Memories of my father, who braved a snowstorm for me
He accomplished nothing outwardly grand or noteworthy in his life, but his small acts of kindness, consistent over a lifetime, in the end are indeed great.
“Who is this boy you’re going to the dance with?” my father asked. He had overheard me talking to my girlfriend on the yellow wall phone in the kitchen.
It was the Christmas ball at my high school, Lourdes, an all-girls school, and I had asked a boy, Todd, who was not from my neighborhood but rather was an exotic outsider.
I had met him at a dance at St. Sabina’s, and he was a handsome, tall guy from St. Leo’s. The only boys I knew went to St. Rita or De La Salle, so I felt grown up and worldly to know someone different. He asked me for my phone number, and when he called and asked me out, I decided I wanted to ask him to my dance even though I hardly knew him.
“I don’t understand why you don’t like the boys from your own neighborhood, “ my father said. How provincial, I thought.
I rarely got new dresses for formal occasions and usually had to borrow them, but I asked my mother anyway. I was surprised that she agreed, and she took me to Zayre’s on Cicero — a cheap store, but I didn’t care. I went straight for the bling and chose a dress with a black top and gold sequined skirt.
The day of the dance was a brutal Chicago winter day, and it began snowing early in the morning. I was excited about my evening, and after I put on my dress and my makeup, I realized it was still snowing.
There we were, my parents and my brother and sister-in-law, who came over for the event, sitting in the living room and waiting for Todd.
“He probably stood you up,” my older brother said. My mother glared at him but said nothing.
We all sat silently. My mother left the room and came back with her rosary and started praying. My date was now a half hour late. I fingered the gold lame on my new dress and told myself not to cry because my mascara would run.
In the heaviness of the room, I didn’t notice my father was no longer there, until he walked in from the outside. He had on his thin blue winter coat and a winter hat with furry ear flaps, all completely covered in snow. Why had he been outside? He came in, and on his heels followed Todd.
“Sorry I’m late, but the snow made driving very slow. You live really far from me,” Todd said. I didn’t care how late he was. He was finally there, with a beautiful corsage. We had our pictures taken, and I got my coat and we left.
The next day, my father asked, “How was your dance?”
“Todd said I lived too far from him to go out again, “ I sheepishly replied.
“There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
It took me awhile, but I finally figured out that my father, John Golec, had gone out into the snowstorm and stood on the street looking for my date. Neither he nor Todd ever mentioned it. He didn’t tell anyone he was going to do it; he just quietly put on his coat and went outside.
While the rest of us sat inside the warm house and worried, my father took action. My father decided to stand on the sidewalk in a blizzard so I could get to my dance. And yet, when exotic Todd decided I wasn’t worth the drive, my father never said he told me so.
Now, whenever I see one of those winter hats with the giant ear flaps, I think of my father, the man who stood in a snowstorm for me.
He worked in factories his entire life, volunteered with the Knights of Columbus, was a husband, father and friend to many. He accomplished nothing outwardly grand or noteworthy in his life, but his small acts of kindness, consistent over a lifetime, in the end are indeed great.
His snow-covered hat will always remind me of how much he loved me. He didn’t earn a lot of money, and he couldn’t buy me all the material things I wanted, but he gave me a legacy to emulate.
The dress is long gone, but the memory endures: My father’s face covered in snow but filled with love for me.
Gloria Golec is an emeritus professor of English at College of DuPage.