I clicked on Pandora as Rod Stewart Radio played the famous song "Forever Yours, Faithfully." The title seemed fitting as I thought about Dad and the many things said about him over the last several weeks, especially following the day he drew his last breath, October 16, 2012, the feast day of St. Margaret Mary.
It was easier for me, at one time, to think about all the things I had not accomplished in life or done for others, but through the support of loved ones, great therapy and a wonderful life coach, I have learned gratitude for the goodness I have received and given along life's journey.
Dad's bedside was an appropriate place to think about the wonder of his sacrifice: fatherhood.
I learned a lot about men over the past several years. Regardless of my drive and ability to compete with them on a basketball court when I was young, I see now that their brains are wired different than women's. Whether or not women's rights organizations like it, they have muscle in more places than are said, to wit: the heart to protect and provide for their loved ones.
I picked up a book once written by a man who explained the difference in the way men problem solve, and though I do not recall exact wording, I can relay its essence, so here is a typical conversation between a man and woman:
"I met Alicia at the water cooler today. The bit*h wore the same blouse as me."
Her husband solved the problem quick.
"Don't wear that blouse again."
In a later conversation with her best friend, there was more consolation, camaraderie:
"I met Alicia at the water cooler today. The bit*ch wore the same blouse as me."
"Noooooooo! You mean the blouse you bought at Lord & Taylor?"
"Yes! Do you believe it?"
"The one you paid one-hundred and twenty-nine dollars for?"
"That's horrible, you poor thing!"
The author continued to explain that men are prone to problem solve. A man does not relate to or commiserate with a woman's lament, and his eyes glaze over when she cannot let go.
Dad was the man who used an ice pick and chipped a block of ice in the backyard. Then he filled the coolers with soda and meat and loaded them into the car and drove us to Belmont Park for a picnic. He put us through Catholic School (John has scars to prove it,) fixed our shoes, built bookcases and toiled over his studies as his nine children grew and he climbed the ranks of the New York City Fire Department to the rank of Deputy Chief. After he retired, he learned along with Mom that she was ill. She died the day after my nineteenth birthday, while my sister was just fifteen. These were the sorrow-filled moments that Dad could not resolve, and the early morning of her death was the second time I'd seen him lower his head and weep. The first was the day his father died.
For the most part, women are not like men, and men are not like women. We are distinctly created, one to nurture through compassion and love, the other through the hard work of foraging for provision and problem resolution. In doing so, both show their faithfulness to their loved ones, their instinctive calling.
In the days before Dad passed, I spoke to him about the future.
"Dad, when you get to the other side, you will pray for us, won't you?"
His eyes grew wide with purpose and determination.
"Oh, yes, I will!"
I had no doubt even before I asked. Dad was a man who never slept well. His rosary beads were always either on the night stand or on his pillow in the morning. When the doctor said that Dad would not make day's end and the priest arrived, Dad conjured the strength to pray with all of us.
Today I say thank you, Dad, for your ongoing faithfulness, the many times you plucked at splinters in my small hand and drew a Mercurochrome smile on my palm and prayed for your family in the middle of the night. You are ours and we are yours forever, faith-fully.