Seven Eleven PM
Seven Eleven 2008
We made it in time. The family gathered around. I’ll get to that….
Growing up Irish and Catholic and east coast is problematic and beautiful all at the same time. It's a vicious cocktail of passion and love and guilt and rage and peace and comedy which is combined to create a blood so thick that it can be the only thing responsible for the Faith this family has had in itself, and for a man and wife to be married for 50 years.
The prior posts have led to this. My father has not been well and his condition worsened in such a ferocious pace these last two weeks. It was startling to us all including his doctors. By 6 AM this morning, my sisters said simply “…this is it. We'll do what we can to help him be alive but try if you can to get here soon.” And within 20 minutes, I was booked and bound for the east coast later this morning.
I went over to Tad ‘s house after school one day. Took Bus 6 home with him to play. Bill showed up too and what started out fun, turned into a vicious tag team of those guys versus me in a way that made me doubt myself, my life my whole being. Them against me. I never experienced alienation before in my life and theirs came in such a frontal assault that I felt nothing but betrayal. I just ran away from them and never looked at those kids the same way again. The walk home was really long. Up and down the hills of my small town in Connecticut until I finally made it home and met my parents unexpectedly after dinner. I cried. I was betrayed and ousted out of that circle of what I thought were my friends. The next day was Saturday. Paper route day and a big route. Dad took me in the car this time and when we got to the last mailbox on the route, he did not do the U turn he normally did to go back home but drove on atypically. I asked him “Where we going? To the store?” He just said “Umm, nah, I’ve got to get this thing I forgot to pick up.” So we drove for a bit and he banged into the shopping plaza and parked in front of the new bike store that opened a few weeks prior. He shut off the Volare’s motor and turned to me and as he did so the seats crinkled with that faux leathery sound: “My son will never walk home from anywhere again.” And he took me inside and allowed me to choose the bike I wanted. It was a GT Pro Performer. White. I was 12.
I walked into the critical care unit tonight and I walked in to the room to an array of smiles. My mom, sisters and brother in law. There he was. "Papa!" I yelled but this time he did not turn to look at me like he did last time. He was certainly different than he was even two weeks ago when I came to see him. Thinner. Machines were keeping him alive. His eyes were moving with lids 3/4 shut. He was so hot when I leaned over and kissed him on his forehead. A fever raging given the chemical pneumonia that had begun two nights ago.
We are all there. My left hand reached under the sheets and found his and I interlocked my fingers with those of his left hand. I could feel my ring clink against his. Two married men deeply in love with the wives who make us the men we are, and mom next to me with my sisters and my brother in law watching over us who has guided us all like an angel these dark days. We phase in and out of gut laughs to cries of disbelief that this is it. But we mostly smile.
The machinery displayed numbers that do not lie. We watched as numbers declined.
I could smell the exhaust of the car as he’d start this old Mazda up on winter mornings. My room above the garage so the smell would just seep through. He’d be up at 4:45 and on the road by 5 to catch the 6:20 train from Stamford to NYC. A commute he did every day for 25 years. Winters in Connecticut are legendary, and Mazdas with their rotary pea shooter engines are not capable of much in snow. So I’d sit and watch him from the window from my bedroom as he try to propel the car UP the hill….then watch it come sliding back down. Then UP again….and slide on back down again. Comedy. Five children raised. All put through college on his wage. The dedication to try and get a Mazda up a snowy treacherous hill to get to work the symbol of dedication to us.
We were all there as the numbers cascaded to zero. The heat in him still raging as he shuddered and then peacefully drifted off. His spirit was long ago released and watching us watch him. Watching as we were stroking the whitening hair on his head. Forehead kissed. I know this.
My hand released his. And I ensured precision when I placed it back upon him. I laid out his fingers on his belly for a moment and then put mine on top of his. Measuring the exactness of the similarities of our hands. The largeness of our knuckles and the thinness of our fingers. I pulled the blanket back over.
My hands are his. I am like him. I am like you. You are like yours. You are needed and wanted. You are loved and you live. I say this to you my readers for whatever it may be worth.
Life is a series of choices. Choose to be there. Whatever 'there' may mean to you.
Keep the Faith my father. My choices past and future are eternally rooted in things you taught me.