Today’s find: Pandemic Pop-in

Generally, my wife Gerri has found better ways than I have…to make our pandemic “downtime” productive. Sorting through stuff we’ve stored for ages, for example. And yeah: turning all those trays of slide transparencies into digital files we might actually take the trouble to view once again.

While she’s tried to get me engaged in some of this “lifestyle tidying” process, I have resisted for the most part. Except to marvel – with gratitude – in a few of the family treasures her work has unearthed.

A case in point: Gerri was cleaning up one of our catch-all document storage spots the other day…when she came across a note of paternal tenderness I had long since forgotten. A bit of a “pandemic Pop-in,” as it were.

Actually, this doesn’t sound much like Tony at all!

My Pop had handwritten this briefest of encouragements way back in 1980 or ’81, when we were expecting our first child. His scribbled words were appended to a printed ditty, ostensibly describing (for his eager-but-under-prepared son) what it meant to be a Dad.

As I read the printed words, I realized that only about 32% or so of the content accurately captured any elements of his own approach to fatherhood. But the six words of his handwritten note – they spoke volumes. They instantly recalled the exhortation my brothers and I had heard countless times from his lips: “Do what you’re supposed to.”

A LOT of memories in them-thar trays!

Later that evening, Gerri and I spent a little time looking at some of the “Kodak moments” she’s been digitizing. As it happened, she was working on the ’83 and ’84 trays – the early days of my fatherhood, which corresponded to the final months of my father’s life.

Behold – another Pop-in: I saw photographic evidence of how much Dad enjoyed being a grandfather. And I instantly recognized the joy on his face – the great grace inherent in every moment a Gramps spends with the little ones.

Such an unexpected blessing, to have the pandemic indirectly stir up a voice in my heart which has long been silent. Such a blessing, to have been guided by such a shepherd, such a Christ-like man, as my Dad.

A bittersweet memory…of the last time I saw my Dad…at his grandson Brian’s 1st birthday party.

And it makes me wonder if perhaps this is a bit of what Jesus has in mind – when he teaches us in Sunday’s gospel how to listen for His voice:

…the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.

Thanks for listening to this Voice yourself, Dad. And thanks for showing me the way to the Risen Lord…throughout your life of joyful hope! Amen, Alleluia!


Grandpa was too polite to notice how inartfully this young Dad held his infant son.


He loved showing the little ones off…even to distant relatives I barely knew…


This little guy had just turned 1 when Grandpa came to celebrate with him and the rest of the clan in our backyard. Then, about two weeks later, Grandpa Tony was gone.


Tony only ever met two of his grandchildren…but trust me — any one of the 11 of them (or THEIR kids, for that matter) would have brought just such a smile to his face!

Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.


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10 thoughts on “Today’s find: Pandemic Pop-in

  1. Joe

    John, thanks for sharing.

  2. Joe Vilmain

    What a great memory John, thanks for sharing. Joe Vilmain

  3. Karl Elders,’74


    Great story! Very rich with feeling and warm memories. Loved the photos. Be well, live long, and keep those wonderful family memories alive.

    Karl Elders, ‘74

  4. Ron Kirsch


    Your comments touched my heart and reminded me of my father, a quiet unassuming man who provided me a wonderful example. I found your site from Dan Franklin’s e-mails on St. Henry’s. I will have to return to read your blogs. Nice to see you being a wonderful example of Catholic faith.

    Ron Kirsch, ’75

    • Thanks for tracking me down, Ron — and good to hear from you!

      The pandemic may be the perfect time to catch up on my blog posts, but please be patient: there are about 500 of them! 😇😝

  5. Enjoyed reading your blog today, John.

  6. Mary Reck

    It was SO Good to see your dad, mom, and Gerri’s mom in these old photos!! They are all so proud of the parents (and grandparents) you have become!

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