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Campus tour for dad

Campus tour for dad

Beth Broderick May 31, 2023

“Dad, how are you today?” I asked loudly so that he could hear it from the receiver lying on his chest.

“Oh, as far as I know ... just fine,” my father, Thomas Broderick ’57, answered.

The hospice nurse had a different opinion, but this was his story and he was sticking to it.

“I am going to Dayton this weekend, Pop. To your old alma mater. To a conference.” I had told him this often but each time he heard it anew.

“No kidding!”

His voice had a tinny quality, as if it were coming to me though an old transistor radio.

“Yes, I will tour the University and give you a full report.”

“Going to Dayton. Isn’t that something. Love you, my girl.” His voice was weaker now.

“Love you, too.”

I had visited Dad and his wife a little over two weeks before that conversation. On that trip he still had enough energy to engage me in what would be our last caper together.

“Pop, did you remember to tell your buddies that I am coming to the meeting?”

He was staring straight ahead.

The Philosophers Club had been meeting on Tuesday mornings for at least 15 years. The all-male and quite elderly group, having lost members to death and disability, were down to four regular attendees. No woman had ever been invited, but my dad insisted that I come with him for this one. He was up to no good.

“I am assuming you want me to slam the glam, Pop? I’m doing full make-up, big hair...the whole Megillah?”

“Whole Megillah. Oh, yes!” He smiled and softly pumped his fist into the air.

His wife shot him a withering glance and let out a disapproving sigh.

He was enjoying her irritation. When you are blind, cancer-ridden and not terribly mobile, life can be a bit of a bore.

In their small Oregon town, dressing up means opting for a pair of closed-toed Birkenstocks. Folks there were not used to television types, and he wanted me to make his buddies squirm.

“I’m going to get ready but — fair trade — you’ve got to change that shirt. There are oatmeal stains from last Tuesday on it!”

“Oh, OK, Bethie. Sure, sure.”

Tour for dad in-copy
UD's campus in the fall.


Finally, we were both presentable. I looked like I was headed to a fancy lunch, which would have gone unheeded in a big city yet stand out in Dad’s tiny town. He had on a clean shirt, and his wispy white hair was combed to one side.

He was beaming with mischief, and it moved me to see a touch of pride.

The two Philosophers Club men who arrived first were surprised to see me, but we settled in to a pleasant, if effortful, conversation. My presence had drawn some attention. A few folks waved; some dropped by to say hi.

A man named Horst arrived last; he could not hide his shock at the fact of me. The man to Dad’s left refilled his coffee no fewer than eight times. Dad moved the food around on his plate. He rarely ate more than a few bites at that point. Horst finally blurted out.

“This is all making me nervous,” he said in his slightly accented English. “I feel like people are looking at us. That's TV business, I guess.”

Those were the words Dad had been waiting for. He smiled broadly and leaned in, trying in vain to stab a bite of pancake. His well-caffeinated buddy gently guided the food onto his fork. ...

After I arrived at UD for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, I toured campus. My guide was terrific.

“Dad, she was so nice. She and her husband drove me all around the campus. I got to see some of the original buildings. The ones you attended classes in,” I would have told him.

“Did you? They are still there, are they? Isn’t that something?” I imagine he would say.

“The fall colors are so brilliant, Pop. Oranges, yellows and reds so vivid they look painted-on.”

“Yes, I remember. Almost unreal they look. I loved that time of year,” he might have replied.

I tried to picture you standing there all those years ago ... young and ready with so much promise and so much to do, but paused by the beauty. I can see your dark brown hair swept back and a worn jacket falling loosely around your tall, lean frame.

A young man on a hill when all the world was horizon.

Beth Broderick is an actor, writer, model and chef. She attended the 2022 Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop at UD. Read more of her writing at bethbroderick.substack.com.

Deep love for UD