On this father’s day I want to tell you about a man very special to me, my father, Roy Tomaszewski. Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, where my father still lives, he worked in a factory at Dana Corporation. He was always wiling to do whatever was needed to provide for our family. A lot of times, that meant working third shift and scarifying on many different levels. That was never more evident than when my mother passed away from cancer when I was 5. That left my dad a single parent at the time raising 5, 6, and 14 year-old boys. I can’t even imagine the pain and suffering he endured losing his wife and being left alone to raise us 3 boys. Looking back at it now, he had so much courage and love and never let us forget we were in this together. It’s funny how it sometimes takes decades to gain a true perspective on what someone has truly done for us.
As I think back to some of my childhood memories and life lessons my dad bestowed upon me a few things stand out. Sunday’s during the fall while we were playing little league football, my dad was always there to watch us and typically had a pot roast cooking back at home. It’s funny, because now pot roast is one of my kid’s favorite meals. I’m sure you have a meal that you cherish to this day that was a family staple as well.
My dad was always famous for his homemade apple pies. I’d put them up against any I’ve ever tasted. Not sure where his baking skills came from, but the man could make some killer pies! Not to mention, the sugar cookies at Christmas time that we would spend hours decorating.
If you’ve never met my dad, you’re missing out on one of the most unique laughs you’ve ever heard. If my dad is known for anything it just might be his boisterous laugh. In fact, I recall one summer while at my dad’s company picnic at a small amusement park, by brother and I were walking towards the picnic pavilion trying to find him and all we had to do was follow the laugh. It’s priceless.
Another trait, I picked up from my dad and perhaps to my neighbor’s chagrin, I like to call it the Griswold Habit!. Yes, I’m referring to Clark Griswold from the movie National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. As we all know, Clark loves to decorate the house and my dad was no different. Growing up, it was a 2-3 day process to untangle and test lights and make sure every square inch of the yard was covered in Christmas glory. Maybe that’s why I have 4 Christmas trees in my house, and a front yard you can spot a mile away during the month of December!
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the custom Happy Birthday renditions he sings so eloquently. In fact, we stopped answering the phone on anyone’s birthday when he calls just so we can record what we know will be an epic Grandpa Roy original.
One of life’s lessons that I’ll always cherish that my dad taught me was to never quit on something you started. I remember one day telling my dad I didn’t want to go to football practice because it was hot and my other friends were going swimming. He looked me sternly in the eye and said, “You made a commitment to play and when you start something, you finish it.” That lesson has helped me to overcome many obstacles in my life and for that I am truly grateful.
When I was looking at colleges I had many options to IVY league schools on the east coast, but in my heart I didn’t want to be that far from home. I always wanted to be close enough just in case my dad needed me, just like he had always been there for me growing up. I eventually settled on Case Western Reserve University because it gave me the challenging academics I was looking for and it was just a 2 hour car ride from home. Now that I think about it, I think I went home most weekends during my freshman year and summer as well. Let’s just say home is where the heart is.
When reminiscing about raising 3 boys on his own, my dad often says, “I did the best I could” and I’m hear to tell you dad that you did pretty damn good! Of course, I’m a bit biased, but hopefully he’d still agree. I know that what he did by raising 3 boys on his own could not have been and easy task. I am so grateful for everything my dad has done for me and I can only hope that I can repay a fraction of that to him and carry that on to raising my 3 girls. Being a father is the most challenging and yet rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced and I have some great lessons from my dad to help me along my journey.
If you’ve read this far, I thank you for letting me share a piece of my life that means so much. I wish all of the dads out there a very Happy Father’s day!