As I’m sitting at my computer to type this week’s column, I have some background music playing. It’s not instrumental elevator music or today’s hits or smooth jazz.
Thanks to my dad, it’s a medley of waltzes by Johann Strauss. For my younger twin sisters and me, our early years were spent listening to nothing but classical music. As the years progressed, we’d sneak into our older sibling’s rooms to listen to rock music or listen to it while in the car with them. Occasionally, my mom would play country music.
I remember how excited we were to finally get our first 78 record that wasn’t something classical. I was about 9 years old. It was the Oak Ridge Boys. Not exactly hard what the other kids at school were listening to, but I’ve always appreciated being exposed to classical music by my parents and some days I think back to waking up to Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons," Handel’s "Messiah" or Beethoven’s "Fuer Elise" and I have to give it a listen.
And as my dad celebrated his 78th birthday this past week, I’ve been thinking about how much I have to thank him for. My first dancing was done on top of dad’s shoes with my ballerina dress on (to classical music, of course.) Each Sunday we watched "The Lone Ranger" together and at the end, he would bounce my sisters and me on his knee as the theme song — another classical tune, Rossini’s "William Tell Overture," played. And I can’t even begin to count how many rounds we’ve sang together over the years of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” either while watching Harry Caray on WGN or singing it with a crowd of about 30,000 when we’ve gone to Cubs games together at Wrigley Field. In recent years, we’ve gone to lots of concerts together — everything from Elvis, Rod Stewart and Beatles tribute artists to local holiday concerts to outdoor symphony performances in the summer months.
Most of my good times with dad are tied to music and baseball. The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were recently announced, which included two former Chicago players, Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux. Being a former Cubs player, Maddux is naturally one of dad’s favorite all-time pitchers. The third inductee wasn’t a former Cubs player, but someone I was happy to see inducted — Tom Glavine. He also sparks good memories with dad. My dad, son and I were at the Cubs game on my 35th birthday on Aug. 5, 2007 when the Cubs lost to the Mets and Tom Glavine got his 300th win. It was also the game where Kerry Wood returned to the mound after more than a year on the disabled list. It was quite an exciting night.
I have dad to thank for bringing me up as a Chicago Cubs fan and instilling this love of the game in me. Although he grew up in Central Illinois where he was surrounded by St. Louis Cardinal’s fans, he became a Cubs fan himself while he listened to the Chicago Cubs play in the 1945 World Series on the radio.
There’s more that I learned from him, directly or indirectly. When we were kids, we also had a huge dictionary on a wooden podium in the corner of our living room and whenever we came across a word we didn’t recognize, he’d send us to the podium to look it up. He taught me to be inquisitive and how big an impact a simple word can have. He sometimes sends me emails with a new “word of the day” and he’s fascinated to still learn a new word he has never heard. I learned from him to love flowers and birds and how to make a good pitcher of iced tea. So many little bits of my life are due to his influence.
I started typing this while listening to music that dad introduced me to. As I am finishing it up, dad is on my living room sofa watching "Jeopardy." I can hear him answering the questions, getting most of them correct. He knew I haven’t been feeling good this week and he made potato soup for me and brought some by. Being thoughtful is another thing he’s always demonstrated. He never forgets a birthday or an anniversary. And his birthday is definitely something I remember. So, thanks to a great dad who has taught me about music and baseball and the English language and "Jeopardy" questions and potato soup and iced tea. Happy birthday!