A most basic question I never thought to ask my father

My mom and dad on their wedding day.

My mom and dad on their wedding day.

I was sharing some family history to a dear friend of mine, telling her how my dad had been forced to drop out of college after his father died.

“What was he going to study?” she asked.

I didn’t know. And realizing I didn’t know what my own father had hoped to do with his life has been bugging me ever since.

Growing up, all I knew was that he dropped out of Manhattan College after one year because his father had died after complications from prostate surgery. My dad moved back home to work and to help provide for his mother.

(I also remember hearing that his first job paid $5 a week. Yes, a week.)

He later served in the Army during World War II; I remember stories of him guarding German prisoners of war. He then went to work for the U.S. Postal Service, married my mom and raised a family.

Those were the essential elements of my dad’s narrative, the Reader’s Digest version of his life I carried around in my head like a handy reference guide.

It wasn’t until my friend asked me about my dad’s plans that I realized there’s probably a lot I don’t know about him. At first I was embarrassed, a little ashamed that I had no idea what his hopes and dreams were.

Maybe, like so many 19-year-olds, he had no clue and was just trying to figure things out. I had plenty of years to ask him that question, but didn’t — I was too busy with my own plans, hopes and dreams, and the tedium of everyday life. My dad died 13 years ago.

So there’s a nagging empty feeling in that spot where I carry his memory with me. Live and learn, I guess, although sometimes too late.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in family, Irish Investigations and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A most basic question I never thought to ask my father

  1. Joseph McKeever says:


    Wow, you’re right. I don’t have a clue either. Worse, I never thought about asking him. It seems as if his remaining years and the more or less downbeat attitude he took toward things made the question disappear. Weird. Great piece.

    I was just remarking to Denise last night how odd – yet commonplace – it is that our children don’t seem to give a shit about what we do or how we do it. Maybe times haven’t changed.



  2. markbialczak says:

    Interesting post, Jim. Here’s a thought toward solving that mystery. Perhaps Manhattan College’s registrar has a record of your dad and what he studied the first year, and a record of his intended major. Your three guys may even be interested enough to take on the puzzle of their grandfather’s college past as a project? See you tomorrow.


  3. Patti Fitzgibbons says:

    Your writing is a gift, always leaving me with a new perspective and a new way to look at things. Thank you, cousin~ much love and admiration!!!


  4. Chris M says:

    Many colleges will give you a copy of old transcripts if you ask. Might not give you all the answers, but seeing what classes he took could give you a little insight. My grandmother and aunt went to Lake Erie College, and the school even copied yearbook pages of the clubs my aunt belonged to. It was a lot of great information. Can’t hurt to try!


  5. Don’t give up hope. My husband came across some blueprints his dad sketched out, complete with an imaginary family-business name. He evidently wanted to be an architect at some point in his early years. I hope you’ll find some clues!


  6. Pingback: JASPER JOTTINGS Week 22 – 2015 May 31 | Jasper Jottings Weekly ... © reinke 2014 all rights reserved

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