Shortly after my father's funeral, I wrote this letter to the Brown Alumni Magazine, the alumni magazine for my almer mater, Brown University, from which I graduated in 1973. A slightly edited version appeared in their March 1998 issue, in the "looking back" portion of the classes section.
My Dad passed away recently. He was not a Brown alumnus, but was very proud that he had been able to make it possible for me to attend such a prestigious university. Dad was easily smart enough to go to any college, but he grew up during the depression in a Polish immigrant family, helping to support them by working in a bakery, and by scrounging for scap metal to sell to junkers. Just finding the time and energy to graduate from high school was a major challenge, and the cost of going to college made that out of the question. His dream, he once told me, was to be a surgeon, but this being impossible, he joined the service, fought in two wars, became an auto mechanic, and ended up fixing people's cars, instead of their tickers.
My Dad was always determined his own children, especially
his only son, would have the resources to go to college. But
his support went far beyond the financial. He often visited me during
my years at Brown, to cheer with me at a football game; to lift my
dejected spirits after a failed romance; to encourage me when I felt overwhelmed
in my studies; to calm my frenzy during the campus-wide anti-war strikes
of 1970; to proudly celebrate my graduation 3 years later.
Isaac Newton once said, "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Well, my giant was my Dad.
As I dressed to attend my father's wake, my mother urged me to wear his old overcoat, one that, owing to his steady weight gain, he hadn't worn in years, even decades. Saddened by the memory it brought, I resisted, but reluctantly put it on. Then, as I reached into the pocket, I felt some sort of card. Pulling it out, I saw it was the welcoming card for the 1969 Brown freshman parent's day, when he had come up to attend with me the luncheon and the football game against Colgate. Like a key symbolic artifact locked in a time capsule, that card had sat in the pocket of that unused overcoat for some 28 years, patiently waiting for me to rediscover it.
Uplifted above my grief, and above the fog of years that had blurred my times with Dad, I once again stood upon his broad shoulders. And again I saw farther, this time into my fond memories of him, and of a fall day spent basking, as I always did, in his pride, support, companionship, and love.
Stan Owocki, '73