I want to acknowledge the elephant in the browser: it's been four weeks since my last post, for a plethora of reasons, but where writing's concerned, I've been listening more than talking over the last month. That's impossible to believe (for those who know me). But as experiences filter through the grey matter, I'll write about it in the future.
This morning, I received this text from my childhood partner in crime, Susan: "Just wanted to say how much I love your Dad and thinking of you. Are you making chicken pot pie or apple in his memory? I miss him. He was such a man of inspiration and integrity. Loved him so much."
It's hard to believe that today marks three years since he went Home, with a capital H. Two weeks later, on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy tore through the east coast. It's not a time soon forgotten, yet it's strangely other-worldly to think about knocking on his front door or hearing the pounding of this size fourteen Florsheim's approaching, and it's precious to bring the memories back.
Most people knew that Dad was a creative cook in later years, and apple and chicken pot pie were among our favorites. The aroma must have wafted to Susan's, because she always showed up the same day a pie was made and before her jacket was off, she picked off half the perimeter of crust. Dad would later remove it from the refrigerator to slice into it, and with same degree of indignation each time, he'd ask who hacked into it. We all knew who it was. He knew, too. He'd laugh about it.
When we were with Dad, life felt predictable, filled with routine and ritual. After I was married, I'd stop by and he'd say "Hey, how 'bout a cup of tea?" this is Irish code to sit at the kitchen table and talk about our worlds. Remembering all of it, from the Formica table to the wagon wheel chandelier and the sound of the whistling teapot all brings with it a bittersweet pang.
Most Irish keep sadness and pain in check through insane humor, and I know Dad would want me to tell some of the funnier stories. Yesterday, Carol phoned. She's another lifelong friend and Susan's sister and the mother of four teenagers. She spoke about the rigors of single parenting since her husband, Steve, went Home within days after Hurricane Sandy.
Parenthood is a wonderful, yet challenging vocation, and when I think of Mom raising nine children, I wonder what went through her mind when she first opened her eyes each morning. Carol likes to hear Mom & Dad parenting stories, because she loved them and also because in sharing their stories, they validate her human experience.
I was in a rebellious stage in sixth grade and wasn't working as hard as I was expected. And when I say rebellion, I mean I wanted no part of school. The dean made an appointment with Dad and the three of us sat there in her small office. She was speaking about me, but never once looked at me. She tried to instill punishment best practices in Dad's head by talking about the extravagant privileges she'd remove from her son if he'd performed like me, and if she were in Dad's position.
The revelation of the dean's leverage options for punishing her son illustrated her wealth as much as it exposed our poverty. The more she spoke, the more Dad's cheeks blew out and his lips pursed. I felt like I was seated along the edge of a volcano, watching magma rise into its mouth. When Dad delivered a machine-gun-like "Hey," (pronounced hay-ay-ay-ay), I knew it was a bad sign. I cringed.
"Hay-ay-ay-ay, you want my freaking job?" he asked. Her head was still, but the gold beaded chain that hung from the arms of the dean's eyeglasses swung as though it had a life force. I stiffened. "Do YOU want to raise nine kids?" Dad asked. I waited. No takers.
Though I didn't want to go home with the dean that day, it wasn't warm and fuzzy walking out with Dad either. And maybe that was the point. Dad was a bang, zoom, to the moon Jackie-Gleason-style communicator whenever he felt hemmed in. But we were back to warm and fuzzy by evening.
Listening to all the hype about the New York Mets, it's impossible not to think of Dad. When he was in the hospital, regardless of what was happening health-wise, when my husband walked in and mentioned the Mets, he lit up, and they were lost in a discussion of all the finer details of their team.
Dad would have enjoyed following this season and chatting about it. I like to think he is... right there on the other side of that veil celebrating and fist pumping for the sport he enjoyed so much.