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Posts Tagged ‘Dad’

3-13-13

In Family, Life on March 13, 2013 at 3:13 am

3-13-13

Today’s date is 3-13-13.  It is most likely the only time that most people will experience seeing this date on the calendar.  Sadly, my dad isn’t one of them, but I know that he would have gotten a kick out of it as he celebrated his 71st birthday.  He celebrates this birthday in heaven, hopefully with some of my grandmother’s famous chocolate cake (3-3-13 marked four years since her passing).

Numerology aside, today is a day to think about my dad, and wonder what might have been if he hadn’t been taken from us on that shocking day in 2001, shortly before 9/11.  In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago, but in other ways it seems like it was just yesterday that we said our painful goodbyes.

I thought about trying to make this post exactly 313 words in honor of this day, but decided against it because it would either be too short to fully describe my feelings, or too long to ramble on before sharing the post from last year that says it all –  Stairway to Heaven.

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It’s Been a Decade Since…

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on July 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm

The surgeon told us to prepare for the inevitable.  After an improbable battle that lasted for five days, we were told to say our goodbyes.  I gave my father a hug, kissed him on his head, told him that I loved him, and said goodbye.  I told him that it was okay to let go, and that I would keep him in my heart forever.  I knew that there was nothing more that could be done, and I also knew that he was already gone as I said my final farewell.  All that was left to do was to wait for a life-altering call from the nurse who had spent five days taking care of my father and my family.

We sat on a bench outside of the hospital on a hot summer night.  We all accepted the fact that we were about to receive the news that we had dreaded for days, but we were still in shock and almost numb to what was about to happen.

It’s been ten years to the day since I got the call that my father passed away.  It’s been ten years, and yet I can still remember the exact minute of his passing.  I can put myself in that moment as if it was happening right now.

The two worst days of the year for my family and me are my father’s birthday and the anniversary of his passing.  Never a day goes by that I don’t think of him several times, but these two days are somehow more painful and raw than the rest.  These are the days that we are left to wonder “what if?” and “if only…”

They say that time heals all wounds, but that is not really true.  While the pain doesn’t sting quite as much as time passes, it never truly goes away.  The void that was left by my father’s untimely passing will always be there.

It struck me the other day that losing my dad ten years ago marks a full decade since he has been with us to celebrate the moments, both large and small.  Ten years sounds like a long time, but a decade sounds and feels even longer.

As a society, we look at each decade as a collective moment in time.  We define each decade by the events of the world, pop culture and trends in music, fashion, television, movies, etc.  It’s our way of compartmentalizing our lives so that we can share nostalgic trips down memory lane with our friends and families.

Being born in the late 60’s, I have no memories of what life was like in that decade, but I have very strong memories of my childhood in the 70’s and 80’s, and my early adult years in the 90’s.  Some of the greatest memories of each of those decades were created with my dad.

Time marches on.  Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, months turn to years, and now years have turned into a decade.

If not for the fact that my two children were born in the first decade of the new millennium, I would look back at this past ten years as a “lost decade.”  Even with my children, the past decade can best be described as bittersweet and incomplete.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since I’ve spoken with my dad (aside from the occasional conversation that happens all too infrequently in my dreams).

Despite all of the advances that have been made in the past decade, I still find myself holding on to the past with an unbreakable grip, longing for days gone by, and wishing that this was all a bad dream.  If I could have just one wish, it would be to give my dad and my kids the chance to create the memories together that they were deprived of because of a tragedy that happened a decade ago.

For the most part, today was okay.  Spending the day with my wife and kids the way that my dad would have spent his day off gave me some solace and some inner peace.  While I couldn’t stop my mind from drifting towards my dad all day long, I did my best not to let it affect the kids.

Tomorrow starts the second decade life without my dad, which seems almost surreal.  Like this past decade, I fully expect to think about him every day, and keep him in my heart as I promised him I would a decade ago.

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Stairway to Heaven

In Family, Life on March 13, 2011 at 10:51 am

It’s hard to believe how many years it has been since I got to celebrate my father’s birthday with him.  Time really does fly by.  He would have turned 69 today if not for a tragic accident that took him from us way before his time.

As I was driving in the car this morning, “Stairway to Heaven” came on the radio.  Although it is a classic song that everyone knows, most of the lyrics are very cryptic, so it doesn’t evoke the same type of emotions as many other songs.

However, some of the lyrics stood out to me given the frame of mind that I am in today…

“It Makes Me Wonder”

I have thought about my father every single day since his passing, and I probably always will.  But his birthday always seems to be a time of reflection, and “it makes me wonder”

      Why we lost him in such a senseless way
      How different my life would be if he were still with us
    What it would be like for my kids to actually know him instead of knowing about him

“And the Forests Will Echo with Laughter”

When I’m not reflecting and wondering what might have been if he were still with us, I remember my father with a smile.  By sharing all of the funny stories about him with my kids, it allows them to get to know him as much as possible.

There was always a lot of laughter with my father, and I try my best to do the same with my kids.  I know that they would have laughed a lot if they were around him.  And they would have made him laugh just as hard.  No matter what the situation is, we always seem to have a house filled with laughter.  I have my father to thank for that.

“In the Long Run, There’s Still Time to Change the Road You’re on”

My father always had this calming effect on everyone.  He had a way of making you believe that everything would be okay.  As long as everyone had their health, he truly believed that the rest would work itself out in the end.

Since his passing, I have taken many roads.  Sometimes it has been the right road, sometimes is has been the wrong road.  Thanks to my father, I know that traveling down the wrong road is nothing more than a temporary setback.

“And as we Wind on Down the Road”

Life has not been the same since my father passed away.  Even the most joyous milestone moments have been bittersweet without him, and I imagine that it will always be that way.

His birthday is always one of the hardest days of the year, but I do what I can to honor his memory on this day every year.

Happy Birthday Dad!  I love you and miss you more than words can say!

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Putting Myself in Their Place

In Family on August 16, 2010 at 4:46 pm

The anniversary of 9/11 will be here again in less than a month.  So much has changed in the last nine years, and yet the pain of that tragic day still lingers in the hearts and minds of America.  As this anniversary approaches, a debate rages on as to whether or not an enormous mosque should be built just blocks from Ground Zero.  The decision should not come down to the constitutional right to do so, nor should it come down to yet another case of political posturing.  For once, it would be nice to see common sense and human decency come to the forefront when a decision as important as this one is being made.

Bleeding-heart liberals will likely fight for the right to build the mosque, while right-wing Republicans will oppose it.  The truth of the matter is that both extremes usually have their mind made up long before specific facts come into play.  Those that find themselves more towards the middle are usually the ones that end up taking the time to learn about both sides before rendering an opinion.  As an Independent, it would seem that this would be one of those times that I would need to do research before offering my opinion, but this case is different because of my circumstances.

Less than two months before 9/11, I lost my father very unexpectedly.  He was relatively young and in good health (much like many of the people who lost their lives in 9/11).  On a beautiful summer Sunday in 2001, my parents decided to spend the day in Central Park.  My mother sat and read a book while my father rollerbladed around the park.  Overall, a pretty typical day for them.  Until my father somehow lost his balance and fell on his head.  There were no witnesses, so we don’t really know exactly what happened.  Even if we did know what happened, it wouldn’t have changed anything.  The head injury that my father sustained was so severe that he lost his battle for life after five days of being in a coma.

For a long time after my father’s passing, the sight of someone on rollerblades made me both sad and angry.  I wondered why my father was the one to fall, get injured and die.  I wondered why others who were far more reckless on rollerblades were still alive and skating as though they didn’t have a care in the world.  To this day, over nine years later, I still think of my father whenever I see someone rollerblading without a helmet and wonder why they are so careless (even though I never once wore a helmet when we used to go together).  I can’t remember the exact date, but I do know that the last time that I ever put on rollerblades was sometime in the summer of 2001.

My father’s fall took place in Central Park.  And though the park had nothing to do with what happened, I still couldn’t bring myself to return to the place where my father basically lost his life.  It took many years before I could even drive through the park, and if not for my kids wanting to go to a playground when we were visiting Manhattan, I’m not sure that I would have ever gone into the park again.

Is it logical for me to still get sad and angry when I see people rollerblading more than nine years after my father’s accident?  Not at all.  Is it logical for me to never want to return to Central Park because it is where my father’s accident took place?  Not at all.  But logic doesn’t always prevail, especially when strong emotions come into play.  Sometimes, the heart rules the mind, and there is very little that can be done to overcome it.

If Central Park were my father’s final resting place, I would have no choice but to go and visit him there.  But luckily for me, it is not his final resting place.  After my father’s passing, I was in a downward spiral.  Life was just not the same as it was before his accident.  There were no silver linings in sight.  It took another horrific tragedy for me to find a silver lining in the way that I lost my dad…9/11!

As Americans, we all experienced 9/11 in one way or another.  I was fortunate not to have lost anyone close to me on that tragic day, but others were not so lucky.  In the years following 9/11, I found out by watching the anniversary coverage and doing some research that friends of mine did lose people very close to them.   Even before I knew about this, 9/11 hit me very hard, as I witnessed it first-hand from my balcony in Jersey City overlooking the Twin Towers.  As sad as I was about losing my father, I was comforted by the fact that I got to say goodbye to him (although he was unable to reciprocate).  I was grateful that we were able to give my father a “proper burial” (a thought that never entered my mind before 9/11).

Human life is fragile.  We all know it, but sometimes it takes the stark reality of a tragedy to remind us of just how fragile it is.  In the back of our minds, we all know that none of us is promised tomorrow (much less years) but we go about our days without dwelling on our eventual demise.  At the very least, we take solace in the fact that we will have a final resting place where the loved ones that we leave behind can come and visit us.  But for the victims of 9/11…that is not the case.

Unfortunately for many of the families of 9/11 victims, Ground Zero is the final resting place for their loved ones.  I can’t even imagine the pain that these families must feel from the lack of closure, and having no choice but to visit their loved ones in a very impersonal burial ground that is shared by thousands of people.

I know first-hand how painful it is to be reminded of the reason that my father lost his life every time that I see someone rollerblading.  To this day, I find myself looking away at times as I watch television shows or movies that use Central Park as the backdrop.   While it is a reality that I must live with, it is not one that I willingly chose for myself; just as the families of 9/11 victims didn’t choose to have Ground Zero be the final resting place for their loved ones.

Most reasonable people realize that there are good and bad people in every religion.  And though anti-Muslim sentiment in America was extremely high after 9/11, (and may still exist to this day), it does not exist to the same degree as it did nine years ago.  But we would be fooling ourselves to think that a 13-story mosque being erected in the shadows of Ground Zero is not going to add to the pain that the families of 9/11 victims already feel.

I may not be able to directly empathize with the families of 9/11 victims, but I can do so indirectly.  Our respective losses happened within weeks of each other, so the healing time is the same.  It stands to reasons that If I still have trouble seeing rollerbladers and scenes of Central Park to this day, that family members of 9/11 victims will be tormented upon each visit to Ground Zero should the proposed mosque be built merely a few blocks away.

My opinion is by no means a condemnation of the Muslim faith, and I do not think that most Muslims are terrorists.  However, the terrorists that were responsible for perhaps the most tragic day in American history were Muslim, and it would be virtually impossible for a 13-story mosque near Ground Zero to be anything other than a painful reminder of that fact.

In a New York Minute…

In Family, Life Lessons on July 21, 2010 at 7:19 am

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon.  My wife and I fell asleep watching TV in bed.  I’m not sure how long we were sleeping, but I was awakened suddenly by the ring of the phone.  It was my brother, telling me that my dad had fallen while rollerblading in Central Park.  Not wanting me to panic, he told me that it was just a concussion…nothing to worry about…he just wanted to let me know that he and my mother were in the hospital with my dad.  He said he would call me back in a little while with an update.

People get concussions all of the time.  I wasn’t happy that my dad was hurt, but he had been through much worse things than a concussion, so I figured he would be fine.  My wife and I even drifted back to sleep.  About an hour or so later, the phone rang again to wake us up.  This time, my brother told me that they would be keeping my dad in the hospital, and that we should probably come to see him.

Knowing that I would have to navigate from New Jersey through New York City weekend traffic, my brother never let on the severity of the situation…but he didn’t have to.  I knew exactly what was going on.  Things were not good at all.

I don’t remember the whole ride, but I do remember frantically maneuvering through the city streets like a taxi driver with reckless abandon.  By the time that I finally got to the hospital, bad turned even worse.  My dad was out of surgery, but the prognosis was not good.  While my family held out hope, I asked the surgeon to give it to me straight.  With a fairly stone cold look, he told me that it was likely that my dad would not recover from this fall.  I’m not sure if he used the word or not, but he intimated that it would take a miracle to survive.

I returned to my mother and brother, shared the news, and then crumbled to the ground crying in the hallway outside of ICU.

How could this be?  We were all together the day before celebrating the baby-naming of the first grandchild in the family.  It was such a happy occasion.

As we were leaving my sister’s house after the baby-naming, I hugged my dad and kissed him on the cheek.  For some reason, I ended up doing it twice, probably because we ended up getting distracted by someone talking to us.  Little did I know that the second goodbye would be the final one where my dad could reciprocate.  It was as if the first goodbye was for the day, and the second goodbye was a son saying goodbye to his dad…forever.

My dad was a fighter…in life as well as in death.  He hung on for five days when he was given only hours several times as he spiraled downwards.  On his final day, we were told that he probably wouldn’t make it through the night.  Things had progressed beyond modern medicine’s capabilities, and he was only being kept alive by machines.  Although we were told that he wasn’t in any pain, we realized that his best prognosis was one that he never would have wanted.  We made the humane, but most painful decision that anyone could make…to let my dad go peacefully.

Saying goodbye after getting together to see each other was easy…casual even.  Saying goodbye forever was painful beyond anything that the written word can portray.  But I did it.  I said goodbye.  I told him that I loved him.  I told him that I would keep him in my heart forever.  A kiss on his head, a final hug and I went outside to wait for the inevitable.

The call came at around 10:30pm that my dad had passed.  Just like that.  In a New York minute, the man that I loved and looked up to all of my life was gone.

I felt tremendous sadness.  I felt tremendous anger that miracles happened to others, but not my dad.  I felt numb as I drove home, almost on auto-pilot…in shock that I would never get to talk to my dad again.

The anniversary of my dad’s death is always very painful for me.  And though it has been nearly ten years since his passing, the void has never gone away.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my dad’s passing, but for the first time, I did things differently.  Because I no longer live in New York, it wasn’t as easy to just go to the cemetery to visit and then spend the day reflecting about the greatest loss that I have ever suffered.

We purposely planned this trip back to New York so that I would be here for the anniversary, to visit his grave and to be here with family.  Being back in New York on borrowed time, means that there is no time to waste wallowing and reflecting.  The truth of the matter is that it is not something that my dad would have ever wanted anyway.  So, for the first time since his passing, I decided to honor his legacy rather than spend the day mourning his passing.  Somehow, I think that he knew…

I decided to take my family to a Long Island Ducks (minor league baseball) game.  It was something that we loved to do when we lived here, and one of my fondest memories of my dad was going to baseball games at Shea Stadium.  I could think of no better, or more appropriate way, to celebrate his life.

We arrived at the stadium just as the gates were opening.  The first 1500 fans received Buddy Harrelson bobbleheads.  I wanted to make sure that we got at least one, but thought that it might not happen because we weren’t there as early as I’d hoped.  I dropped my wife and son off at the curb, and went to go park the car with my sleeping daughter.

I carried my daughter across the parking lot, and headed for the East Gate (which had no line).  As I got to the top of the steps, my wife and son were waiting there with bobbleheads in hand.  I smiled as the staff member handed the last two bobbleheads to my daughter and me.  What were the odds that we would get the last two that they had left?

We took the kids for souvenirs and headed for our seats.  It wasn’t long before the game started.  We finished our ballpark food just in time for the National Anthem.  The feeling of being “home” distracted me from thinking about my dad, but only for moments at a time.

At the end of the second inning, the Ducks mascot (Quackerjack) stood atop the visitor dugout with the kids who were there celebrating their birthdays with a party at the stadium.  The last kid was one of my son’s best friends, who he hadn’t seen in nearly a year.  We had planned to get together with them later on this week, but it was a nice surprise to see them there.  They had no idea that we would even be on Long Island the day of his party because my wife knew that July 20th was blocked off because of my dad.

My son and I chased his friend and his dad down the aisle.  The look of happiness on the kids’ faces let me know right away that I made the right choice to do something to celebrate my dad.  We followed them back to the party area, where my son saw his other best friend and former classmates that he knew from the area.  In a New York minute, my son was transported back in time.  The kids all picked up right where they left off.  It was as if my son had never left.  He just became a part of the party as if he were planning to attend it all along.

While the kids sat eating their pizza and ice cream, the home team had fallen behind 3-0, although they cut the lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning.

We all returned to the section where the party was taking place.  In the late innings, the visiting team hit another solo home run, giving them a 4-1 lead as the game was drawing to a close.  I figured that the Ducks would probably lose, but somehow, it didn’t matter too much.  All things considered, seeing my son with his friends and being back at one of our favorite places was enough for me.

In the bottom of the inning, the Ducks tied the score with a monster blast.  In a New York minute, the Ducks were back in the game.

The Ducks held the visitors without a run in the ninth inning.  One run by the home team, and the game would be over.

As the bottom of the ninth inning started, I was watching the stadium clock.  The exact time of my dad’s passing was fast approaching.  It is something that no one else in the world probably knows, but for some reason, it has always stuck with me.  I have never been out of the house as the time occurred.  It was kind of surreal what happened next.

The first Ducks batter was retired in the bottom of the ninth.  The second batter had already tied the game with a home run, and the fans were hoping that he could do it again.  There was less than a minute to go until my dad’s exact time of death.  I kept shifting my focus from the stadium clock to the field and back.  As I looked back to the field, I heard the crack of the bat, and watched as the ball sailed through the dark Long Island sky for a game-winning, walk-off home run.  In a New York minute, the home team had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

All of the Ducks celebrated the come-from-behind victory at home plate.  As the hero of the game crossed the plate, the clock changed to the exact time of my dad’s passing.  I don’t know if it was some kind of sign or not, but it struck me just the same.

The irony of it all is that we never would have seen this dramatic ending if my dad was the one deciding when to leave.  As much as I loved going to ball games with him, I knew that we were always going to leave in time to beat the traffic.

Most of who I am today as a dad can be attributed to my dad’s mentoring.  He showed me what being a dad is all about without ever having to tell me with words.  The only “improvement” that I have made, is that I am willing to sit in traffic after a ball game so that we can see the game in its entirety.

I would like to think that my dad helped guide that ball over the fence as a sign to let me know that I did the right thing by bringing my family to the game instead of staying at home in mourning.  I would like to think that my dad helped guide that ball over the fence as a way to make it up to me for missing exciting endings like this when I was a kid so that we could beat the traffic.

I don’t know if signs really exist or not.  What I do know is that, in a New York minute, things that happen, can (and do) change your life forever.

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