A Tribute to Dad

Our Dad died a week ago on Orthodox Great (Holy) Wednesday.  He was buried on the Monday after Pascha (Easter).  The week following Pascha is called Bright Week and the “Brightest” day of that week is Bright Monday.  Pascha is the Greek word for Passover.  In the Orthodox Church, Easter is called Pascha because through Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we passover from Death into Life.

The traditional greeting for the 40 days after Pascha for Orthodox Christians is “Christ is Risen!” or in Greek “Christos Anesti” and the response “Truly He is Risen” or “Alithos Anesti”.

First a reflection and then a few remembrances of Dad.

Though born into a family of very modest means in the difficult time that was Greece during and the ensuing years following World War II, Dad was blessed with parents who loved him and with intelligence, industry, and great aspirations.   With these gifts, he worked hard at his studies and was among the elite few admitted to the University of Athens Medical School.  Our God is gracious and good.

Like many of his classmates, he left his parents and Greece for the freedom and opportunity of America.  He met Mom, they married and had the four of us.  He worked hard, built a successful psychiatry practice, provided a more than comfortable home and life for us, and provided for all of our educations.  Our God is gracious and good.

In turn, we also each have been blessed with a loving and conscientious spouse, and children of our own.  Thirteen grandchildren in all – each one blessed with their own talents and virtues.  Three have married thus far, again, each blessed with loving and conscientious spouse. Most recently our expanding family has been bestowed the blessing 2 babies in the next generation; and another is on the way.  Our God is gracious and good.

No doubt life has its many trials and tribulations, but also so many moments and times of joy and love.

My family think of the countless moments and times of joy and love we have experienced together because of the blessing that was Dad’s life and Mom and Dad’s marriage.   I think our life experiences are like the ripples spreading out from a pebble being tossed into a pond. The ripples then intersect with those of another tossed pebble, and then many more ripples and intersections after 4 more pebbles are tossed; each intersection another possibility of a moment or times of joy and love.  As we have married and will marry, the ripples that are our family’s life’s experiences intersect with those of our new extended family’s, engendering many, many more moments or times of joy and love.

Family and friends, consider not only the innumerable intersections in each of our family’s circles, but further how our family’s circles have intersected with each other’s.  All of these countless moments and times of joy and love possible because of, and beginning with, the blessing that God gave life to a mother, that God gave life to a father.

So much joy; so much love.  Our God is gracious and good.  Glory and Thanks to God in all things!

Let me now share a few loosely connected remembrances of Dad with you.

When Dad made the decision to leave family and country, communication and travel were not what they are today.  He talked to his parents by phone once or twice a month, and he did not see them again for 5 years, until he returned to Greece with his bride and firstborn.

He started his medical training in New Orleans.  Why New Orleans you might ask?  He had heard that they spoke French there and he was more confident in his French than his English.  That obviously didn’t work out as he had planned.

Dad was a typical American father of that generation.  He didn’t go to our sporting events, PTO meetings, or the like but through his instruction and example he taught us much.

He taught us propriety.  Like many traditional American households when we were growing up, good manners and respect for elders and authority were expected virtues.  Meal times were sacrosanct.  We all sat down together for breakfast and dinner everyday.

Dad taught us the virtue of hard work.  He worked 5 days a week – 8 to 5 and then again in the evenings. He also took his share of call on the weekends. During the week day he would spend time at the hospital, the Mental Health Center, or his office.  He would come home at 5, we would have dinner together, and then he would go back to the office from 6 to 9.

Later on in his career, like many docs in those days, he took Thursday afternoons off to play golf – he loved the game but didn’t really have the right temperament for it.  I would know: one of the many, albeit less helpful, genes he passed on to me.

Dad taught us to love the Church.  Going to Church was what we did on Sundays; it was never optional.  For as long as I can remember Dad directed the choir.  He was intimately involved in the building of this church and hall, much like my maternal pappou was with the old church on South Street.

Dad loved music and taught us to do the same.  Our parents had us study piano and another instrument.  Dad didn’t go to our sporting events but he was at the recitals and shows.  He was particularly proud of Kathy’s musical talents and accomplishments; and years later he felt the same way about Jason. He would beam with pride when Thea would sing the Se Imnoumen, or in English – We Praise You, in his choir.

Dad had a plan for us.  Steve and I were going to be doctors and Joyce was going to be a nurse.  I don’t think he was too disappointed though when she rebelled and instead graduated with a chemical engineering degree from Lehigh.  By the time Kathy was of age to make such decisions, he had figured out she would do just fine with her own plan.

Sometimes people would ask me what is was like to have a psychiatrist as a father.  Did he use special analytic and therapeutic tricks to mold and correct us?  I explained to them that they were greatly confused if they thought that my father was any less angry and emotional with us than theirs when we got into trouble.

Dad obviously was an educated man.  He spoke articulately and wrote beautifully, but idiomatic expressions occasionally eluded him. One of our favorite stories is the time he cut down a tree and yelled “lumber” as it fell.

Pappou adored his grandchildren and brimmed with pride in their accomplishments. And he has much to be proud in them.  All 13 bright, personable, and successful in their respective stages of life – shining in their high school, college, or medical school studies; or college and advanced degree graduates, all employed and excelling at their jobs.  He took particular satisfaction in knowing that no less than 3 of his grandchildren had chosen his profession of medicine for their careers.

As many of you know, Lisa and I were recently blessed with the birth of twin grandchildren –  thank you Thea and Daniel.  It was completely unexpected to me that Dad would obsess and worry throughout Thea’s pregnancy – anxious for all three of them. He asked about the twins everyday after their birth, including those last days in the hospital.  Happily, he me his great-grandchildren just 3 weeks ago.

I must relate to you the combination of pride, joy, sadness, and inadequacy I felt when it occurred to me that there had been no lapse in the office of Pappou Pandelidis.

The last 5 years were hard for Dad, and for the rest of us.  The Parkinson’s and age had made him uncertain and frail. All of our lives we knew him to be confident, purposeful, and strong.  A saying about surgeons comes to mind.  Occasionally wrong; never in doubt.

And that is how we will remember Dad – confident, purposeful, and strong.

Dad you are our hero. We love you.  And we will miss you very much.

Our God is gracious and good.

Glory and Thanks to God in all things!

Christ is Risen!

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3 Responses to A Tribute to Dad

  1. MALCOLM ROOT says:

    Nick (and Lisa), so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. Although I have not seen him in years, my memories of him at the numerous Greek Easter Dinners and multiple other family events to which I was invited are quite vivid. During the three years that we lived together your family took me under their wings, since my folks decided to move to another hemisphere, and I was therefore fortunate to be present for many life celebrations. Your father is who comes to mind when I make a mental picture of an old school (and old country) doctor. He had a stern and serious outer veneer, but this layer was thin and it didn’t take much to get underneath and see the proud and somewhat playful father that he was. It was my privilege to know him, and I am sorry for your loss.

  2. Tom Shelley says:

    Jan and I were blessed to hear you deliver this tribute in person on Monday; but even more blessed to have known your wonderful father.

    Out paths first intersected when we (I as Lutheran Pastor, he as Psychiatrist) were dealing with the same difficult patient. He convinced me that EST was the best and most humane treatment for her: Old school is often the best school.

    Later, we met up in the church office a few days before the Funeral of “Mike” Cassamatis. I was just tepidly beginning the journey into the Orthodox faith and had never attended a service of any kind at Annunciation. The law enforcement and Court House community had some questions about the service (English vs. Greek and Communion) and I was their emmisary. Of course I was given clear answers.

    It was shortly thereafter that my journey into Orthodoxy accelerated. A couple of years ago at Holy Wednesday I was assisting as best I could at the Cantor’s stand with your dad and Tom. Your dad was not at all pleased with how I sang the final Troparion. “That isn’t plagal 4th–it should go this way”. So of course, this year I needed to be there, humbled (and hopefully improved) to offer tribute that I could do it his way. And the first 18 Psalms in Plagal 4 as well.

    On Palm Sunday afternoon Jan and I visited him for the last time at York Hospital. He asked why dying was so difficult. I answered that it is hard work, but made easier because Christ has gone before us trampling down Death by death (thanato thanaton). Upon hearing the Greek phrase he wanted to begin singing the Paschal Troparion in Greek; and as we reached the final phrase, his fingers were gently moving, “conducting” this trio of a choir.

    What a beautiful final memory we shall carry!

  3. Jane Johnson says:

    Nick and family,
    So sorry for the loss of your father. Your families are a true testimony to life you father lived and shared with your mother. What a wonderful tribute to him and the Godly lived. It us wonderful that you took the time to write this all down so that his legacy will be remembered by younger generations. God Bless
    Jane Johnson

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