Tuesday, January 29, 2008

He's Gone

I never thought he would die first.  I don't know why.  My father was the rock.  He was strong and silent -- kind of like John Wayne, but in a first generation Italian immigrant kind of way.  He died on Monday with my mother and I at his side.  It was peaceful.  He was not in pain.  I guess that's the most any of us can ask for.  

We come into this world and are put into the arms of someone we love.  What better than to leave this world with the people who love you holding your hands.  

I think I have mentioned before how wonderful the staff at the Major University Medical Center were.  They showed compassion and kindness.  There are not enough words to thank them.  They have earned their angels' wings on earth.

As for dad, he's playing the best courses, probably with some of his favorite senior golfers and having a martini (half gin, half vermouth, please) at the 19th hole.

He turned for the worse so quickly.  Starting on Friday, he had a seizure.  We had another scare on Friday night.  He was holding on for Sunday.  We had a party to celebrate my sister and my daughter's joint birthday.  Many years apart, but same day.  Whole family gathered at the hospital for dad, since the party had to come to him.

Cannolis from Termini's.  Cake and Italian cookies from Termini's.  And a pitcher full of martinis so we could toast dad.  He had a few sips, with the doctor's blessing.  He sat up and while he could not sing out loud, you could see him moving his lips to sing happy birthday to my sister and my baby girl.  (Thank god for the niece to reminded us it would not be a good idea to light the candles on the cake since he was on oxygen.  I can see the headline now, "Family Blows Up Cancer Wing with Birthday Cake" - Film at 11.)

Monday morning, I dropped mom at the hospital, intending to go to the office.  It was supposed to be my last week.  I'm buying a yarn shop in a month.  I'm wrapping up my law practice.  I never got into the office.  From the garage at the office, the phone rang.  I turned around and drove back out across town to the hospital.

The chaplain on call was a rabbi.  I didn't catch his name, but there were too many tears in my eyes to read it.  Dad was Roman Catholic.  The Rabbi said a lovely prayer and read the 23rd Psalm.  My dad had his eyes open until the psalm finished.  He closed his eyes and was gone.  

Now, we have taken the show on the road and in far, northern New Jersey for the traditional Italian wailing fest known as the viewing and the funeral.  Mom was in no state to make the arrangements.  So I've been on the phone almost non-stop.  I think I've gone over my minutes for the month.  Oh well.  

We are going to celebrate his life.  He was a quiet man.  He was a humble man.  He was a source of strength and comfort to me throughout my life.  While he didn't go to church regularly, he was one of the best Christians I ever knew.  He never said an unkind word about anyone, no matter how terribly they had treated him.  He was ready to help anyone.  He was practical and sturdy.  He could fix anything.  He was my McGuyver -- give him some string, peanut butter, two sticks of gum and some paperclips and he'd build you a working car.  Nothing was ever too broken for him to fix -- especially my heart.  He encouraged us to follow our dreams and be true to ourselves.  

If I am half the parent he was, I will be doing one heck of a job.

I love you Daddy.

I'll miss you more than I can say.

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