Dunno what it was, but today I couldn’t shake memories of my Dad out of my mind. During my lunch break I spent some time standing by the mantle over my fireplace looking at the flag that covered his casket, the photo of him as a cadet at West Point and some of the other memorabilia lying on the mantle. My Dad passed away at age 72 from prostate cancer on May 4, 2010. He fought that disease for sixteen years, but it finally took him.
My Dad was an awesome guy, the kindest, gentlest, guy you could ever meet. He went the extra mile to make sure my sister and I got everything we needed to grow into responsible and educated adults. So it was just one of those days when I remember him and the times we spent together.
I will never forget the Father & Son Cub Scout camp-out. I was like seven years old or something and he rented this tent from the Pentagon and we were there with a bunch of other kids and their fathers. I will never forget all of the little tree frogs, no bigger than the fingernail on your pinky, covering the trees, leaves and tents. In the middle of the night, there was a downpour and my Dad and I got soaked because, well, he forgot to put down the liner on the ground correctly. It was a disaster at the time, but now a treasured memory.
A memory that makes me laugh was when we used to go to this Mom and Pop Italian restaurant. We would always order their pizza, because it was the best damned pizza you have ever had (sadly the guy who owned the place passed away several years before my Dad and it closed down – I miss that pizza).
Anyway, the guy would bring the pizza to the table, the cheese bubbling like molten lava. I would just sit there and wait patiently for the damned thing to cool down, but my Dad…and I mean he did this EVERY TIME…my Dad would grab a couple slices and take a huge bite, then drop the pizza slice back on the plate and grab his glass of iced tea, guzzle half the glass and then loudly bark “Ooooooow!” Meanwhile I am on the other side of the table laughing hysterically. I dunno, maybe he did it to see his son laughing at him. Because the man did this every time we ate there. His excuse was that he was hungry.
I was looking at the straw hat that he and his classmates wore at his 50th class reunion at West Point. It was April 2009 and he was very sick from the cancer treatments, couldn’t walk and told me he didn’t want to go. But I sat down next to him, put my arm around him and told him, “Dad, something like this only comes once in a lifetime. You know as well as I that you want to go, but you are giving in and feeling sorry for yourself. You can’t let something like this go. I want you to go and be with your classmates.”
He nodded and agreed with me. A few weeks later I was driving him and my Mom up to New York. For the next five days we all enjoyed the festivities surrounding the reunion. Most of all my Dad truly enjoyed being with his classmates, most especially his room-mates. They spent hours talking about those days long past, cadets at West Point. They talked about the pranks, all the women they dated (or didn’t) and a lot of other memories. It would be the last time his classmates would see him. A little over a year later, he was gone.
When that reunion was over and we were back home safe and sound, my Dad called me over to him and told me, “Son, thank you for talking me into going. I had a great time.”
I just hugged him and tears ran down my face. I was happy to have given him one last moment like that. Five months later, the doctors informed my Mom and I that there was nothing more that medical science could do for my Dad. He fought on for nine months and at 9:27pm on May 4th, while sleeping, he took one last breath and then he was gone.
Now I am left behind to remember him and all those memories live on, and in that way he lives on through me. I became the person I am today because of the love and nurturing my Mom and Dad gave me.
For that I am eternally grateful.