(Delivered at UUSF on June 16, 2019. Listen to the audio here) I appreciated this opportunity to remember my father, Joseph Francis Barsody, also known as Papa Joe. My father died almost 13 years ago from cancer. He was only 72. My dad was a door-to door milkman, when I was younger, and then he became a district manager, owning the warehouse for the Dairy’s semis in our hometown. He was one of 8 children of immigrants from Hungary, and grew up on a farm. He never finished high school, but he knew a great deal about life and service and integrity. I loved to go with my dad on his milk routes. I would help him lift the heavy cases of milk and beamed when people would see me trailing behind him and would ask me, “are you going to be a milkman like your dad when you grow up?” They assumed I was one of his boys.
I loved to shadow my father as people always seemed happy to see him. He was not too much and not too little in terms of his presence. He was kind. He was helpful. He was trustworthy. And we always knew he loved us even though I don’t ever remember him saying in words, “I love you.”
There is a story that vividly stays with me that feels like a summary of who he was...
It was morning and he was sitting at the table drinking coffee. When us kids woke up and wandered into the kitchen, he wanted to show us something. He had two little pieces of thin wood and in-between them was a $500 dollar bill. He and my mother had gone to a fundraiser for some group the evening before and they had won a raffle. We were all in awe as we had never seen a $500 bill. Wow Dad!!! After we had our moment of excitement he asked, “you know what we are going to do with it?” We of course had lots of ideas, and he just listened. Then he pulled out his checkbook and wrote two checks. $250 to St. Andrew’s Church, our home parish, and $250 back to the organization that had the fundraiser.
Ahhhhhhh, Dad, really?
But that was my dad, really. I’m sure he could have used it for something for us. He was a milkman with 6 school age children. We didn’t have a lot of extra. We got our one pair of school shoes each Fall and a pair of sneakers. We bought our clothes out of Sears catalog or at Montgomery Ward, and wore hand-me-downs. Our cars were never new ones, but we had enough. It was consistent with who he was. I remember riding with him through a new housing development in town and seeing all these brand new big and fancy homes. All of us kids were galking out the window... “Wowwww! Why can’t we have a house like this?” And I can still hear him say, “Would you be any happier?”
When dad wrote the two checks to the church and the organization he had won it from I’m sure we were all a bit disappointed, but yet the memory of that moment is always with me. It so summed up my dad...simple, kind, generous, human, wise...guiding us, not with a lot of words and material goods, but by how he lived... as I prayed in the meditation Prayer... “do not let us be diverted, but keep us focused upon our true purpose and the opportunities of the present moment.”