Posts Tagged ‘dad’

Remember in my last posting when I stated that my father didn’t have a mean bone in his body?

Well, that was the truth.

But when I was young there were many times when I thought he was mean. Like when I wasn’t allowed to do things that other kids were doing.

I would exclaim, “But Diane is allowed to go!”

He would say, “I don’t care. You are not Diane. Your name is Mary Beth.”

After he died in March, my two brothers and I spent the day on Cape Cod. No kids, spouses or other distractions. Just his kids. We went to all the places he used to bring us when we summered there every July. A pilgrimage of sorts. It was a “Big Chill” reunion minus the pot, drama and cool soundtrack. Because we didn’t have any of those three things with us.

We usually stayed in a house for two weeks-sometimes at his uncle’s place- but there were a few days we stayed at a hotel. Maybe until the house was vacant. I can’t remember.

Anyway, we went by the hotel and my younger brother said, “I wonder if the pool is the same. I remember when we would get out of the car I’d get so excited that I would make a bee-line for the pool. Mom and Dad were still unpacking the car and Dad would yell at me to stay right where I was. As a parent of two little ones I totally get it now.”

I agreed and thought of a gal that I used to work with at the phone company. In 1999, I had read in the newspaper that she had experienced a tragedy beyond comprehension.

Not long after arriving at a R.I. beach, on a summer’s day, her eight year old baby girl went into the water and drowned. She could not be revived even though there were doctors and emergency personnel on the beach that day.

I had a baby that year and was the mother of a six year old. I was absolutely devastated for her and her family. I couldn’t imagine.

These things can happen in an instant. No judgement. Ever.

This is not to even compare the situations. Of what happened or what could have happened.

Just this point. It is what I thought of that day when my brother said he now understood. My Dad wasn’t being mean when he said I couldn’t do things I wanted to do. Or when my brother wanted to run to the pool alone.

He only wanted to protect us. That was his job.

We totally get it, Dad. And we will always love you for it.

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A couple of summers ago I was relaxing on the couch at my parents’ home. My kids were messing around with my Dad while he sat in his chair across the room from me. I wasn’t really listening until I heard one of my kids ask him, “Papa, so what was Mom like as a teenager?”

Uh, oh! Papa on the spot! I instantly perked up and almost had a coronary. Thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is it!” Started the rosary in my head.

But i never should have had a doubt. My father did not have a mean bone in his body.

He laughed (a little too heartily) and said, “Your mother was a tiger. But I loved her anyway.”

That was a really nice way of putting it.

The thing of it is this. My father lived in the moment. Like my mother still does.

They’ve never, ever been ones to hold a grudge, to bring things from the past into the present or to care about it at all.

What’s in the past is in the past. That’s it. Mom always says, “Ah, that’s ancient history.” About anything. Not always referring to my teenaged years. Okay, honestly, I wasn’t the worst teen out there.

The time is now. Live in the moment. It’s the biggest and greatest gift of all.

We just don’t know how many moments we are allotted. Make the absolute best of them. No need to be mean. Better to laugh. Maybe even a little too heartily.

And that is how your loved ones and your world will remember you.

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I suppose I will mostly be writing about my father these days. Because he is on my mind all the time. Bear with me.

Today, I had a good cry and I guess that is good and needed to happen. It’s been a month in the making.

Here’s what prompted it today. Finally.

I was trying to relax and lose myself in one of my favorite hobbies. Genealogy.

But, of course, when my family tree appears on the screen so does a photo of my dad.

And beside his picture it shows Birth:  March 19, 1931 in New York City.

Under that it has Death: and in bold type appears “Living”

I just cannot update the family tree.

I kept staring at his photo and I could feel the tears coming and then I sort of wanted to get angry. Like “Dad, why did you have to go? Why did you have to leave us?” As if he had any choice in the matter.

I knew that my thinking was unfair. He was a good age and his was a life well lived. He knew his kids and his grandkids were all loved, cared for and fine.

People pray for things like that.

It just doesn’t make it hurt any less. At least for me.

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My father always paid his own way. Just the way he was. He’d certainly pay the way of others but he always paid his own way.

I liked that about him. And I ended up marrying a man who is exactly the same in that regard.

Last May, he and my mom flew out to Northern California for Rory’s graduation from university. He didn’t usually insist on things. But he insisted on being present for her high school graduation and then her university graduation. I met them there. It was a great week. We probably ran them ragged taking in all of the sights. Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge and park, the Painted Ladies, the Marina, the Wharf, Napa Valley and loads more packed into the busy days.

We used the BART to get into San Francisco from Berkeley. But there were other times when we needed to hail a taxi. Not always easy so my daughter used the Uber app on her phone. For those not familiar with Uber it is a car, taxi, or ride-share service. Your credit card is on file. You can see what driver is closest to your location and then order the car. The name of the driver, picture of person, type of car, etc. is all available to you. No payment need exchange hands. It’s billed to your card.

Dad struggled with this. My daughter would order a car to bring them back to the hotel each evening. And he’d be fumbling around for his wallet trying to pay someone. Anyone. The driver, my daughter or me.

Rory would say, “Don’t worry about it, Papa. I got it. It’s going on the card.”

He did not like that at all. Or this whole Uber thing. He sputtered about it. He was not comfortable with his college aged granddaughter paying for his taxi fares.

After graduation I headed back to Malaysia. Rory accompanied her grandparents back to Rhode Island and stayed with them for three weeks.

She told me that one morning she woke up and went to have breakfast. Papa’s soft-boiled eggs. Always perfect. Mom took care of the fried eggs but the soft-boiled ones were Dad’s specialty. He would even take the tops of the eggs off for us. Tap, tap, tap with the edge of a butter knife.

Egg cup that Annie bought Papa a few years ago.

Egg cup that Annie bought Papa a few years ago.

That morning, under her place mat on the kitchen table, there was a crisp one hundred-dollar bill.

Rory was like, “Oh no, Papa!”

He said, “Look, I don’t want to hear another word about it. That’s final.”

That’s just the way he was.

My Dad- May 2014-Berkeley, California

My Dad- May 2014-Berkeley, California

I’m going to miss his soft-boiled eggs in the morning. I’m going to miss him taking off the top portion of the shell for us. I’m going to miss his old school ways. I’m going to miss just the way he was.

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Quahogs

I am still in my father’s home. Just for a few more days. Then I will head back to Malaysia and get on with life there. See and hug my sixteen year old who I have been missing a ton. A nice surprise is that my husband will be there for a week.

I have been so busy here assisting my mom with things that I feel like I haven’t grieved. Whatever that looks like.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been moments when my eyes fill up. Or that my throat gets caught. Because I guess the mind does allow a few seconds of reality to seep in now and again.

After Dad died I took stuffies out of the freezer.

Stuffies (for those living outside of the area) are stuffed quahogs. Quahogs (for those living outside of the area) are hard shelled clams. Its name comes from a local Native American tribe. And I have heard it pronounced all sorts of ways. The correct pronunciation is “kwaw hawgs.” And I’m sticking to it.

Clams are chopped up and then mixed with seasonings, bread and other ingredients. Sometimes it seems like everything but the kitchen sink. It just depends on who is making them. Once everything is mixed together the stuffing is then put back into the shell.

quahog

This picture is to give you an idea. You can see pepper, onion and clams in this one. But please keep in mind that this photo shows a quahog on steroids. The ones you buy at the store are not as generously packed. My brother brought some of these homemade bad boys for my dad from a club down the road.

For years, every time I went to heat up the stuffies, my dad would always say, “____ minutes for each one. And make sure you turn them halfway.”

Sometimes I’d hear him say it from the other room. Other times it was over my shoulder. He was nothing if not consistent and predictable.

And I would say, “I know, Dad. I know.” I was nothing if not consistent and predictable.

So, on this day, when I was about to heat them up with Dad no longer calling out from the living room, I just stood in front of the microwave. And stared. My eyes filled up and I whispered, “I didn’t know, Dad. I didn’t know.”

Then I had to look up the directions on the package.

I guess I didn’t ever really know and I’d give anything to hear him tell me once again just how many minutes it would take and to make sure I turn them halfway.

I don’t want to look up the directions. And it’s not because I’m lazy.

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Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been eighty four.

I am sharing an old blog posting that I incorporated into the following eulogy for his service at the cemetery last week.

I called my Dad when I moved to Malaysia. 

I said, “Dad, do you know what I am afraid of?” 

He got concerned and said, “What???” 

I told him, “Driving on the left side of the road.” 

He said, “Ah, no. You already know how to drive. You’re a good driver. You can do it. I give you twenty four hours.”

I said, “Really?”

He said, “I promise you. Twenty four hours. You just follow those in front of you. You just go with the flow of traffic.”

My dad was 100% right. Of course, every phone call after that began with him asking me if I was driving.

He knew that I needed to overcome the fear and also that driving would give me a freedom that I absolutely needed to navigate new and unfamiliar territory.

So, now, during this great loss of my family’s, we will try to follow those in front of us and go with the flow. My mother, brothers and other family members will need to navigate a new and unfamiliar territory without him.

I want to briefly share something I wrote about my dad. This was years ago and he’s read it. The only thing that has changed since I wrote it in 2009 is that he is no longer with us. My brothers share my sentiments. 

Dad-written March 12, 2009

I was thinking that I would write something about my dad. Too many people wait until someone is gone before they write about them. Don’t worry, my dad is not going anywhere…he is alive and well and enjoying life in New England.

My dad is and always was a simple man.  He was born to a life that was probably pretty typical for Irish immigrants. His parents came to the U.S. for work, met in New York, married and had four children (one set of twins) and then they all went back to Ireland. There would be three more children born to the family once they were back in Ireland. Dad did not complete his education and joined the U.S. Service before he hit adulthood.  He was discharged to the U.S. and never really went back to Ireland for any extended period of time.

So he lived with an uncle in the U.S.  and as luck would have it,  the woman who would become my mom, babysat for his little cousins.  I guess the rest is history.

I guess the coolest thing about my dad is that he is living a really good life.  Maybe even great.

He is a one woman man and he married that one woman. As he says, “She was a bit of alright”.  He didn’t swear. He never overindulged in anything. I have never seen my dad have one too many.  He quit smoking as a young man. He exercises, he reads the newspaper from front to back page and he loves cutting the lawn or shoveling the snow on his small patch.  He loved working and never missed a day of work that wasn’t necessary.  He had three children. As much as he loved work he also loved retirement.  He had a namesake. He has grandchildren.   He paid his bills. He attended Mass. He gave blood. He voted. He was a good citizen. He didn’t argue with my mother. He was never violent. He was never weird. He never bought anything he couldn’t afford. He loves working in the vegetable garden. He is not fussy. He will eat anything you put in front of him. He loves the Cape.  He loved his two weeks vacation every July. If you ask him what he wants for his birthday he will say, “my health.”   He is satisfied. He lived the American dream. Not the overinflated, glitzy, Hollywood dream but the real, honest to God, American dream. Which is to make a living, buy a house, raise a family and then enjoy those things later on.

I always felt safe with him.  He would always do what I considered the “lock up” at the end of the night which meant checking our bedroom windows before he went to bed. If it was too cold he would shut them or if it was warm he would make sure they were cracked open a bit.  He would then go downstairs and the last thing I would hear before he went to bed was him turning the lock on the front door.

I remember his friend had a boat and Dad would take us along for the day.  The boat would be anchored some way from shore and we would all have to swim to shore.  I remember being so frightened of the water as a  little one but he would put us on his back, our arms clasped around his neck and he would swim us to shore.

I have no issues to resolve with him. He owes no apologies.  I hope I am a little bit like him. I enjoy him. I am proud he is my father and I will always love him.

This priest at the beginning of Lent told the congregation that we need to take a good look at who we are.  Are we defined by the degrees hanging on the wall? Do we say “I live for my spouse” or ” I live for my children.”  What happens when something happens to the mind, the spouse or the child? What is your core? Who are you?

And I was thinking if God is looking down at my dad right now He would say, “His core is a bit of alright”

When I was moving to Malaysia nearly three years ago and getting ready to leave his house for the airport, Dad got emotional and said, “But it’s so far.”

Little did he know, at the time, that I would be plunking down at his house all summer for the following two years.

Each and every time, probably for the last ten years, whenever we said goodbye he got choked up and said, “We love to have you but we sure do hate to see you go.”

Dad, Papa, Uncle Pat, Patsy, Patrick, Pat…..we loved having you but sure do hate to see you go. Safe home, Dad, safe home. 

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Blessed

My father died on March 8th. The days since have been an absolute blur. I guess that’s a good thing.

I will probably be writing a lot about him on this blog. So forgive me in advance.

Lots of lessons picked up in the last ten days.

Here’s one.

The day after his death my older brother and I had to visit some offices to report his death and gather some paperwork.

My brother told the woman at the Teamsters Office, “We’re not sure exactly what to do or who to talk to. This is the first time we have had to do this. We’ve been pretty blessed.”

As heartbroken as we are (and we are- even though none of this has hit any of us yet) there is an awareness that we have been blessed. That the death we are reporting is that of an 83 year old man who lived a good life. Who was loved and who loved. And had many, many years of this.

Our loss is great. I really wish he was still with us.

But we were blessed.

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