June 8, 2021

The Entirety of Life

James Aloysius Garrity 2nd was born June 8, 1937 to Harold Thomas Garrity and Mary Broderick Garrity. He grew up with his brother Matt and his sister’s Kathy and Mary Ann. In 1963 he married Andrea Joan Schlick, whose parents were John and Adrienne, her sisters are Pam and Paula her brother is John. To understand “our dad” is to understand that family is everything to him.  Whether it was coaching swim team, cheering our collective sports and activities or always looking forward to Sunday’s family dinner, it was family.  The regular calls with Kathy and Matt, the voicemail messages he would leave on our mobile phones declaring, this is James A Garrity, your father, calling… as if we might forget… which we never did and never will.

Dad had many near-death experiences, or experiences that could cause death. In his childhood, he inhaled fumes of poison ivy from a bon-fire someone had set; he was that someone. The plane crash. By all accounts, both he and Grandpa Garrity should not have survived. That is where his “never quit, never surrender” approach to life was tested, and proved to be true. Then there was the lawnmower accident, two strokes and almost getting run off the road by his own boat. The Vegas odds makers really had no idea who they were up against.

He was a fighter, right to the end. Hard to believe it was almost a year ago. 


Time provides us a way to address the waves of grief by digging deeper into our memories, great memories, to remember and reflect dad’s narrative… re-reading letters, holding the $2 bills he provided to help celebrate special occasions.

One day, as dad read the newspaper, I mentioned that Crankshaft was a comic I enjoyed.  While living in Montana, Miami or New Mexico He made a point to cut them out and save them. If I had a Texas Quarter for every comic he clipped… Oh wait I think I do!


He was proud of his children, didn’t hesitate to brag on his grandchildren, who call him “Daddy Jim”. He was always quick with a “spare check”, a note, a letter, a photocopy of an article, a photocopy of medical records, a photocopy of social security cards, photocopy of birth certificates, photocopy passports… who knew that Kens Kwik Kopy would be such a part of our life. He was quick to offer an ear, provide advice, insight and stories of serving in the US Army, swimming as an all American, or falling victim to Father Thomas Brennan who taught Logic at Notre Dame (yeah I know).. Father Brennan use to toss matchbooks, with uncanny accuracy, as a means to capture the attention of inattentive students… whether or not he was one of those students, we may never know… but dad says the matchbook hit hard!


The only thing he loved more than a good story was a great laugh.  He also loved the practical jokes, playing them more than falling prey to them. One family camping trip to Big Bear Lake included an early wakeup call to see big feet drawn in the dirt. Convinced it was either big foot or a big bear, we started to see where the tracks led. He loved the scavenger hunt because it would challenge us to use our minds. Scavenger hunts became a staple for a time and even eclipsed the “gift” sometimes. Unless the gift was epic, which is always was.

There is always a special bond between parents and their children, even more so between a father and his daughter. Such is the relationship between dad and our sister Shauna. When I wrecked the car I was grounded for a month, my brother was grounded for a week and Shauna… well she got a new car! Their relationship was much deeper than physical gifts, the meaningful relationships always are…

Dad loved mom and he loved to show her the ways.  On her 40th birthday, rather, the first anniversary of her 39thbirthday, he found a marching band, threw a parade and got mom a car… theirs was a blessed and unique connection that started when Dad brought his Mercedes back from Germany and picked up mom for a blind date … we are all thankful he did. He loved his cars, they were either fast or classy or a Ford LTD Country Squire Station Wagon, the kind with a wood panel.


Outside of home, dad was happy in two places… a Notre Dame football game or on/or near the water. The Venture 21 sailboat provided so many memories. Weekend boating trips, overnights on the water were always a special time. There was one time dad, jimmy and I were sailing, keel hulling to be exact when dad lost his grip and did an inertia driven back flip into the water, leaving my brother and I to navigate the boat back to his general area. We pulled him in, had a great laugh and decided it was time to call it a day.


One of the things I enjoy is trail running the path is memorable for a variety of reasons, it is mostly clear, the ponds and lakes at lower elevations provide great memories.  The higher you get the more difficult the terrain… more challenges surface, resulting in a twisted ankle, rolled and then the stumble a time, or ten. As the summit gets closer, the altitude is thinner, the climb is steeper but oh, the view, the perspective when you get to the top and can look back at the entirety of the trail… just like looking back on the entirety of a life, hearing his stories, some might have been embellished, but all rooted in truth, they are memories of family, friends, places in time, grounded in love. Those thoughts, like wine, only get better with age.

Dad is known for saying a lot of things. But this is the one that sticks with me…

“Do the best you can with what you’ve got as long as you got it.”

Dad, thank you for your thoughtfulness, love and legacy. I love you and you are missed.

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