Editor’s Note: In the spirit of remembering fathers, we are pleased to share this year’s Father’s Day tribute. Joe Carney summed up his dad to us in one simple word – “Pals.” In his spare time, Joe is a comedian – and is well known for his great timing and storytelling.
First of all, you would think that it would be easy for a comedian to tell stories about his dad. And, make them light-hearted and witty. In all honesty, that would normally be true during one of my stand-up sets. However, this time I want to speak from the heart – with just the occasional chuckle.
I guess to describe my dad best, “The Old Man,” I should start from his beginning. Trust me you’ll understand why in a few. My dad, Joe Sr., was born in Brooklyn NY in 1945. In those times it was customary for Irish Catholic families to donate one of their sons to the priesthood. So as not to break tradition, my grandparents sent my dad off to the seminary at the ripe old age of 13.
Meanwhile, Dad’s peers were dreaming of replacing Duke Snyder in the hallowed grounds of Ebbets Field’s outfield. Some also fantasized that they’d hear their name announced over the PA system at Madison Square Garden during Knicks starting line-up. Instead, my dad was on the fast track to being the first Irish-American pope. Thankfully, as you can see from the title of this story, dad changed his mind.
Pals With Dad
As it turns out, my dad knew in his heart that his faith and love of God would better serve as a father – a family man. Dad met my mom not too long after leaving the seminary, and a few short years later they were married and ready to start a family.
Truth be told, it was a somewhat amazing decision. Imagine that Dad had no real youth or childhood of his own. Therefore, he had no reference points to help his kids prepare for the prom, or a high school date or even building the courage to call a girl on the phone. Retrospectively, it was a real learning experience for both of us, all of us.
My parents had four children. I am the oldest, followed by my brother Jeff. Notably, we were and still are Dad’s “Pals”; our sisters Colleen and Katie are his babies. When it comes down to it, all us a have a lot of gratitude. Thankfully, none of us were donated to the church.
Dad was a white-collar guy who worked his way up the corporate ladder in the reinsurance field (don’t ask, I still don’t know). His career took him all over the world, mostly Europe, 2 or 3 times a year, but that never stopped him from being there for us.
Without hesitation, Dad was there as our first coach, both at home and on the field. Dad always came right home to us after work. I remember going with my mom to pick Dad up at the train station before dinner every night. Of course, I would hide in the phone booth and wait to jump out at him. To this day, when I hug him, he smells like fresh air and wintergreen certs. He was our hero.
Always There for the Family
Generally speaking, Dad had a different relationship with his father than he had with us. Not good, not bad, just different. My dad had his own ideas about fatherhood. For example, he never stopped at the bar before coming home. (Okay, so maybe once or twice) He wanted to be with us.
Dad enjoyed the times we all sat around the dinner table and even being picked on by my brother and me. Also, Dad listened to my sisters tell stories about their day, or watched TV or coached a game or had a catch. He was interested in us, he loved us.
Some of the greatest days were when we didn’t know Dad was coming home early and he’d be outside St. Michael’s, in his green AMC Matador waiting to pick us up from school. That mattered to us, and he knew that.
To say my dad is generous would be the ultimate understatement. No expense was spared to see a smile on his family and friends face. From holidays and vacations- to dinner or golf outings. My father lives to make us happy and safe. There isn’t a time I can remember to this day that the Old Man wasn’t the designated driver. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to have a few Coors Lights. Instead, it’s because everyone having fun and getting home safe was more important. It didn’t change his fun. Above all, Dad just loves being with us.
Personal Relationship with Dad
Without question, my personal relationship with my dad was always strong. However, it was certainly one of father and son. Dad was the boss and I listened. In other words, that meant making sure the lawn was mowed or that that the last chocolate donut in the fridge was there when he wanted it.
In the final analysis, the leap from Father/son to friends and pals was an easy transition. It was game 6 of the 1996 World Series. I got 2 tickets from a friend to see the Yankees eventually win the World Series. I thought of no one else to take with me. Me and Dad.
We laughed and cheered and witnessed greatness together. To this day, there was no one else I’d rather have been with for that big game. Our friendship revolved around sports, our connection. We shared Jets season tickets together for 22 years. We didn’t keep the tickets because the Jets were anything to watch, we kept the tickets because it was our time together. Win or lose, hot or cold, we were together.
I try to emulate my father as much as I can. Meanwhile, we’re just very different in so many ways. Candidly, I’m a loud mouth comic; he’s my biggest fan. No show that I perform in is complete until I get that hardy belly laugh with tears rolling down those happy cheeks. Also, I try to be as great of an uncle as he is to his nieces and nephews, “everyone needs an Uncle Joe” they say. I try to leave the same impact on my nieces and nephews.
I can only hope to have the love and adoration of my wife the way my dad has my mom’s. For sure, I have learned how important it is to be her partner and friend and protector. Above all, I want my daughter and my son to love me the way I love the Old Man. To raise them with the same amount of support and guidance and class and love. I hope they love me the way I love him, completely.