. . . was born 101 years ago, today, on July 17th, 1917, in New York City. He only got to walk this earth for 81 of those years, due to his love of golf. Well, not exactly. But he did die in a hospital recovery room after successful knee replacement surgery but unsuccessful patient care afterward. Although I’m sure this affected most areas of his life, especially any that required mobility, his stated reason for the operation was so he could play golf with less pain. Unfortunately, he never got to play another terrestrial round of golf to test that out. This November will complete our 20th year without him.
Everyone who knew him would say they could see parts of Phil Toale in his children, whether a physical resemblance or a corny sense of humor and gregarious nature. I know I can easily see my father in the facial expressions and mannerisms of both my siblings. And much to the chagrin of others, when any two of us are together (beware if it’s all three!) there results in an inevitable attempt to out-wit each other with the most clever puns, in Dad’s honor, of course.
It’s funny (the “peculiar” not the “ha ha” kind) how we (I should really just speak for myself) start out wanting to be like someone, in my case my father, and then some years later wanting to be as unlike him as possible. Then comes the blaming, at least in part, for how I turned out. But ultimately I came to realize that until I had covered similar ground with my life’s experiences, there would be so much I could not appreciate or understand about his.
Today I see much more deeply into what makes me tick, why I did what I did and felt what I felt, and I can’t help but notice many common threads in our lives. Everything I’ve experienced in my life, and how I’ve processed it, has crafted who I am in this moment, and I am genuinely grateful for who I’ve become. It is easy for me to see how so many of things I like most about myself come from my father. I know I’ve always done the best I could with what I believed I had to work with at the time, and now it’s clear to me he did as well. I am saddened knowing he did not get to see his granddaughter grow up and never got to meet his great-grandson.
Along the way, I picked up a lot of good stuff from him as well as some not-so-good stuff. I learned from his shortcomings what some of my needs were and how to get them met on my own. Dad never seemed to have the same kind of “lost and wandering in the wilderness” kind of years that I did, (at least not outwardly) but I think he could have felt very alone in some ways. You don’t fight in two wars and come away unscathed!
But despite all that, Phil Toale showed up, big time, everywhere he went and appeared confident and comfortable. In those places, he could be larger than life, funny, friendly, generous, and caring. In those places where he was not in his element, he had other skills, like avoidance, distraction and escaping back to where he was in his strengths. When I see how my journey is no different, I have a new appreciation, gratitude, and respect for my father and his contribution to my own development.
I am very grateful I have those traits to remind me of him and that I didn’t lose him entirely.
Happy one hundred and first, Dad!