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POV: Remembering my fathers

I’ve been told I was the “apple of his eye” by family members recalling my dad. He was noted for his generosity, his cooking and gardening, and his sense of humor. Unfortunately, he was noted for drinking too much too, a curse many in my Irish family suffer from. As a young child, I would give Dad homemade cards, and he always reacted as if I had spent a million dollars. As an adult, I remember he especially cherished a small pair of carved birds that I sent him for Father’s Day.

I was blessed to have two dads when I married my husband, Jim. My father-in- law, Jim Whelan passed away last year at the age of 94. He was a man of faith and conviction, strong values and deep love. He, too, was noted for his cooking and gardening. Dad was proud of his two children, 16 grandchildren, and over 20 great-grandchildren. He was outgoing and would know all the rumors around our neighborhood when we didn’t even know our neighbors’ names. Corny jokes were heard again and again and can still be heard at family gatherings. His son and grandsons are carrying out his legacy. He could be stubborn, and most of the family has inherited some of this characteristic too.

In his last days, he continued to joke but also made sure that everyone in his life knew how much he loved them. In his last email to me (yes, even at 94, he was open to today’s technology), he wrote:

Dear Maggie, thank you for your prayers, your love and concern. I have said that at 94 we are expecting medical problems and I realize that. My spirit is good and I have placed my life in the hands of Jesus. For more than a year, everyday I pray, “Mary, please be with me in the last hours of my life, take my hand and lead me to Jesus and eternal happiness.” I look at you as my daughter, not an in-law. I love you even when you remind me to put tomatoes in the stew.

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