A TRIBUTE TO STEVE STELMACK
On December 29th, I learned my dad died.
Some might say, “How terrible, your holidays are now ruined forever.”
“What a beautiful time for your soul to depart, Dad. Your timing was perfect.”
My father was 92, and yes, eyes of blue.
A go-getter from the day he was born, far ahead of his time.
Do you know anyone who 70-years ago ate yogurt and took vitamins every day?
My dad did. (And thus my own health nut regimen.)
I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
An athlete for as long as I can remember, he knew staying in best physical shape was a “forever thing” – and he didn’t disappoint.
My dad was the same size all his life.
He was 5’11” – a healthy 165 pounds to 175 lbs.
He was an incredibly hard worker and instilled his work ethic in me.
Or maybe it was because of his Midwest genes (and mine by default).
He was always the provider – it was a different time than it is now.
And what a BIG presence and love for schmoozing he had – ever heard of “politics,” Dad? You missed your calling.
He could be strict, as father’s can be; but he had a really fun side, too.
He loved life – getting up in the morning and making his mark.
I remember one cold morning; he took me ice-skating for the first time, when I was just 6-years-old.
I was awestruck of his skating prowess; I thought I was going to burst!
There was no other dad on the rink who could do “loopty loops” and skate backward, as fast as he could forward – I mean, W H A T?
It turns out my dad was a skilled hockey player in high school and college – go figure (skating, ha.)
May I brag a tad more (as his proud daughter), that he once played baseball for the Chicago Cubs’ farm team?
And dare I forget his college football and basketball days (plus he was a talented wrestler, too.)
If that wasn’t enough “jockdom,” he was a certified golf pro for many decades and well past retirement – usually during summers, when school teachers (his profession) are on break.
Oh, wait, who am I kidding?
My dad golfed year round, rain or shine!
And my tolerant, beautiful and late mother was a golf widow (we would tease.)
Okay, jumping back to that freezing morning while giddily ice-skating (trying to) with my dad.
We came home, and my 6-year-old feet were officially frost bitten.
But did I care?
Nope, because I had the coolest dad in the world that day!
I was still beaming with pride, even while soaking my tiny toes in the bathroom sink (yes, dad lifted me on the counter.)
It’s funny how that has stuck in my mind all these years.
I guess I could go on and on, and perhaps I’ve said too much already (or not enough.)
Some might say a father has a special bond with their daughters.
I don’t know about that, honestly.
A total jock like my dad should have had at least one son, right?
But I know he always loved me anyway (a girly girl back then), and I loved him despite a veiled side.
Looking ahead, he was my ROCK when I had a life changing accident three years ago.
Forever a coach, he called me nearly everyday those first critical months (he lived in Chicago, while I am in Seattle.)
He was unable to fly here (his legs gave out a few years ago), but his mind still sharp as a tack.
He encouraged me during my darkest hours. And just like my dad, I was a fighter. Rocky Balboa, here I come!
The angst he felt, though, I realized, “this is what it must mean to feel the pain of an injured child.”
Because we are always a “child” in our parents’ eyes, no matter how old or how brave.
“STAY POSITIVE.” (My dad would always say, for as long as I’ve known him.)
Those were his famous words of wisdom to everyone.
And you know what? He was right.
No matter what happens in life, you must forge ahead,
While my dad was far from perfect, well, nor am I.
Today I am honoring a man who never failed to say how proud he was of me, even with my own imperfections.
Thank you, Dad, for loving me the best way you knew how.
Now how about doing some of those fancy ice-skating moves for the real Father above?
Because ‘tis the season.
I love you.
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