eager to check the pulse of their spirit. There was no line on their chart to designate such a level of care, but with that commitment to always seeing a person and not a policy number, I’m pretty sure there’s no place for you in today’s world of medicine.
Thanks dad, for showing me how to overcome adversity through personal pride, strength, integrity, and hard work. You lived through the Great Depression, had a father that deserted the family at the most difficult time, and you did without for most of your childhood. Some would say that life dealt you a miserable hand, but you turned it into a full house with faith, love, and determination, and service to your country, your family, and your patients.
Dad, you left us just shy of 17 years ago. I’m thankful for the 76 years the Big Guy let you spend on earth, but for quite a while, I was angry that he called you when he did. I was hurt that so much good, such a vast storehouse of knowledge, and a man so many people depended on could be taken from us. But then I realized that maybe there was a reason.
God decided it was finally his turn to go fishing with you, and that can’t be a bad thing.
I assume He knows all of the good spots.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.