James Patrick Dolan (Grumpy), Delivered October 27, 2015

James Patrick Dolan

James Patrick Dolan

By John F. Dolan (edited by Maureen Dolan)

Good morning, my name is John Francis Dolan. I am the 6th child, or what I like to refer to as the oldest of the bottom five. I’m the neglected one but this isn’t about me. Actually, I don’t know what I did to deserve such an honor, but I’m thrilled to be up here. You see, about ten years ago I was asked by the director of worship here at St. Raymond if I would like to give the father’s day homily. This would be an opportunity to stand up here, in this very spot, in front of the entire congregation and brag about my dad, for 15 uninterrupted minutes. Well, I chickened out. I let my glossophobia get the better of me. So, here I am, given a second chance. I’ve also been given strict instructions to be funny and to keep it short. So here goes… A priest, a rabbi, and an Irishman walk into a bar.

One of my dad’s greatest characteristics was humility. Everyone knows he was an extremely humble man. He would not want me to stand up here and go on and on about how great he was, and he was great. If you want endless stories about how he lived his life for others, come by Peggy Kinnane’s later.

There is one story however, that exemplifies my dad pretty well. It actually happened at a Halloween party my Mom and Dad hosted long before I was born. The guests all arrived in their well thought out and creative costumes. One guy, being his typical uptight, conservative self, wasn’t feeling it. My dad showed up in the same Brooks Brothers’ poplin, striped tie, and wing tips that he sported every day to the office.

Knowing my dad, this really didn’t surprise anyone.  They quickly got over their disappointment and the party went on. Well, at some point during the evening, between mixing Manhattans and emptying ashtrays, my dad quickly ducked out of view, stripped all his clothes off, only to reappear in a blue, full-body leotard with a red speedo, matching cape, and a giant “S” across his chest.

This, of course, put the crowd into a complete tizzy and my mom nearly passed out. Who was this guy? This guy studies Shakespeare, Socrates, and Thomas More. This is the guy who leaves the room when a bra commercial comes on for crying out loud. Now he’s standing in the middle of the living room in a onesie.  But that was my dad. Beneath that quiet, reserved, gentle man was superman. Clark Kent-ing his way through life quietly and anonymously, making a huge difference in everyone’s lives.

One typical subtle move he made that sent a clear message was during a Labor Day football game. One of the highlights of the Park Ridge days, were our epic touch football games, captained by my dad and Dr. Saletta. Before the game, the two captains sized up the talent. Twenty-plus family members, mostly kids, lined up for the draft. My dad ceded the first pick to his opposing captain, who quickly chose Jimmy Dolan, the oldest and most athletic player there. After a brief, but thoughtful, evaluation, my dad chose an anxious redhead, three-year-old Mary Colleen Saletta. Mary Colleen was fighting to make herself visible, dwarfed in the crowd of Fairview Avenue combatants. I’m fairly certain he made that move not only as a life lesson but it would also give my Dad the opportunity to recite Shakespeare in the huddle. Dad loved being the underdog. Imagine being a nine year old huddled up waiting for your assignment, which was usually, “block for your sister”, and then hearing Act 4, Scene 3 of Henry V, “that he which hath no stomach to this fight…let him depart” I think that remains one of Doc Saletta’s favorite stories.

Now I’d like to spend a little time on a subject my dad considered inappropriate to discuss; Wealth. I’m not sure why he objected to the topic; maybe it was because it was improper in polite conversation, or perhaps it was just because he had none.

You see it was 60 years ago next week my mom and dad were in sunny Florida, enjoying their honeymoon, two young kids, alone, in love, pondering their future together. They could have, and perhaps should have, came up with a game plan on career goals and their financial future. Mom and Dad decided to invest in another type of stock. Nine months later, jimmy was born. So much for the retirement fund! So what is his return on investment?

In today’s first reading, the profit Sirach reminds us that “our inheritance is vast”. Through my dad, we have inherited a love of learning, a strong work ethic, the love of laughter and above all, a strong commitment to faith and family.

He didn’t do this by telling us, but by living it.  I’m still trying to track down that financial advisor who somehow convinced my dad that if he just gave all of his money away, that someday he would be a rich man because he was right. For my dad, it wasn’t so much about making friends; it was about maintaining friendships, connecting with people.  His running buddies, his great books classmates, the work friends he had coffee with every morning, the old St. Pat’s gang; at every turn and in every aspect of his life it was about the connections he made and the lives he touched.

Dad inspired not in an “in-your-face” kind of way but in a subtle way. It was more about showing than telling. The way he treated others was remarkable. Going from the courtroom to lunch at Berghoff’s would bring him in contact with everyone from judges to the homeless. He treated everyone with the same respect, kindness and generosity. Through his interaction with others, he has taught me a wonderful lesson that has served me well in my profession; sensitivity and compassion, are strengths. He never once told me that, but his actions never once contradicted that.

My dad had an insatiable appetite for learning and one of his favorite topics was philosophy. He was a seeker of truth. Inspired by a philosophy book he had recently read, my brother Tom asked both my mom and dad: “if the world was going to end in one hour, if you had one just one hour to live, what would you do?” Without hesitation, my mom says, “I would tell someone where my checkbook is!”

“But mom, the world is going to end in an hour!”

“Oh, then I’d go around and tell everyone how much I loved them.”

My dad, who at that time was already struggling to talk, quietly says, “I would spend the hour contemplating what it was all about.”

At that point, my mom slaps the table and shouts, “Jim, Jim, what the hell is it all about?”

Again, barely audible, my dad says, “If I knew that, I wouldn’t spend my last hour contemplating it.”

So, what is it all about?

Allow me to go back to today’s first reading. Sirach goes on to say, “Among his family and friends remains a rich inheritance born of him.” Dad left us with all we need in life. Let’s not squander this inheritance let’s re-invest it; quietly, humbly and lovingly.

The support we saw last night, at my dad’s wake, was overwhelming. Throughout the evening, two things kept coming to mind. One, I probably should have listened to my dad more.  And two, hearing all the wonderful comments and how he was hero to so many, it was nice to know that they all finally saw through that Clark Kent exterior and saw my dad for who he was; Superman.

You’re Irish

Short run today, I was thinking about my heritage.

I have been asked to give the first reading at my father’s funeral mass. Tom McGough will give the second reading. The reading is a beautiful reading from the prophet Sirach. This is an honor that I shall cherish for the rest of my life. Irish men and women can be strong. In fact, my ancestors have endured hardships that make the Irish people some of the toughest on the planet. That history was taught to me by a high school teacher. You see I am an American who happens to have an Irish heritage. I am very proud of my heritage. That high school teacher, Frank Sullivan, obviously cherished his heritage and all of history for that matter. I remember a tremendous amount of what he taught but mostly I remember what he taught me about my Irish heritage. When I hear bagpipes I can be reminded of a gentle upbringing or a warlike past. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago not the hills and valleys of Ireland’s rugged landscape. Nevertheless, something has been planted within my DNA to react to the sound of bagpipes that echo across a lake or a field. From what I have read, our heritage was hard and sometimes brutal. At the same time that history was marked by generosity and beauty.  My ancestors were Irish and they were proud. Immense creativity can result from hardship. The music and the literature of the Irish people reflect this beauty and adversity all at the same time. Danny Boy will never see his mother again as he has gone off to fight someone’s war. Suburban Chicago is quite far removed from this reality but I retain the characteristics to survive whatever time or place that I was born into. I have often been reminded of my “Irish temper”. That characteristic has mellowed over the years but colleagues know that the specter remains. When I heard that my father had passed from this earth, I reminded myself of his, and my own, heritage. I immediately reached for my music and played songs with fiddle, fife and bagpipe. I immediately invoked an innate feeling that is connected to my genetic code. I feel this strongly. I was immediately immersed into a world that I never experienced first-hand but I feel a strong emotional bond. It was my father’s history, his father’s history and by proxy, my own history.

A very important part of that heritage is to always celebrate a life that is well-lived. So, we will celebrate the life of Jimmy Dolan. A man who continues to give good tidings through a legacy that will never die. My inheritance is great, I promise never to squander it.

Favorite song today, The Parting Glass performed by Liam O’Maonlai

James Patrick Dolan

James Patrick Dolan

A Better Place

No run today, I was thinking about Grumpy all day.

Twelve days after I crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon, Grumpy passed from this life peacefully, during his sleep. At two o’clock am this morning, Grumpy crossed the finish line of a life well-lived. Some might say that he was dealt a rough hand, others might say that this is the way it was meant to be. Whatever the case, the world has been made a better place by Grumpy. As stated, Grumpy ran to bring his family closer together. I wrote this blog to make sure that no matter how scattered our seed may be thrown, there are always connections that we will relate to in our lives. Grumpy is such a great subject for writing because he keeps us all connected. I am truly fortunate to be able to write about my dad.

You may think this is crazy or too scientific but here is something phenomenal. Interestingly, at exactly the time of his death, the house alarm a block away at one of his lifelong running buddies, Tom M, was tripped. The police were called, the premises were checked and cleared and the odd activity was left unexplained. Two hours later, Tom learned of his running buddy’s death. The coincidence of the exact time Grumpy passed from this earth and alarm going off a block away cannot be explained in too many ways. As a scientist, I prefer the quantum entanglement hypothesis. If you prefer the idea that Grumpy was partly responsible for tripping the alarm, he might have been freed from the shackles of his mortal body and wanted to run again. The New York Times wrote an article about quantum entanglement and a groundbreaking discovery just two days ago:

They call it “spooky action” and Einstein may have been wrong on his theory in standard physics called “locality”. Locality states that an object can only be influenced by its immediate surroundings. Alternately, quantum mechanics may actually rule the universe by entangling subatomic particles and influencing other particles a city block or a universe apart. Grumpy may have demonstrated this phenomenon for us early this morning. Of course, an alternate explanation may be that, anything that can happen probably will (sorry Cub fans). In other words, Murphy’s Law. Grumpy loved physics and is probably keeping us on our toes. I love you Dad, please rest in peace, or meet us all for an instantaneous subatomic physics run, whatever you choose. Thanks for the lesson in quantum mechanics.

Jim and Barb at the beach! Favorite song today: Chariots of Fire performed by Vangelis.



Chicago Fun Run

Ran the Chicago Marathon today, I was thinking about deep dish pizza (a lot).

I never knew how fun this effort could be. I trained for the Chicago Marathon and learned why my Dad loved to run. The fun part involved finding out what Mom and Dad were trying to achieve all these years. Running brought Grumpy closer to his family. We joke that he was escaping something. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What he was trying to do was find an activity that was beneficial to himself and his whole family all at the same time. We relate to Grumpy and he relates to all of us in a large part through running. Writing these entries gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about Grumpy but also a lot about my own family. I am happier because of the interactions that this has brought with my family and our old and new friends. I finally figured out why Grumpy ran. I finished the marathon in under four hours and got a medal and a bag of ice. The Chicago Marathon is the best one I have run so far. Thanks to John and Cindy for hosting me during the run. And, of course, thanks Mom and Dad. I love you both!

I could not have done this without a tremendous amount of support from everyone who donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. For those who donated, you were part of a tremendous fundraising effort that was specific for the Chicago Marathon but goes well beyond the City of Chicago and raises money and awareness for Parkinson’s worldwide. Thank you very much for your generosity. A tremendous and special thanks goes out to my wife and son for supporting me in this effort and becoming my biggest fans. I love you both very much.

I assure you, I got to the finish eventually. Favorite song today, The Glory of True Love performed by John Prine (Chicago guy).

Chicago Marathon Finish

Chicago Marathon Finish

Running Buddies

Easy run today, I was thinking about the medal.

As we wind up the final week before the Chicago Marathon. I would like to recognize the running buddies once and for all. Tom, Dick and JPD have lived close to each other for almost fifty years. There have been many that have come and gone and they are all sorely missed. Shortly after moving to Mt. Prospect, these three found each other and began to run. They were running before recreational running was a “thing”. Together they watched their children grow up and become all these great people. They discussed their challenges and supported each other through good times and bad. Grumpy continued to show up for runs when the only thing he could do was walk. Grumpy would wake up every morning even when he couldn’t walk the distance any more. Tom and Dick would stop by the house and push him in his wheelchair on part of that route.

Dad, I am going to run the Chicago Marathon. You ran the very first and 20+ more Chicago Marathons, this will be my first Chicago effort. Every step that I take will be dedicated to you, Mom, the buddies, and all of your care-givers. It has been a ton of fun recounting all of your stories. All that you have done for me, I am going to bring you and the buddies home a medal on Sunday. It’s a very small way of saying thanks.

Hope to meet you all for a run someday. Favorite song today, Sweet Home Chicago performed by the Blues Brothers Band and Review.

The meeting place for a great run

The meeting place for a great run

Emphasize Wife

Progressive run today, I was thinking about timing.

Here is what I cherish about Grumpy over everything else. I think Grumpy knew that another thing he could teach me that I could use all of my life was comedic timing. Like the saxophone, I don’t think I ever mastered it like he did. One of his favorite comedians was Henny Youngman. You know, “Take my wife, please.” That Henny Youngman. Dad would chuckle every time he heard that. He tried to teach his children the subtle nuances of that line. Deference goes out to all the wives, it could be “Take my husband, please.” or “Take my significant other, please. It really did not matter what he said but how he actually said it.

“Take my wife, please.”

“Take my wife please.”

“Take my wife… please!”

There was a right way and a wrong way. Nobody ever could deliver this line like Henny Youngman. Emphasize wife, emphasize my wife, emphasize please, pause, smile, wait for the laugh. He couldn’t believe how funny this was. This was not the only line. “I went to the doctor. He said I needed an operation. I said to the doctor I needed a second opinion.  The doctor said, Ok, you’re ugly too.” Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel were other favorites. “No wonder nobody goes to that restaurant, it’s always too crowded”. Proper pauses, wait…laughter, next joke. People don’t realize that the penny trick was much more than it seemed. Most of us remember Grumpy pulling a penny out of their own ear. I remember the first time, it is probably my earliest memory. He was dexterous and the trick was not complete until he said to the child “Is there any more in there?” There was a time in my life that I truly believed that this is where pennies came from, your ears. Most of the kids were very small, the real joke was for the older kids and the adults. He would captivate the whole room. He was actually setting up the next joke. I met a guy in the park that had a banana in his ear. Yeah, a banana… Nothing was sacred. The only thing I remember from taking Ancient Latin in college was what Grumpy learned at St. Patrick’s High School Latin class: Semper ubi sub ubi. This was translated, “Always wear underwear.” Sage advice, indeed.

Grumpy and I would have long discussion about what was funny and why. Sometimes he thought that if he repeated a particular joke enough times I would understand the nuance eventually. The bottom line is that he makes me laugh. Even today, when he can barely form a full sentence, he will say the right thing, with the exact right comedic timing and make everyone around him laugh. Keep it up Dad, I am still listening.

Back in Mt. Peanut, this is the turnaround at Arlington Heights Road. And they say you can never go home, ha! Favorite song today, Could I have This Dance performed by Anne Murray.

In the middle of rush hour... on a Friday.

In the middle of rush hour… on a Friday.

Reaching a Goal

Rest Day today, I was thinking about family.

A funny thing happened last night, I reached the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research fundraising goal. Now, as I understand it, I am supposed to participate in some sort of footrace. As you know, I am always up for a challenge. Is this running contest going to involve other people? I have to let you know that I once ran from my front door all the way to my mailbox. So beware, fellow footracers, I am fully engaged!

I cannot thank all of the people who contributed to this effort with mere bloggy words. I look forward to seeing each and every one of you to thank you in person. If that is not possible, please know that your generosity goes beyond words. I will be thinking of each and every one of you as I put one foot in front of the other over 40K times this weekend. What is that you say, the footrace is 26.2 miles? I am ready, you helped me get ready. Thanks again!

Last run around the lake yesterday. Favorite song today, Gonna Fly Now ( Rocky Theme) performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford.

The Lake, the last time.

The Lake, the last time.