Day of Memory
This past weekend was the one-year death anniversary of Tito Frank, a good friend of my Dad's, whose Mass we attended on Saturday at St. Joseph's (JC) -- ironically the same church where I was baptized almost 37 years ago & same priest too (Father Pagnotta, a robust Italian American man of the cloth whose vestment is fortunately large enough to hide his immense circumference). Tito Frank passed away unexpectedly three months before Dad. I remember Dad regretfully upset saying, "I was supposed to go before him." Dad knew even then that Death's invitation to him had arrived. Tito Frank & Dad both died on a long holiday weekend. Sitting in antique & ornate St. Joseph's & witnessing Tita Yoly's mourning, Mom & I were overwhelmed that it had already been a year for Tito Frank's family, and soon it will be a year for us too. For the most part, I've been able to handle the crying. But folks are right when they say you never know when it will hit you.
Like on my bus commute on my first day of work. I started sobbing heavily, & A. didn't know what to do. (Men just get terribly flustered in the presence of women weeping . . . ) I felt as if, Wow, I'm really moving on with my life, & Dad's not here. While I continue to learn to be okay with moving on, the reality of doing so without Dad sometimes bites. And the bite is deep & hard, & it hurts real bad. Sometimes I think, What a blessing for Tito Frank's daughters & sons who have their own kids, whose innocent goodness can perhaps subdue their parents' sorrow. I need to make sure I'm in the company of some kids every so often because being around them helps tremendously.
I also find myself overcome when I explain to my new colleagues why I've been on hiatus from the working world the past eight months. How I'd been thankful to work at a cancer support organization when all went downhill for Dad last summer, only to return from Dad's death and be laid off from work. When A. & I reflect on last summer, we know that it was an unforgettable & most difficult one, moreso than his open heart surgery.
Memory certainly has a way of returning us to the emotions of our experience, some heavyhearted & others joyous. While the end of this summer will mark Dad's one-year death anniversary, I am comforted by many gleeful memories of Dad:
* Roasting & impersonating each other during family holidays.
* Reading every piece I'd written since my newspaper days in grammar school, high school & college & into my internship at The Jersey Journal.
* Singing top-scoring karaoke songs from his era, including Dad's sometimes a little off-key rendition of 'Star Spangled Banner' at Knights of Columbus festivities.
* Using riddled metaphors to communicate a particular message like "A flower without bees buzzing around it smells bad."
* Looking fake-surprised at our 'Perfect Proposal.'
* Bantering with A. over philosophical ideas or trash-talking about who played better tennis.
* Planning enthusiastically for Mom's surprise 65th birthday celebration.
* Toasting to A. & me proudly on our wedding day.
Every day is a day of memory.