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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Family, fathers, Jim Gaffigan and Happy Mother's Day

By Ted Slowik

There are few moments in life you really cherish. The kind of memories you hope to recall when you're on your death bed. Tonight was one of those for me.

I could not be more proud of our daughter, Hannah. She's beautiful and gracious and smart and I love her with all my heart. She thinks the world of me because tonight I was able to introduce her to Jim Gaffigan.

They met in the green room in Pfeiffer Hall at North Central College in Naperville before Jim talked about his book, "Dad Is Fat." Anderson's Bookshops--one of the nation's top independent booksellers--brought in Jim for a talk and book signing. Jim's brother Joe, who lives in Burr Ridge, introduced Jim and cohosted a chat about family, writing, inspiration and all sorts of things.

Jim, a father of five, showed a funny family movie before his talk. In the video his oldest daughter interviews her younger siblings about their father. Then Jim and Joe came onstage and talked about their childhood and family. 

Their honesty was refreshing and wonderful, and they answered every question from the audience. The best was an extended exchange with a 9-year-old boy. A lot of aspiring comedians asked questions, and Jim brilliantly dealt with what he by now is no doubt used to: admirers gushing about his comic talents. It's well-deserved praise and admiration.

The evening reminded me of a night five years ago when I was managing editor of the daily Naperville Sun. Anderson's brought Tim Russert to town on his tour for "Wisdom of Our Fathers," his follow-up to "Big Russ and Me," about his father. Tim received many responses from readers who related stories about their fathers, and Tim collected the best. He picked one from my sister, Jeanne. They got to meet in the green room at Pfeiffer Hall in 2006, and
Tim signed her copy of his book. North Central College English professor Judy Brodhead, now also a Naperville City Council member, was there. It was a shock when Tim died suddenly in 2008.

Naperville Sun publisher Jim Lynch did a great cover of the evening Tim was at Pfeiffer Hall. There's our Dad on the cover of the paper, with Jeanne on his shoulders. Dad was an engineer who designed an android NASA used to test space suits. His android is in the Smithsonian Institution. He also invented the surgical staple. 

Our dad, Jozef Slowik, died in 2006. He was really an amazing guy. Most patient person I've ever known. Sweetest, smartest, most wise and loving human you could ever hope to meet. "He taught us how to live, and he taught us how to die," Mom said to me when he passed. Mom being Clare, or Dr. Clare Slowik, Ed.D., retired professor of nursing, mother of 12, quilter and baker extraordinaire, world traveler and most wonderful mother anyone could ever hope to have.

So happy Mother's Day, Mom. Thanks Jim G. for being so great tonight. Miss you, Dad, and our Jim, and Tim and all other great writers. Love you Jo, Hannah and Noah.