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