By Fr. Nick Kotsis - One of my fondest memories of growing up takes me to the porch at my parents’ house. When we lived in Fraser, the porch was outdoors and had an awning. So, in the late spring, summer and early fall, I would love to go outside and sit on my dad’s lap. I remember him talking to me about the moon and its phases, about the fireflies that we would try to count, and about the different noises we would hear in the backyard.
When we moved to Grosse Pointe, we had a porch, but it was enclosed with glass, so we could use it a little bit longer during the year than we could with the outdoor porch in Fraser. By then, I learned that I could push back my bedtime, sometimes by an hour or two, by going onto the porch and talking with my dad. He always sat in the same chair, usually with the light off, and just relaxed to the soothing ambiance of the unfolding evening and night.
I must admit, at first, I was outside mainly to delay going to bed. But as I grew older, I realized something very important: I wanted to stay outside to hear my dad’s stories.
My dad would often talk of history. He majored in that subject in college, and I soon found it fascinating. He would tell me about Pharaohs in Egypt, the accomplishments of the Greeks, the Empire of the Romans, the history of the Orthodox Church, the history of the Roman and Protestant Churches… anything that had to do with western civilization to the present, was covered in these talks. This had a profound influence on me as I became fascinated with history.
As many times as he would talk about history, however, my dad would spend twice as much time on stories about the family. He told me the things he did as a kid: the trouble he got into with his brothers, how he would take a street car and a bus to get downtown to his father’s store in Greektown (by himself at 10 years old – confirmed by my uncles and aunt), what school was like at Denby High in Detroit, and how he would spend time with his friends and brothers fishing on the milk and salt rivers near Lake St. Clair in the summers.
Most importantly, he told me stories about who my grandparents were, the relationships he had with his siblings and many cousins, and how he knew my mother and her family from long before they courted. The stories my grandfather told my dad about growing up in Greece, being put on a ship to come to America at 10 years old in 1910, meeting up with his older brother (who was only 14 himself) to make a life in this country, and everything that happened from that point on were delivered straight to me. My grandparents on my dad’s side died before I was born, so for my dad (and for me) it was important for me to get to know and understand them through his stories.
Sometimes, when we would visit with my uncles and aunts, I and my brothers (because my brothers also received this important gift from our father) would question them about what our dad told us, to verify that he was telling the truth. Although there were sometimes a few exaggerations and hyperbole was an oft-used tool, they always verified what he told us!
I can’t tell you how much time was spent between us as my dad told me these beautiful stories, but it was some of the most well-spent time in which I’ve ever participated.
I truly hope and fervently pray, that all of you will have the opportunity during this period of staying home, to relate similar stories to your children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews. The most important things we have in this world, which come through our faith in Christ, are the relationships we have with others. We have a blessing in these days to make good use of such time, and I pray it is realized in all your hearts and minds.
And when we come out on the other side of this pandemic, I pray that we will continue to have such beautiful and meaningful storytelling with our families for the rest of our lives. Amen.