“Hi, I’m Joe Frankenberry From New York” … (for Dad)

When I was a kid my heroes were sports stars, specifically baseball and a couple of Pittsburgh Pirates, Richie Zisk and John Candelaria. That’s all I thought “heroes” were, not knowing yet that there was way more to the definition of the word than just that one thing and, not knowing this yet, I never thought to attribute the word to my father. He was just Dad, the guy who was always there, the one who I would check out the window for far too often on a daily basis looking to see if his whatever old car had pulled in yet after work, the one person I always wanted to impress like Richie Zisk and John Candelaria impressed me but, more importantly, the one I never wanted to disappoint.

No, these heroes with gloves and bats and balls were heroes simply because I aspired to their talents and the glory that can come with it but I never wanted to BE them, be like them, as I didn’t know them. But, and I didn’t even really know it then, I was slowly realizing I wanted to be like my dad, because I DID know him, and he was good (if I’ve taken nothing else from my Dad all these years later it’s the “good” I hope I’ve lived up to). Even in this “I really didn’t know yet” stage I could see how much people liked “Hi, I’m Joe Frankenberry from New York” as he would cornily introduce himself years later to my new friends at college, and not embarrassingly as some may have felt of their Dads in such situations, but endearingly, me being so proud to “show him off”, he so looking forward to the trips back in late Augusts for the newest school year. I didn’t know then that I wanted to have the same open and giving heart as he, that I wanted to be as accepting of anyone, of any persons no matter their creed, color, religion or any other such thing we say to somehow delineate, like that’s necessary. That I wanted to have the same openness to any who would cross paths with his or mine. That I would take to heart his most steadfast personal mantra of “always try to walk, just a few steps, in someone else’s shoes Stephen”. That I wanted to do nothing more than to sit and listen to stories at family get togethers with the olders, my dad usually leading the way, instead of dallying uselessly with my cousins. That I wanted to maybe tell my own stories. That I wanted my future person to be as close to his as I could possibly get.

I didn’t know then that I would veer off a bit eventually and that we would have our differences, which would be all about me becoming my own person I guess, but that it would have a core, a core of Dad’s “good”. I didn’t know then how much that core would mean to me down the road.

This veering didn’t cause a rift though, because that core wouldn’t allow it, but Dad and I did have some difficulty with the times in those days, MY times, my opinions being newly and constantly formed. They were alien to him but he always allowed them. I did, though, try to shield his good, as it was often a challenge for him with my veering but I still kept that core, eventually realizing that his stresses were a result of a changing world that was starting to get polarized. Dad didn’t like, no, more just plain didn’t understand that we all just couldn’t get along, even with differences, that there couldn’t somehow be compromise. I would tend to call Mom first in times of personal difficulty then of which there were many (oh, the drama of me) another person I wanted to be but for different reasons. And one I also hope I have done justice to.

As I grew older and wisdom started to slowly grace me I realized that “hero” is a many faceted word, has many iterations, that it has a huge range, from the ones who respond at the moment to aid in sometimes unexpected ways and maybe dire circumstance and sometimes at their own cost, to the selfless who willingly take on jobs that put their own lives at risk down to the simple teacher who persevered day after day for a lifetime to try and reach us, us arrogant idiots who thought we knew it all already and who I’m sure offered nothing but frustration too often. Hopefully I gave them a glimmer on occasion when I did respond to their teachings.

To the ones who stood up, were counted to the now new obvious heroes trying their best to keep us safe as best they can.

When “Joe Frankenberry from New York” passed away going on 25 years ago now it was right at a time of huge personal upheaval, my short lived marriage coming to an end because of sudden discovered differences (well sudden for me anyway) but known deep down to my too soon to be ex wife but ones that she needed to explore. What I didn’t know back then though was that the lessons learned from Dad, the wanting to be like him and the person he was, to just simply be good, to see all as they are with no preconceptions, was the only thing that would get me through all of the anger I could have possibly and easily felt. Yeh, a few steps in her shoes Dad. I took them.

I just didn’t understand then what hero really meant.

This was what I wrote for him back then (with a few minor updates) …

Been too long a time Dad.


The Story Of A Good Man


He watches Gunga Din

And I watch him

Seeing myself in the tears

That fall

To the armchair

To the beat of Gunga Din’s drum


I’ve written many lines

About a good man

Not conquered

By evils that say Hi in the street


Mocking his ignore and pass


I’ve written many lines

About a good man

Who asked no questions

To explain pain

Only answers a child knows

But is forced to forget


I’ve written lines

Of hate

Thrashing at God

Unfairness palpable

On a piece of paper

I can maybe wave on the courthouse steps


But I’ve never written lines

About a good man and faith


Flesh only a hindrance

The higher

Reached without even having to try


I’ve never written lines

About a good man’s search

For family

The roots of the tree

Embedded in soil,


About a good man’s search

For history

And reasons


I’ve never really written lines

About my Father

Just myself


A back to make Atlas envy

An Irish song sung

A family cherished

A God that is good

A heart that was a soul

A day that ended with dinner and talk


Gunga Din’s drum beats

Bagpipes implore

Civil War battles rage

Happy girls dance a jig

Irish ballads cry

As do I

At the death of a good man