Simple gestures remind us of what’s really important
Tonight No. 1 Florida State takes on No. 2 Auburn in the BCS National Championship game. I suppose this means the holidays are now officially behind us.
Hopefully everyone had a wonderful and fulfilling holiday season. Mine was special for a reason that I never expected. I never saw it coming.
The holidays and especially Christmas have never been the same since my dad passed away on Feb. 3, 2010. For me, besides the obvious, there has been something missing since then. It was something that I just couldn’t put my finger on; an intangible if you will.
That is, until this Christmas.
The Saturday before Christmas, Kenosha Softball Hall of Famer Jack Zimmerman came bearing gifts. Along with a large poinsettia and a huge gift basket from Tenuta’s, he also brought a dozen red roses for my mother. Zim has always been a charmer and evidently has a little Eddie Haskell in him. And he wasn’t done. The best was yet to come.
As unexpected and gracious as those presents were, Zim blew me away with one final act of kindness. As he reached into his pocket, he told me that he checked with his mother and received her blessing. He then handed me an old baseball that had the following inscription:
“6-30-1961 — Roosevelt Road 23 Kwik Kafe 0 No Hit, No Run Game Pitched By Jack Zimmerman”
Zim told me that he wanted me to have this treasured little league memento of his because of what I had done for him. He told me how important I had become in his life. Moved by this heartfelt gesture, I wiped away the tears that were streaming down my cheek long enough to ask if he would sign the ball.
After Zim left three hours later, it hit me. I finally knew what had been missing from Christmas for me since Dad passed away. It was a gift that I didn’t ask for or even need. Yet it touched my heart dearly.
That’s what my dad was all about. Whenever you asked him what he wanted for his birthday or for Christmas, you always got the same answer — “I don’t need anything.” Until Zim’s unselfish deed, I never quite understood what he meant. Now I do. You really don’t need “things.”
My dad was the greatest man I ever knew. He bravely served our country in World War II from age 19 to 21. People like him are the reason his generation is referred to as “The Greatest Generation.” He never intended to be a hero, but he was. And the most important thing to him was his faith. It was always the most important thing in his life. I so dearly miss praying with him in the morning. That is why I keep his rosary next to my bed.
If Dad wasn’t touching you with his actions, he was doing it with a corny joke or that silly look that he inherited from his pop, my Grandpa ’Noni. Dad had an exceptional ability to express his love without uttering a single word. You just knew he loved you. It was a wonderful thing.
I started this column by mentioning a football game. Years ago, Dad would often tell me to calm down when I would start hollering and stressing out while watching a Packers game. He would tell me that it’s not worth getting sick over, and that it’s only a game. Was he kidding?
At the time, I couldn’t grasp his lack of passion. After all, it was the Green Bay Packers! I knew Dad loved the Pack just like I did; he brought me up watching them. I just didn’t get why he never seemed to get as upset when they lost as I did. Well, now I finally do. Dad, after all these years, I now understand there are other things much more important in life.
Yes, the holidays are finally over. Jack Zimmerman’s no-hit little league ball is now in a protective ball cube on the shelf in my bedroom. And Dad’s rosary is still beside my bed. I will always cherish both of these items for different reasons. Now I get it.
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Until next time…from the booth.