Sabadosa: Remembering my dad
By Regina Sabadosa Citizen Journalistemail@example.com June 14, 2012 3:08PM
Sabadosa with her father, Frank Leszczynski. | Supplied Photo
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:08AM
“My father always promised us that we would live in France; we’d go boating on the Seine and I would learn to dance.”
When I first heard this song — “My Father” by Judy Collins — as a young adult, the lyrics haunted me, reminding me so much of the first man I ever loved — my father.
My father was neither famous nor wealthy but he held tight to some very lofty dreams, especially for his children.
My early memories of my father are sketchy and faded but I do recall his musky Old Spice scent and that he had a very soft side. As I grew older, I saw less of this side of him and more of a tougher façade.
My father worked the same third-shift factory job for more than 30 years. After his stint in the Navy during World War II, he went back to it until he retired at the age of 62. He never earned more than $10,000 a year but somehow managed to own a home and to educate all three of us in Catholic grade and high schools.
My dad never drove or owned a car. He said we didn’t need one because he was able to walk to and from his job. For us, it seemed only natural to take the bus or a taxi when we had somewhere to travel. We also walked a lot.
He was a strict disciplinarian and followed a very high moral and ethical code, and expected no less from his children. As a result, we never wanted to let him down.
Dating was not easy. I don’t think he ever fully approved of any boy my sister and I brought home. After breaking up with a longtime beau, the young man admitted to me how much my dad had scared him. Maybe that’s why my husband won my heart. My dad sure didn’t make it easy for him to “court” me! By the time we married, he had earned my dad’s seal of approval.
My sister and brother were quite a bit older than me. Each moved out of state to attend college and then to fulfill their “grownup dreams.” I chose to remain at home while attending DePaul University. For someone who never got to finish high school, Dad was a very learned man and was proud that all of us were college grads.
Collins’ song continues, “I stayed behind the youngest still, only danced alone. The colors of my father’s dreams faded without a sound.”
As my dad aged and accepted an early retirement at 62, we watched him fall into a deep depression. He had no idea what to do with his spare time. After working so hard all of those years, he told my mom he felt useless. After spending time in a VA hospital, he found his stride again and adopted my mom’s social life — becoming her bingo buddy, joining her volunteer groups and embracing her circle of friends.
He died suddenly at the age of 67, only seven months after walking me down the aisle and just a month short of knowing he was to become a grandpa for the first time.
As Collins’ song concludes, “I sail my memories of home like boats across the Seine and watch the Paris sun as it sets in my father’s eyes again.”
Actually, each one of us had the chance to go to France thanks to our father’s selfless support. Many years later his only granddaughter did learn to dance. It has been nearly 32 years since my dad left us. It took me a long time to realize how much he sacrificed to allow his children to succeed.
A most happy Father’s Day to all the dads and father figures out there. Today I’m especially thinking about my dad — Frank Leszczynski — who is in heaven. Thanks, Dad, for your sacrifice and your love. We owe so much to you.