I lost my one-of-a-kind Dad on Monday, August 28th after being in the hospital since May. I can’t thank you enough for all the love, prayers, and good thoughts you gave me over the last few months. I wanted to share my tribute to him which I said during mass. You can read his obituary here.
It was a dewy Spring day in 1986. The Pennsylvania chapters of Girl Scouts were all meeting at Bloomsburg University to celebrate. I, being part of the Brownie Troop of Summit Hill, was going on the trip, and Chet Michalik boarded the yellow school bus and headed for a long day with thousands of girls and moms in matching shirts, to be the one and only Den Dad where we formed a rainbow on the Bloomsburg football field.
That was my Dad. Constantly present, always fun, never complained. Treating friends as family and strangers as friends. Dancing in the kitchen, singing in the rain. My Dad was the ultimate girl dad before that was even a thing.
My brother Andrew and I are almost 6 years apart, so before he was born, it was me and Dad. Every basketball pickup game he played on a Saturday morning at the Pitt, I came with him. Every game he coached for the Our Lady of the Valley Chargers, I was his ball girl. He was a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, and I knew every single player and would recite them during his softball games. When I broke my arm after falling from the monkey bars, I didn’t want to go to the doctor, so Mom and Dad had to threaten me that Dad wasn’t going to come home unless I went. He was the chaperone on almost all of my class field trips. He still talked about the first time we went to Philly to the Museum of Natural History and the only thing I cared about was seeing a homeless man.
Chet loved to laugh. He loved a joke. His witty sense of humor and generous caring spirit are famous, except when his favorite sports teams weren’t playing well, we would see his temper. Dad loved sports, and he clearly passed that on to Andrew and I. He would watch ESPN Classic and yell at the TV.
If you know the 5 Love Languages, my Dad was the definition of them all.
Words of Affirmation – Always telling me he’s proud of me, always telling me I’m beautiful, always encouraging me. So when people say I love compliments, you can blame him for that.
Physical Touch – hugs, kisses, and back rubs were a constant.
Gifts – he would always get me my own present for Christmas. In fact, this wishbone necklace I’m wearing now, he got me a few years ago from Sands in Bethlehem – one of his favorite places – the casino.
Quality Time – never missed one of my dance recitals or Andrew’s sporting events. Swimming with me in the ocean at 5 a.m., countless college moves, even flying to Dallas, TX twice to move me in and out of my apartment and then driving back to PA for our mini road trip. One of his favorite stories was about how we had to stop to stay over in West Virginia because the bugs were splatting the windshield and the fog was so thick.
Acts of Service – he shopped for the groceries – every Wednesday was his trip to Lanes. Making sure the car was filled up with gas, he packed our lunches and wrote encouraging notes. Cooking his famous breakfast, grilling the perfect steak, and eating his peanut butter pie.
Besides being an incredible dad, he was also an amazing husband. He and my mom were married for 48 years, and no matter what the holiday, he would always get my mom a romantic card and a fun spicy one. He would send her flowers on Christmas Eve, always wanted to make sure she had a new piece of jewelry, which we know Diane Michalik loves. Not to mention watching countless Hallmark movies together, because he knew she loved them.
I always say the reason I’m still single is because Dad set the bar so high. So maybe now he’s mixing some magic up there for me.
He ferociously battled Parkinson’s disease for almost 30 years. He was diagnosed in 1994 and never complained. He just kept fighting. When he was in Good Shepard rehab a few months ago – unable to walk, unable to really hold anything, he and I were sitting in the cafeteria having lunch. The man next to us was also in a wheelchair, with his hands strapped down and a tube to help him breathe. And Dad looked at me and said, see, you think you have it bad, and someone else always has it worse. Every nurse, doctor, and nurse’s aid would say how he was their favorite, how he was so funny, and constantly thanking them. That is Chet.
Over the last few months whenever I would leave after visiting the hospital or rehab, I would always say to him, Dad who loves you more than me, and he would say, Nobody. And even on Monday, hours before he left us, when he could barely open his eyes, I went over to him and told him I loved him and I was leaving to go to work, and I said, Dad, who loves you more than me, and he mustered the strength to open his eyes and say, “Nobody.”