Another Proud Pops Story

Jo showing much love to his littlest brother.

That’s what he calls me when he says  hello on the phone, or when he hugs me goodbye, “Pops.” Somehow it doesn’t really make me feel old, though he is in the middle of his college career now, making the grades and as always, making me proud.

I was never good at sports myself, though I tried track for a while, and I loved volley ball. I even did a little bit of intramural basketball. Maybe it was because being the youngest of six kids, my father didn’t really ever seem to have the time and energy to pass a ball with me when I was a kid. But then he grew up on a farm with eleven brothers and sisters. There was surely lots of work to do,  and probably no football. Then there were my brothers who were much older and busy getting into trouble and hitting on girls to play with the youngest. But don’t pity me; I think it’s just as likely that I just really didn’t care for sports much. Dodge ball was fun but probably for all the wrong reasons.

In any case, I wanted to give my boys as many opportunities as we could afford to discover and do what they decided they wanted to do. Jo, our oldest took to sports in a way that coaches loved. I recall a basketball coach saying, “whatever I ask him to do, he does.” I remember that he was the one they always sent in when it was time for a free throw. Nothing but net, over and over. He tried his hand, and foot at soccer, football, basketball, and enjoyed them all. Unfortunately a knee injury and surgery finally brought an end to competitive sports for him in high school.

But he didn’t, and doesn’t grumble much about it. He picks up and does the next thing. He has been active in drama groups, local theater and even puppetry. What he seems to enjoy more than anything is helping people, and that includes tutoring and teaching. That’s his program right now in school, despite the fact that our governor in Pennsylvania has cut funds for education. He works part time as a tutor for younger kids, and for free for his mom and brothers. And where he got his brilliance in math is beyond his mother and I. We just scratch our heads in wonderment.

We read to all of the boys from the time they were very little. And it was apparent to us early on that this guy would likely devour every book in the house. I remember reading ahead of him when the Harry Potter series came out, but falling behind him during the Lord of the Rings books. He was 13 when we watched the “Two Towers” on video. I was too stunned to speak when he started expounding on all of the differences between the book and the movie, and why they had to be different!

I remember one summer when he worked locally with the Missoula Children’s theater, one of the fathers of the group said, “Oh, you are Jo’s dad? Wow, he’s quite a kid. The younger ones seem to always be following him around, and when my boys are home they can’t stop talking about him!” Maybe it’s the family sense of humor, or his playfulness. More likely it’s the fact that he makes people around him feel like he really is interested in them, like they are important, like he really cares. And that’s no act. He really does have that kind of heart.

I cannot help but be proud when I think what a great teacher he is going to be, and already is. But mostly I am proud that he has grown up to be a good, good person, a caring young man who has a passion for many things, and a desire to be a helper. All the while he keeps his wits about him, and is discerning enough to not waste too much time and energy with the lies and deceit (read “bullshit”) that seems to constantly be thrown in the face of all of us in this life.

I’m not sure if he realizes what a stabilizing influence he is on the rest of the family. Hell, the group of us have our conflicts and battles, like any family. Don’t misunderstand and think we are somehow immune to the ups and downs, but we are a solid group, and he’s a big part of that. Oh, he can get angry, just like his father. He gets his temper honestly. But he also has a gift of being able to glue people together, and be show-stoppingly supportive.

I’ll never forget our first discussion about my being gay. He was nine years old. I was concerned about how it would affect him when he would hear, as he surely would in small town Penn’s Woods, derogatory remarks and opinions about the whole subject. I told him that homosexuality upset some people, not only because of the religious teachings they were raised with, but because it was different, and though normal for me, it didn’t seem normal to them. His response was that of a boy who didn’t see why people should make such a fuss. “But dad,” he said, “Everybody’s different.” I could have cried. I probably did later.

Me and Jo in the Killynether Wood, Northern Ireland

I’m proud of all my three of my boys, for many reasons, but as I said about Jo, it’s mostly because they are good, caring young men. I just wanted to spend a little time telling you about Jo today. He’s in the middle of those arduous years of study before launching into the next phase of his life. And I just cannot say enough how incredibly happy I am to be his dad.

14 Replies to “Another Proud Pops Story”

  1. David,
    How awesome was this post… I felt the proud pops in me just reading it 😀
    My kids call me pops, padre, “Dowdy”, sometimes father and even the occasional “old man” which for in my family, is a term of respect.

    I do think it’s sad that somehow the innocence and acceptance of others gets lost on so many folks, especially as they get older. I hope it’s still changing for the better and when I go to things like my youngest’s talent show (they called it Grove Park Idol – but I’ll save that for another rant) I think there’s still hope…
    Anyway.. One thing that I appreciated is that at this elementary school talent show there were a LOT of acts that had a blend of white and black kids performing together, male and female together and often times it was just one of each. Simple observation maybe but I don’t think I’d have seen that 20 years ago. Then I looked at the two rows of seats in front of me and in the row directly in front of me were several black ladies (they were having a ball and it was a blast to watch them) and in the row right in front of them was a white gal with a big GRITS (Girls Raised In The South) tattoo with the confederate flag in the middle of it. It was on her shoulder so they got to stare at it the whole time. I felt embarrassed somehow but they didn’t let it stop their fun.

    ok end rant of sorts…
    I do think it’s getting better, but I still think in many ways there’s a long way to go.

    Thanks for sharing the proud pops thoughts (keep them coming) and for raising hand full of good kids… You should be proud!




    1. PS… This new background photo (Which is very pretty btw) makes it hard to read the text in the menu’s on the right. If you can lighten them, I think you should.

      Thought you’d want to know 😀



    2. Thank you, Stephen! Glad you liked it. And yes, I had the same thoughts about that font, though I did seem to have the same problem with the old background of the Northern Irish coast. This background is right above my town from across the river, where the North and West branches of the Susquehanna River meet. I find it helps if I scroll, and I guess I just got used to that. I am not familiar with these cascading style sheets on these wordpress themes, and I am not sure that I have the ability to change it other than to change the background. Perhaps another theme with the same header would give me a more appropriate font color.


  2. Athletic ability and intellect are fine qualities, but a kind heart and generous spirit are precious, precious gifts that he has received from his family and is passing along to others. This is lovely.


  3. Lovely post that resonates with me this week following my daughter’s fabulous achievements on Sunday last – she is now England u20 High Jump champion winning the gold medal and exceeding her wildest dreams. We were there to see her and it makes your heart sing (especially as I am the least sporty person I know!). But allied to that, was meeting my son two days later in London where he is making a life for himself with his partner. Older by three years he has taken longer to find his path but is a gentle, loving and creative young man (who of the two is most like me) returning to learning and enjoying his job in retail. Though very different I love them both equally and your post reminds me how wonderful it is to know we have brought terrific people into the world x


  4. Suzie, I’ve been on FarceBook too much tonight. I wanted to click like on your reply, and realized we don’t have that feature here. 🙂 I very much like how you talk about your children. Proud parent messages are the best. And yes, this is good to know, isn’t it? That we had some part in bringing good people into the world. There is nothing that makes me more proud than that.


    1. Thank you, Jennifer. We have our issues, and ups and downs like anyone else, but we love each other, and we also have a whole heck of a lot of fun.


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