February 9th, 2015 — For much of my youth, I thought I’d never have a father figure. Whether it was playing Pokémon, climbing on the playground or hanging with friends, fear and anger clouded many days. I was unsure how to approach the different moments that popped up, and “dad” wasn’t there to help me through the struggles.
On, Nov. 20, 2005, though, things changed. I was coming home from Hebrew school with a bag of McDonald’s in my hand. While on the way to my room, my grandpa, called out my name. “Eli, come watch the Bears game with me,” he said. I didn’t know how to react. I watched a few Super Bowl matchups and some White Sox games, yet I wasn’t close to becoming a sports fan. Plus, the two of us weren’t very close, and I questioned whether to just play a computer game instead.
However, I walked towards the coach and sat next to him. The Bears were playing the Panthers, and right away my grandpa started sounding off notes about some of the players. From learning about Jake Delhomme, one of his favorite quarterbacks, to the Bears’ backfield of Thomas Jones and “Adddddddrrriaaan Pettteeerrsssooon” (how my grandpa said his name), I learned so much in that game, and the ride was just beginning.
Within the next year, I watched more sports than I ever expected to in my entire life. Different memories come to mind, like watching Steve Smith burn the Bears in the playoffs, Michael Sweetney (still can’t figure out why we enjoyed watching him play) putting in meaningless buckets for the Bulls and the White Sox coming off a World Series title and bringing in Jim Thome, one of our favorite sluggers.
Through all of them, my grandpa sat in the recliner as I sat on the couch. Not a minute in each game went by before he was reeling off a story about a player, on the field or court. I didn’t care how long he talked for; each word drew me in closer, and the passion he talked with didn’t hurt, either. The best part: I thought he’d be there forever. Even when his sister passed away in ’07, I thought, “no, it won’t happen to him for a long, long time.”
Then, on Nov. 27, 2013, my grandpa had a stroke. During those next four months, I visited him whenever I could. For the first time, though, my grandpa wasn’t conversing with me, so I decided to return the favor. I tried to make him laugh through all the humor that he taught me. Just by seeing that smile or his blue eyes perk open, I was happy.
On March 30th, he passed away. After a month, it wasn’t easier. After two months, the same pain resided. People, who’ve gone through death, all told me the same thing, “the sadness never goes away.” Nonetheless, with today being his birthday, I try to think of the amazing memories that we shared together.
Abraham Bender was the closest thing that I had to a father. He was greatest man that I have ever met and will ever meet. Without him, I wouldn’t be at DePaul, pursuing a career in sports broadcasting. Without him, I’m not who I am today.
Happy 89th birthday, Papa.