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My Dad at 80

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My Dad would have turned 80 today. Smartly witty but playful, a devouring reader and sports aficionado, devoted Catholic, all-around solid guy and a remarkably soulful man. His love of my Mom was without denial. When he passed away one of the most resounding sentiments that was passed on to my family and I was that for kids - many that he coached - that they never felt he spoke down to them. My Dad always made a kid feel like an equal, somebody with a voice and an opinion. One that he listened to. He had a real affinity for people.

We had an ongoing conflict with our next door neighbors, to the point that when they eventually moved my Dad set up in a lawn chair with a six-pack and simply nodded, grinned and watched. Yet during the previous Blizzard of 1978 when my family's station wagon was the one vehicle on our street (pre-SUV era, kiddo's) deemed most appropriate to make the journey for provisions, my Dad made a point of knocking on their door to invite this man on the trip for milk and bread and eggs. I will never forget that. That neighbor accepted the invitation.

If you didn't ever meet him, I am sorry. If you did then you know exactly what I mean about the character of this man. Interesting to me that his 80th falls on Labor Day, lots of odd thoughts about that considering he lived such a blue-collar life. He played Division I basketball at two schools but eventually earned his degree at night school while working on the docks in Newark, NJ during the day. He spent the bulk of his life in the precious metal refinery, on the floor of a mill every single day.

His workers had an admiration and appreciation for him because they knew how much he cared. I know this. My brothers know this. We all worked there, so we saw first hand. They all told us. These were not people prone to bullshitting. They'd occasionally drink beers with us, a couple of them sold me weed. They painted my bus.

They were not hiding anything.

And, they fucking loved my Dad. Because he always did right by them. He was the son of a working man and he was a working man with an appreciation for the life of a working man. He never forgot that. Never lost sight of that. These folks would tell us, many of them Portuguese immigrants, "Your father looks out for us." And, I know they meant it.

When I was a kid and my Dad got paid we'd go to Downtown Pizza in Norton, MA. It was always a Friday. He and my Mom would split a pitcher and we'd have two large pies. He put four kids through college living that extravagantly. The first Kielty to graduate from college was my Dad. I was second. All of his kids have college degrees.

The universe will toss you a few pitches that you just need to shake your head at but it's often hard not to overthink them. What would have been my Dad's 80th birthday falling on Labor Day is certainly one of them. I really loved that guy and it makes me smile on Labor Day to know the people who worked for and with my Dad loved him.

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