Father’s Day Accolades to an Inaugural Title IX Dad

back in the day !

back in the day !

“No daughter of mine will wear trousers to church,” you scolded.

“Why not? God doesn’t care what we wear. It’s the inside that counts.”

To your chagrin, I became the first girl to wear pants to Sunday service. Though not always in agreement with my actions, when I became one of the first women’s professional basketball players, you beamed. At a time when basketball was for boys only, you taught me a jump shot in the driveway, while the neighbors shook their heads and chuckled.

While I invented my own fashion, developed my own career and became my own person, you stood by watching, alternately arguing and applauding, always trying to understand.

No textbook taught how to be super dad in the 70s, so you stumbled along changing to fit the times. You would never meet all the prerequisites for perfect parenting, but you were the best dad you could be for me.

Jim & two of his daughters

Jim & two of his daughters

When tomboy was a dirty word and girls were relegated to the sideline, we never dreamed women would one day star in their own Showtime. Nor could we imagine that you would coach the first girls’ high school basketball championship team (1977) and I would receive the first athletic scholarship in Illinois (1978). When other dads insisted their daughters play dolls, you encouraged my athleticism. Every time you played catch with your son, you’d throw the baseball to me too, so I felt equal to my brother. You taught me how to hang on to a football so expertly, I’d have been a wide receiver had I been a boy. While society insisted sports were harmful for females, you encouraged me to play ball. During the infancy of Title IX, together we fought a steady battle for girls’ sports.

Later, when women’s teams developed and my slender frame took a beating on basketball courts where the game increased in contact and competitiveness, you never said, “You’re too small to go pro.” Instead you helped develop my potential. When my American pro team folded, I stated, “I’m going to France to play.”

“What if you get hurt? What if you don’t like it there?” You tried your darndest to dissuade me. Then after the shock subsided, you offered your support and returned to the gym to rebound.

When I announced, “I’m engaged to a Frenchman,” you were the first to accept a foreigner into the family. Decades later, you remained my most faithful correspondent, sending manila envelopes to Europe filled with local news, national sports and fatherly love.

I grew up during an era when athletic girls had no role models. When others teased, “Hey, jock,” I cringed, but never lost my self-esteem. You never loved me less because I grew up in skinned knees instead of nylons. You encouraged me to be myself even when it meant being different and pursuing a career usually sought by men.

Part of my fight for independence meant defying authority. When I snuck in late one night, you heard the garage door creak and met me at the door in your underwear.

“Young lady, do you know what time it is?” you grumbled.

“No, do you?” I snapped back. “At college, you don’t even know if I come home at night.”

When I was 26, before the wedding, I announced, “You’re going to be a grandpa.”  You looked at me astounded and said, “Well, you always did things your own way.”

And the day your first grandchild was born in Paris, you wore a French beret to the school where you had taught for 25 years.

Jim with granddaughter Nat

Jim with granddaughter Nat

It is not easy being a modern day daughter, marrying a Frenchman and raising a child abroad. Nor is it easy to be an up-to-date dad, whose dedicated coaching developed the talent that took his daughter away.

I was a selfish, smart-aleck kid, too big for my britches; you were too overprotective. Still, we loved each other, in spite of our imperfections. You grew up under the “work ethic” when it was a man’s world, only, yet you learned to accept a modern, do-it-herself daughter who lived by the “experience ethic.” You lean a bit to the right; I towards the left. Often times we were too much alike in temperament and too different in ideologies to get along, yet our differences, like thorns in our sides, spurred growth. I loved you enough to let you be a blundering father. You let me be a belligerent daughter. Through our headstrong outbursts, we learned to compromise, to live modern dreams without losing old-fashioned values.

You were not a perfect dad, nor I, a perfect daughter. But our love was…and always will be.

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36 Comments

  1. What a wonderful open-minded man to have as a father! You and your father were both trail blazers, and that is very cool. Not all Dad’s could wrap their heads around Title 9 and equal opportunity. Great post!

    • Thanks, Nancy. I was blessed with open-minded parents that loved me in spite of my being different and at times, difficult. I am sure had I been raised in another, less tolerant family, my story might not have had such a happy ending.

  2. I loved this. I wasn’t an athlete, but my dad always encouraged me to be myself, even if it flew in the face of convention. I bet it was hard to be a dad in the ’70’s. We are lucky we got the ones we did!

    • Thanks, Barbara. Yes, we were blessed with fathers who allowed us to be our authentic selves, even when society was a little slow on the uptake about accepting strong women.

  3. Wow! What a progressive father and daughter duo! I can only imagine how conflicted he must have felt during the women’s rights era…wrestling with status quo, tradition, equality, etc. Thanks for sharing!

    • I have had many nicknames through the years, but I have never been called a firecracker, but it fits. Our love was strong enough to weather the storms and only grew stronger over the years.

  4. How wonderful to have a father so supportive of you, even if it took him a little time to get there now and then! And I have to say, the Green Bay jersey you’re wearing makes me happy – we are a die-hard Packers family (my husband grew up in Shorewood).

    • We have something else in common too, Sharon. We are die-hard Packer fans too, but the woman in the photo is actually my daughter with her beloved grandpa.

  5. Well said Pat! The love between you and your dad is obvious when I see you two together. That’s real love through all the ups and downs. Great piece! xxoo

  6. Hey Pat, great post! I especially like the first photo of your parents. I think it was taken at our house in Aurora. Look closely at the framed baby picture in the background—that’s me!

  7. I loved this post. You and you Dad fit together like a well-oiled glove, right? You go, girl. What a wonderful and warm relationship you have and I was so thrilled to read about it. Warm thoughts…

    • Thanks, Cathy and I love your image of us as a “well oiled glove.” I can still remember when my dad gave me my first baseball glove, first football and first basketball.

  8. What a lovely tribute to your dad — and how blessed you are that he’s still around! Dads and daughters share something special, and we miss them so much when they’re gone. How lucky for you that your dad encouraged and supported you and your choices, regardless of whether he would have made the same ones!

  9. Well, Pat it’s clear the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” What a lovely and loving tribute to your Dad. He honored you and adapted to your passions even if he disagreed. You won him over. I was blessed with the same kind of father who took what I thought were my weakness and turned them into assets “you are my sensitive girl and the world is just going to have to accept you as you are.” Dads are so important!

    • Oh yes, Kathy, dads are important and even though I know I tested my dad’s patience (mom’s too), they never stopped loving me. You were the apple of your dad’s eye and I am sure you miss him dearly especially at this time of year.

  10. Beautiful Father’s Day tribute, Pat! My dad isn’t here, but, his presence is felt on a daily basis. Thanks for reminding me of the good times:)

    • Thanks, Clara. Aren’t we blessed to be so spiritually connected. Just as your beloved dad still walks with you, I am often uplifted by my the memory of my resilient grandparent who helped shaped my childhood.

  11. Pat, your description of your dad is similar to words I use to describe mine. Dad has been gone since 1973 but not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss having him to go to in time of need — need for reassurance, for a friendly talk, for listening to music together, for receiving the smile that always shown in his brown eyes, for the gentle touch of his hand. His advice lingers on with me even now at 67. And I still defer to some of it, and some of it I wrinkle my nose to this day. Thank you for sharing this loving tribute to a man who knew and understood his modern-day daughter and loved her enough to be flexible in his own way.

    • Thanks, Sherrey for also sharing your memories of your dad. My mom’s father died when she was only 18 years old, so I never knew my maternal grandfather. My mom has shared stories of her loss and I never forget for a moment how lucky I am to have had my father with me for so long to celebrate every milestone and to pick me up after every setback.

  12. Sis, GREAT PIECE sista! ahhhhh yes, you made my life so much easier as you pushed all the boundaries with Dad! Thank you! Seriously, you capture Papa Mac so well in your blog and captured your special relationship in the last line…”You were not a perfect dad, nor I, a perfect daughter. But our love was…and always will be.” You love each other enough to accept and celebrate your differences! I love YOU BOTH oooooodles!

    • Oh yes, as the Babe of the family, you had the easy ride…just kidding. As mom likes to say, you were so self-sufficient, it was almost as if you raised yourself. Even if you were the little sister, our roles were reversed over the years, you seem to be looking out for me!

  13. When I think of the generations of women who were never given a chance to achieve their potential, it makes your father’s acceptance and encouragement all the more wonderful. It seems to me that he would have been that way no matter what you decided to do. What a super guy.

    • Helene, though I adored my dad growing up, we often clashed probably because our we were both so spirited and intense. I have been blessed to have him as a part of my life for so many years.

  14. Pat, what a wonderful tribute to our wonderful dad. We have been blessed beyond measure to have been raised by such special parents. I still think the best way to express our gratitude is to “pay if forward” and I know you are doing just that through your teaching and coaching.

  15. Sounds like your Dad loved you very much. It’s nice to reach an age also when we reach an age and understand that our parents did the best they could.

  16. Oh my goodness, I just LOVED that. Superb. I do have two interesting coincidences for you, though. My son will be playing college basketball in the fall, and my daughter is a French major. But really, I loved how you recognized your differences AND your similarities to your dad.

    • Wow, Pam, so glad to be connected. Where will son be playing ball and what position does he play, if you don’t mind my asking? How I WISH I had majored in French. Has your daughter been to France or Switzerland?

      • My son will be playing at a small Division 3 school outside Buffalo, New York. He is a left-handed shooting guard; the program seems to be “on the rise” – meaning, they are winning more games than losing and in the last couple of years, were very close to “making the tournament.” My son just wasn’t ready to quit after high school, and he’s a good fit for this program. My daughter is on overseas study in Rome right now and just spent two days in Paris. She changed her major to French after she had already committed to the Rome program. Now she tells us she needs to study in France next summer. She must think we’re wealthy or something. 🙂

  17. Love this, Pat: ” I loved you enough to let you be a blundering father. You let me be a belligerent daughter.”

    Happy Father’s Day to your gracefully blundering dad. Clearly, he did a great job!

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