Sunday, June 16, 2013
I miss you Dad as much today as I did in the immediate days after you passed on. The grief has never abated, my mourning will know no end but it is not a sad and morose presence in my life. Quite the contrary. It is an on-going steady stream of remembrance, some of it wildly funny, other moments weirdly ironic, and other recollections infused with your character, your decency, tolerance and quiet strength. You were a damned good Father despite being hamstrung by life, your wife, and the circumstances of your youth. I understand so much of it so much better today than I did during the silent nights of those weeks I sat vigil at your deathbed. I get it, Dad, I really do.
As the old memory reel of black and white recollections from a black and white time plays in my mind, you have come to mean even more to me in death than you did in life. Don’t get me wrong; I wish at some point of every 24 hour chunk of time that I could pick up the phone and hear your voice or hop on the Uptown 4 train and knock on your apartment door. I know how you’d greet me and that we’d go out on the Avenue for a burger and a few cups of coffee. We were always as comfortable with each other as two people can be, particularly; given you were my Father and I your son. We spoke the same language and shared an uncanny familiarity with the rough terrain of disappointment, frustration, and lost opportunity but, we could laugh at the hands we’d each been dealt secure in the knowledge we’d played them to the best of our ability to bluff, counter and fold. As you said to me on more than one occasion, we were not good luck people or bad luck people; we were simply hard luck people. Perhaps our individual reach was limited by this reality but I think not; at least not in your case.
I am profoundly and eternally grateful, Dad, that there was nothing left unsaid between us. You were my hero as I had said to you so many times especially in the last decade of your life and, as I age and gain a wider perspective afforded only by the passage of years, I appreciate even more who you were, what you stood for, and how you conducted your life; your incredible, selfless sacrifices as well as your indomitable sense of duty. I only wish I possessed a greater allotment of your genes; I’d be a better man if I did.
Only a man possessed of true strength and inherent toughness is capable of showing the gentleness, compassion, and kindness that you did so naturally, so easily. I think of the crucible you were born into and the years that shaped you and that just days after burying your own Father you were on a train out of Penn Station heading to Parris Island and whatever the Marine Corps would come to demand of you. The harsh, often brutal realities of your Marine Corps service shaped you further as much as it did change you but again, your strength, courage and sense of duty never let you falter. To the day you died you exemplified all the Marine Corps stands for and, you endured far too much before you were ultimately called Home. Your departure from here left a void even greater than the life you lived and I know you look down on the children you created and the children they created with quiet satisfaction.
Today I can walk the same streets I walked with you as a boy, a young man and a not so young man and recall vividly so many of our conversations and each step I ever took at your side is cherished, valued beyond measure and remembered with a sense I cannot easily convey. I have stopped from time to time since your death into one of the diners we’d frequent both in my mind and in person. But it is not in those places I recall you best or where your spirit dwells. No, I can visit those places anytime, anywhere I might be.
Your presence is often felt so palpably that I have to remind myself you are gone. But perhaps the truest measure of a man and the life he led is in the vibrancy of the memories he left in the hearts and minds of those he left behind. If so, Dad, you were a Titan, a Giant, an ordinary man with extraordinary character, integrity, Faith, and love. Perhaps not the stuff of Marine Corps legend but certainly the stuff of one man’s, one Father’s legacy.
My prayer for you today is not one of mourning; it is one of respect and gratitude. I thank you for everything you gave me, taught me, told me, and showed me. Be well, Dad.