By Paul Steffan
How do you say thank you to someone you’ll never see again?
How do you say thank you to a man you’ve said thank you to thousands of times over the years?
Even more confusing, how do say thank you to someone when you realize as you get older that you never even knew how great the gift? You never realized the sacrifice and love he had for you until you came across the same challenges as he did when it was your turn.
My three brothers and two sisters actually did say “thanks, Dad” quite often as we grew up. Thanks for the ride, or thanks for the treat, after a trip to Dairy Queen or after a tag-along to a Bills game or a movie and Friendly’s. It’s easy to say thanks in those situations, the reason so obvious and easy.
I find myself using my dad as a yardstick. I’m 55. When dad was 55 it was 1984 and I was still in college. I’d like to thank him for the support he gave me for making sure I was educated. I know how expensive Catholic school was for a big family in the ’70s
Thanks for my faith. Dad went to church every day. He was a living example of how important faith is to navigating the treacherous roads of this world. His dog-eared Bible was his road map. Having six children is a responsibility that I’ll not know. He accepted and was glad for the opportunity. You can’t be good at something without embracing it.
Thanks for discipline and work ethic, Dad. For 35 years he worked a job he really didn’t like because he knew he had a family that counted on him. And he worked that job to a high standard. When I come across his old colleagues today, they speak with reverence about the outstanding work ethic he showed at the DA’s office.
Discipline? We knew the standard he expected us to live up to and he made sure we knew the consequences of not living up to those expectations.
Thanks for showing all of us how to be a son. One of the first “sandwich generation” kids, Dad built an addition to the house for my grandma to live in. Today I appreciate the financial burden that must have been for him. He never mentioned it, let alone complained about it. Not just that, but he showed us the goodness that comes from doing something so important. Having Gram right there with us gave us all a chance to really know her and enjoy life with her.
Thanks for the security. He was a rock, Mr. Consistency. Home every night, no fights, no conflicts, no tensions, no fear. We never knew that, never experienced it.
Charity? Dad broke his ankle falling on an ice patch after delivering food to a local soup kitchen. Community? He donated countless hours of time to coaching baseball, not only for his love of the game, but as a sanctuary for hundreds of kids who might have otherwise found themselves in trouble.
Thanks for the sacrifice. Not just for Korea, or the opportunity cost of six kids, mortgages and car payments, but for showing us it could be done with quiet humility, no pat on the back, no thank you.
Thank you, Thomas W. Steffan. Thanks for everything you knew I was grateful for.
Paul Steffan, of Williamsville, measures himself against the example set by his late dad.