Losing someone you love is never easy.
Even if you suspect that it could be coming, the reality of it happening hits you at a deeper level.
On Monday 11/23 I received the call that my father, Al, was gone.
If you knew my father, you know that he had some qualities that can only make you shake your head with disbelief and laugh. If you only met him once or twice, you might have thought, “What’s that guy’s problem?”
My dad was as stubborn as they come, and believe it or not, truly enjoyed fighting with people. Truly! Whether verbal arguments or physical altercations, this dude loved to throw down.
His brash, Mafioso persona, foul language and hardened exterior are how most people knew of him.
But those who really knew him, at his core…knew he was a dick… but also knew that deep down, he cared.
My father loved his family. We may not have heard him say it too often, but he had his ways of showing it. As his son, I understood.
For instance, even though we didn’t have much money growing up, my parents found a way to take us to Wildwood every year for a family vacation. These trips are some of the fondest memories of my childhood.
It’s funny how the smell of cigarettes in the summer heat reminds me so much of these times. My father smoked since he was thirteen, and although I hate the smell of smoke, something about that smell in the summer air takes me back to some of my best moments with him.
The food, the beach, mini golf and boardwalk every night; we loved it. My dad, mom, brother and I all have memories from these trips that will last a lifetime.
When I look back on these days now knowing that we didn’t have much money, I can’t help but think, who the hell did he rob to make this happen?! I’m not sure, but hey, we had a blast.
For all the trips and memories, thank you, dad.
When I was a teenager, it never mattered what time of the day it was, my father was the ride for my friends and I. He’d pick us up in the middle of the night, dead of winter, hair standing straight up because I woke him from a deep sleep. He’d be in his pajamas and slippers with all the windows closed, smoking cigarettes, of course. I’d laugh at my friends who’d argue about who was going to sit behind him because no one wanted to get covered with ash.
When they’d ask if he could crack the window a bit more, he’d simply reply “You don’t like it? Walk!”
On long rides to and from parties or day trips to the Jersey Shore he loved telling us stories of the old days. My friends and I would crack up at the ridiculous things he’d say and he loved every minute of it. He’d blast Frankie Valli, Frank Sinatra and other oldies when he needed some motivation for his next story. The only downside of these trips was how bad you’d smell of smoke by the time we arrived.
For all the rides and all the stories, thank you, dad.
When I look back at my wrestling matches, hockey and football games growing up, there weren’t many that he missed. He’d be there with my Uncle John, standing off to the side, smoking, of course.
For showing up over the years, thank you, dad.
In 2013 my father’s health began to rapidly decline. He started to lose weight at an incredibly fast pace and couldn’t seem to stand or walk without falling. It took months of convincing, but some time in November we were able to get him to go to the hospital. I left work at the firehouse in the morning and picked him up. He was basically stuck in the basement. Unable to walk on his own, I put his arm around my shoulders, my arm around his back and helped him to my car.
From that day on my father never walked again.
His health continued to decline for seven years. Some of the things my family and I witnessed him go through were unimaginable. It sure as hell wasn’t easy for him or any of us, but my father was just as resilient as he was stubborn and somehow kept getting through it.
But through all the hell and hard times that he went through, there was one positive that I will never forget. We developed a stronger bond over these seven years than we’ve ever had. We grew closer, talked about things we’ve never spoken about before, and for the first time that I could remember, said that we loved each other.
For the relationship that we developed these last seven years, thank you, dad.
I wish it could’ve kept going. I wish we had more time together. I wish that we could have done more. But since this is the end of the road, old man, I want you to know this.
Ever since I was a kid I looked up to you. We may have disagreed and argued quite often, but I always loved you.
I pushed you over the years because I wanted what was best for you. I wanted you to get healthy. I wanted you to have a better life.
Regardless of anything that was ever said, I know that you cared.
I know that you loved us.
Whether I like it or not, your qualities are in me. When I see old pictures of you I can’t believe how much we look alike. No matter what you will always be a part of who I am.
Our conversations, your one-liners, your clever insults, and our time spent together will stay with me for my lifetime.
I don’t think I ever told you this, but my driving force to be successful is you. Since I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to make you proud.
I never heard you say it, but hopefully, you are. I think that you are.
But if not, I’ll keep trying.
I’m going to miss you, dad. I really am.
But I know one day we’ll be together again. And when that day comes I’ll have the opportunity to look at you and say thank you, for being my dad.
See you around, old man.