My Reflections of My Pop


Let me begin by saying that my pop was a complex man with a standard of
what a man should be. He was as tough as nails, not so talkative but much
was expressed with his life. He left his body on July 30, 2013 and entered
into the presence of His Lord Jesus.

Pop was a proud Korean War veteran. He never spoke about his front line
tour in Korea and I never saw him cry except for one time. When I was very
young, I remember him getting inebriated and cried as he told me some of
his experiences in Korea – having an 18 year old die in his arms and being
one of three soldiers surviving an onslaught by the North Koreans and
Chinese forces. Then, just as quickly as he shared the experience, he
clammed up and never spoke about it again.

I remember him working 6 days a week in a factory where he started from
the bottom and became trusted by the owner who allowed him to run his
factories. My favorite story was how he got to rise to that position. When
he came back from the war to the Bronx, he had a wife and two boys to care
for. Although he was a decorated soldier, he was unable to get decent work
because of his ethnicity.  I knew he was a war hero, at least to me,
because I had seen his war decorations including a letter of commendation
from the Department of the Army. Regardless, the only position he was able
to get was sweeping the factory floor and cleaning the toilets. Once, he
dropped the soap dispenser in the bathroom and it shattered. It was in the
50’s when there were upside down pear shaped glass dispensers. He finished
the day of cleaning and went to confess to the owner what had happened
knowing that he could be fired. Those were tough days. The owner was so
shocked of my father’s admission that he told him to report to work the
next day wearing a white shirt because he was going to train him as his
assistant.

My father was not a perfect man or father, but there was much that I
learned by observing him. He was a caring man but he was not an
affectionate man. I don’t remember him hugging me, saying, ³I love you
son², or ³I am proud of you², while I was growing up. He never went to any
of my wrestling matches even though I only lost one match in two years. I
not only learned what not to do but I did learn some very valuable lessons
from my pop.

I learned the value of working hard, integrity and honesty. In those early
days we were not even in the middle class and lived in the high rise
projects both in Spanish Harlem and in the South Bronx. My brother and I
had no idea that we were that close to being poor. We always had food,
clean clothes, lots of Christmas toys, and we always went to Catholic
schools to get an excellent education. How did he and my mom ever do it??
He always insisted that mom would stay home and care for us. I remember
the day when he took my brother and I to the Yankee Stadium where he
bought us hot dogs, peanuts and cotton candy. He was only able to afford
it once, even though all the neighborhood kids went often but then again
they were on welfare. How did he ever afford it?? I know he wished he
could have taken us again but he did teach us how honorable it was to work
and not take handouts.

After his death, I learned from mom that pop was religiously sending
support from his social security check to St. Jude and Operation Smile to
correct cleft pallets because those were poor children that needed help.
Even after his death he has taught me another lesson: do the right thing
and do it without fanfare.

I can go on and give many anecdotal stories but I will close by saying
that I know that this man was truly transformed when he accepted Jesus
late in his life. In the last two years of his life when we spoke on the
telephone and before we would hang up he would say, “I love you”.

I love you too, pop.

 

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9 Responses to “My Reflections of My Pop”

  1. Sheeba Varghese Says:

    Hi Papa Manny,

    Thank you for being so raw and vulnerable as you shared your reflections of your pop. Our fathers are certainly not perfect, but when touched by the Father, change does happen in their lives.

    Sheeba

  2. Lynn LaGreca Says:

    Wonderful testimony of your dad.

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Charles Simpson Says:

    Awesome! As your pop, day in and day out, did the right thing without fanfare, it never entered his mind that one day those actions would be described on an internet blog, read by people from all over the country and the world. Amazing. Thanks, Manny.

  4. J Says:

    Spanish Harlem, South Bronx, Yankee Stadium with your dad,… please tell me again how you’re a Red Sox fan??

  5. Skender Says:

    I am glad you shared those feelings about your dad, you learn a lot similarities from the live of others and father figures they have, so many things similar with my dad.

  6. Graeme Cooksley Says:

    Great memories – and I’m sure there are a lot more.
    Thanks for sharing Manny.

  7. Beth Snell Says:

    Brought tears to my eyes, reminds me of my own biological father. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Angel Pla Says:

    Interesting that the Korean War generation share the same attitude. My father served in the US Army during the Korean conflict and acted much the same as yours. He did work hard and long hours. My brother and I had toys, food, a house and good clothing. As we grew older we found out the cost to our parents in the long work hours. As different as our parents were, honesty, integrity and service was very much common for them. Lots of memories my cause us to cry as we remember all the times, good and not so good, we spent with them. Their example should always motivate us to do the best we can. And just as your father, my also realized late in life that the real life was in Jesus our Lord. That eternity is just for ever and the time we spend here is but a second in that eternity. Am sure they are both glorifying Jesus in heaven.

  9. rich Says:

    I never knew all the details. Mom told me the story when I was very young. She was very proud of pop as I am. That story of his honestly and courage changed my life. I taught those same principles to my sons. Pop’s principles lives on.

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