Growing up, I was blessed to have an excellent role model in my father. He was a tireless worker, but also somehow ever-present in the lives of my sister and myself. When I was very little, my mother had finished her Master’s degree in engineering and was finding many great job opportunities but he was miserable in his job. Together they decided that he would quit and stay at home while he slowly developed his own business (a small engineering design firm). When we were a little older, he moved the business out of the house, and we became after-school latchkey kids (which was much more common back then in the early 90’s), but he still managed to coach ALL of my sports teams. With both my sister and I, he was tough and firm, but also affectionate (our family is really big on hugs), and we rarely felt like we lacked attention from either of our parents. Although we do not talk about feelings a lot, he has always made sure that we know that he loves us and is proud of us, and I think that being sure of his support has enabled us to be confident enough to take necessary risks in life.
Still, of course, there are things that I wish he would have done differently, but that just helps me figure out what sort of additional things I should include when it comes to parenting my own children. Neither my sister nor I can remember ever witnessing my parents really argue, but that also meant I never witnessed them resolve any serious disagreements. They had relationship and communication styles that worked for their personalities that would never work for my wife and I. Combined with my wife being raised in a single parent home, we have had to work hard to find other resources to help with our own communication issues and conflict resolution. Growing up, my family attended mass every Sunday, but other than CCD and bedtime prayer, we did not do much else related to the Church. Looking back, I wish I had stronger faith formation from a variety of sources, including my parents. Still, I’m sure at least having both parents attending mass with us helped keep me in the Church.
As for other role models, my grandfather grew up in Richeyville, PA, so he was a big fan of the Stillers and Pahrts (Steelers and Pirates). He talked a lot about the glory days of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, and for some reason the stories about the greatest arm in baseball history (Clemente) throwing runners out at home from the outfield wall really resonated with me, especially as I learned about his life (and death) outside of baseball. He was a great humanitarian, who died mid-career due to a plane crash as he was trying to help deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. While he is already a hall-of-famer whose number is retired with the Pirates, there have also been campaigns to retire his number across the full league (as a pioneer and inspiration for Latino players), and even campaigns for potential canonization (as a devout Catholic man who lived out his faith through his words and actions). Even though Clemente died well before I was born, his story served as an inspiration to try to be the best human (and Catholic) that I could be.