Father’s Day means nothing directly to me. Having never married, I’ve never realized my dream, my wish, and the thrill of having a child or children call me Dad, roll and roughhouse with me, bring me snacks and report cards and introduce me to their friends and dates. I’ve never had to nurse a son or daughter through an illness, worry about why they are late, or celebrate the smallest accomplishments.
I’ve definitely missed out on something very special.
However, I’ve been there to see my Dad do all these things and many more. There were the overt ones, the actions and words that I saw and heard first hand. There were the bad ones, the ones Dad protected us from. And there were the amazing ones, the ones that he accomplished for us despite any and all odds. That was my Dad all through my life.
Since I took on the role to help with my brother Tommy, I spent all my life with my Dad. 55 years worth of Dad. A lifetime and yet, an instant, a flash.
In previous posts on the blog, I’ve talked about my Dad, so I’ve documented his life. However, since it has become the most important year, I’m going to take a few paragraphs to take Fathers Day pride in his final year. Despite all of his problems, he made life a blast, he made life his own and then shared it with everyone.
His last year had to coincide with my past year, so he got to be my Father again, my Pop. Coming from the stress and shock of being laid off from a business I did for 27 years, I lost self-confidence. Big time. However, my Dad’s own confidence was there in abundance, even in his weakened state.
Add in my two knee replacements, and then the unknown devastation of my lung disease, I became a real handful for him. Confused, frustrated, weak, unfocused, and moody, Dad was there to do for me what he did when I was five and shut my fingers in the screen door, when I was 12 and cried when my candidate lost the Presidential election in 1968, when I was a teen, facing all the questions a teen faces.
Dad was dad then, and he was Dad last year. He allowed me to fret and to pout, but never allowed me to despair. He allowed me to question, to lash out, and to be quiet, but he never allowed me to withdraw. He remembered what I needed to do, what I needed to take, and what I needed to think of to get through each day and plan for the next.
All this time we did our car rides, all our family visits, all our shopping, all our fun. We watched his favorite movies and TV shows, we watched his beloved Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, and Sixers. As a matter of fact, the last thing he watched before he fell was a Sixers game. They lost, he yelled and bitched, but he would have been right back to watch the next game.
My greatest happiness this final year was that we were able to take him to the Mid Atlantic Museum Airshow in Reading PA last June. As a veteran of World War II (and we later found out he was a Distinguished Cross recipient), he was in his element. Despite his weakness, he was so proud to pass so many magnificent aircraft (sadly, no B-24), proud to hear the patriotic music, proud to enjoy old time radio recreations, the WWII re-enactors and the exhibits.
And he was humbled and moved when strangers came up to him and thanked him for his service. Hundreds of them. It was as if his life desires were all dovetailing sweetly and completely. He stayed all day, despite the stifling heat and despite the immense crowds.
We never got him out like that again. We got him out for visits, for shopping, for short rides, and for various needs. Still, we enjoyed life and we enjoyed Dad. He sang when his music came on. He fretted over other members of his family. He fretted over us. He thrilled when his great granddaughter Hannah came to visit.
His last filmed image is a brief shot of him after Hannah sings, proclaiming “That’s my girl”. That was on a Saturday. The following Tuesday night, he stubbornly decided he wanted to do the wash. As he tried to remove the lint screen, he stumbled back and hit his head. That image will never leave me.
After 7 weeks in the hospital, he finally made peace with himself and went to join my Mother and brother Jimmy waiting for him in Heaven. Those last days were so sad and scary, and yet, he was Dad and Dad was still with us until the end. Because of who he was all of his life, we were able to sit with him, tell stories from the past, laugh and rejoice and celebrate him, with him still with us. While Dad was not awake, he still was the best Dad because he allowed us to share with him once more all the things that we may have neglected all our lives: Dad was the reason we made it that far and we will be the reason we make it all the way.
And he will be the reason that I will make the best of my own situation and thrive as best as I can.
Because Dad would.
Previous posts about my Dad: