Dad was a cherished father, husband, grandfather, uncle and landlord. My brother described him as the mortar that holds the bricks of our family. My pater adored his wife and family, opera, Sarah Brightman, Marilyn Monroe, Luciano Pavarotti, the United States Marines, good food, chocolate, peanut butter on a spoon, clams on the half shell, art, dancing, stained-glass making and roulette.
My 95-year-old patriarch had quite a sense of daring, risking taking and humor. Let me share.
In the military, he shaved his head on a dare.
On the way home from the South Pacific in 1945, he gambled and won $1,500; he brought two exotic birds home to my twenty-year-old mother.
At three years of age, I had a high fever and wouldn’t take my medicine. Dad disguised himself to persuade me to take the horrible-tasting liquid, borrowed my uncle’s fedora hat and trench coat. With a pair of Groucho Marx eyeglasses, replete with eyebrows and a mustache, calling himself Dr. Botchagaloop, he grabbed my mother in a sweeping embrace. He kissed her on the mouth and said: “Don’t tell your father.” I took my prescription.
At five-years of age, my tooth was loose. I moaned. He teased me by saying: “Let’s tie a string around the tooth and connect it to the door knob. We’ll close the door and the tooth will be pulled out. I stopped complaining.
In the sixties, he passionately believed in nutrition. We’d listen to Carlton Fredericks, the nutritionist, on WOR-AM radio. I can still remember CF’s voice! We ate very green lettuce, had no soda and wheat germ was mixed in with our Italian meatballs, and everything my parents baked.
One Halloween, when I was about sixteen, he picked me up by car dressed like a woman – with lipstick, false breasts and a kerchief on his head. I remember being so embarrassed.
Later in life, he took to telling jokes, both PG and R rated. He kept the punch lines to these jokes in his wallet, and remembered his stories so well.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, he was having difficulty breathing and was taken to the emergency room, admitted to hospital, and then placed in ICU. On Monday, December 1, while holding a family member’s hand, he said: “Turn off the TV and the lights. I’m going to sleep now. Goodnight everybody.” His eyes were open. A few moments later, he closed them: his spirit left his body at 6:38 p.m. All the monitoring equipment went flat, immediately.
I am at peace with his passing, as I know he missed my mother terribly. He periodically talked about joining her. (She passed on January 15th this year.) We will forever miss him (and his belly laugh) and he will always be in our hearts.
I will speak to you on December 22nd.