Chris Nigrin and dad

Chris Nigrin and her dad, Joe Nigrin, on her wedding day in May 2000. 

Today, on Father’s Day, I will probably be sitting in the bleachers at a ballpark, watching my daughter and her teammates play softball. I will be surrounded by other people’s fathers and grandfathers. And I will be thinking of my dad — missing him and remembering him with love.

This will be my family’s first Father’s Day without our dad, Joe Nigrin. He passed away on March 6 after battling a series of illnesses. With his love of baseball — particularly the New York Yankees — my father would appreciate my watching softball today. He avidly followed my daughter’s latest softball exploits.

Today I will remember how, just days after we buried him on March 11, my mother lost her house — their home — in the Bellevue flooding. I will remember how, at the time, the loss seemed overwhelming, as if the floods were trying to wash away memories of my father. Several weeks later, when we were finally allowed to go back in, my siblings and I, my sister-in-law and a niece donned hazmat suits, masks, rubber boots, gloves and other protective gear and stomped through the muck, nearly coughing at the stench that permeated the house as we tried to salvage pieces of our family history.

But I will also remember that the floods didn’t win, that we managed to recover a lot more than I’d expected: his tools, his golf clubs, some of his clothes, the framed copy of his own dad’s Ellis Island records (my dad was proud of his Czech heritage) and other family mementos.

Today I will remember the man who, left-handed like me, taught me how to tie my shoelaces and print my name. Who lifted me up on a vinyl kitchen chair and taught me how to wash dishes by hand when I was 6 (I felt like such a big girl!). Who taught me how to drive. Who always supported my goals and ambitions.

I will remember a man who protected his family, who slept on the living room couch, waiting for me to get home from dates when I was a teenager. I dated the same boy for four years in high school and my first year of college, and I think my dad never stopped waiting up for me.

I will remember a man who, in his mid-50s, yearned for grandchildren. He got his wish. By the time he died at 83, he had 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson. He was so proud of all of them.

I will remember a man who worked hard and took great pride in doing a job well — a work ethic that he passed on to us.

I will remember a man who, over the last 25 years of his life, fought heart disease, aneurysms, bacterial meningitis and a broken hip. He bounced back so many times that he earned family nicknames like “Superman” and “The Energizer Bunny.”

I will remember a man whose greatest gift was his love for his family and his commitment to us. He had been married to my mother for 63 years when he died. We represent his legacy.

I will remember the most important lesson he taught us: That life is worth living and worth fighting for until your very last breath.

Today will be tinged with sadness, but I will remember with love a man who lived life fully, who loved well and who was loved by many. Today I will feel him with me.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.