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Posts Tagged ‘In a New York Minute’

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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