June 17, 2009

Father's Day tribute to John Bruno

Guest Columnist

Editor's Note: June is always a big month for the senior athletes at area high schools. There is graduation and the end of their scholastic careers - plus Father's Day. During previous Junes, Tom Williams, to celebrate the holiday, has turned over his column to Stephanie Gaitley, Matt Woolley, Jeff Boyd, Allison Rinck, Tracey LeFever, Shaune McLaughlin, Erik Geisinger, the Degenhardt sisters, Joey Galante, Ron DeFelice and Doug Colman, among others, to write about their fathers.

This week Mainland Regional senior Chelsea Bruno writes about her father, John, the boys basketball and softball coach at Ocean City High School.

My dad, John Francis Bruno (sorry, Dad), is truly a special man and I could not have asked for a better father. Not only is he my dad, but he is also a mentor, friend and, most importantly, my hero. He is there for me whenever I need him, even with his busy schedule. As many people know, basketball is a huge part of not only my dad's life but also my family's life. On the record, basketball is considered a winter sport that runs from November through March. For my dad it is so much more - it is a year-round commitment. Never once does he stop thinking about his players and what he can do to better them. Through his love and passion for basketball he has been able to teach me dedication.

For as long as I can remember our life has been basketball. Every year on Thanksgiving, my dad would work on his plans for his practice the next day. This is when I knew that basketball season was just around the corner. From the time I was five months old, I thought that it was customary for everyone to see 26 basketball games in a season. As I grew older, I enjoyed going to the games for my own personal pleasure. I enjoyed watching this crazy lunatic that I call Dad run up and down the sideline arguing with a referee about a play that happened almost a minute before.

There were three things that I looked forward to every season. The first one was standing with him during the National Anthem. It was only two minutes long, but they were my two special minutes with my dad. The other thing was getting my water break with him during halftime of every game. Although he may not agree with it, I think that it was me who calmed him down during halftime. No matter if his team was losing or winning, he always found the patience to listen to me on what I thought needed to be done in order to get the win. And the final thing I looked forward to every year was senior night. Even though it is a night dedicated to the seniors, my dad never once left out my sister, Jillian, my mom or me for all of our love and support throughout the season. Throughout the seasons, no matter how far away games were, or how busy our schedules were, the three of us always managed to make it, even if it was just to see the smile on my daddy's face when we got there.

Education has always been a huge part of my life. From a young age, I learned the importance of an education and always doing your homework. From the beginning my dad has always found the patience to help me with my homework. This is clearly one of the advantages of having a teacher as a dad. No matter what it took for me to understand something, he made sure that I did. During the car ride on a family vacation, he would always challenge me to name the 50 states in fifteen minutes. Now, as I prepare to enter college, I am so grateful for what my dad has taught me. He always told me that I could do anything I wanted to do, as long as I put my mind to it. I will remember this next year and in my future when times get tough, I will be able to think of my dad and persevere and get through any difficult time.

Another characteristic that my dad has taught me is hard work. This is exactly what my dad is all about. He consistently worked three jobs as a teacher, coach and bartender to make sure that our family got everything we wanted. Within reason, we were able to take vacations that would not be possible without his hard work. While doing these jobs, never once did he complain about having to work seven days a week during the winter. He sacrificed his time to make sure that our family could have the best life possible.

A side of my dad that other people probably don't see as much is his compassion. The clearest example of this was almost six years ago when his own father passed away. It was the first time in my life that I was able to see just how much he loved his family. When he offered his father's eulogy at the funeral it really made me cherish the relationship that I have with my dad. Seeing my dad talk about his dad gave me insight into why my dad is the way he is. My pop-pop always wanted what was best for my dad, just like my dad wants what is best for me. It was late August and school was getting ready to start, but my dad couldn't leave his side. He spent night after night in West Chester to not only be with his dad, but also his mother. I remember the tee shirt my dad gave his dad in his final days. He kept it on his dad's favorite chair. The shirt read "World's Greatest Dad". We had given it to him, but he thought that his dad deserved it even more. Until this day, the shirt lays there at my grandmother's house. This experience allowed me to see his softer and more compassionate side.

Throughout my athletic career I have been fortunate enough to have my parents at nearly all my games. My dad was able to make it to almost every field hockey game over four years. Softball became a different story when he decided to yet again become Ocean City's head softball coach. Even though he wasn't able to make it to all of my games, it actually brought us closer together because we were able to talk about each others practices and games everyday. I appreciate everything that he has done for me in regards to sports over my lifetime.

For the past 17 years I have always been a daddy's girl. No matter what my dad was doing, I wanted to be there. My dad will do absolutely anything for me or anyone in my family. He has truly taught me what unconditional love is. He has been my hero and my friend. I will always look up to him, because he is so much more than just a father.

Dad, you are everything that I could ever ask for in a father. You have prepared me for next year and the real world past that. Thank you for all that you have done for me. It is such an honor to call you my dad. I wish you Happy Father's Day. I love you, Daddy.

Read more of Tom Williams' columns