Those that know me best, know that I come from a one parent home, but that’s not exactly true. It is true that the man that was my biological father was absent for much of my life, but that’s not to say that I did not have a father growing up. That role would fall to my grandfather (on my mom’s side – sadly I never got to know my grandparents on my father’s side although I’ve heard they were wonderful people). He helped shape me to become the man that I am today.
I remember the little things he’d do for us growing up, food shopping, always getting a little goody or two for me to snack on during the week, he’d always get the no name stuff, working so hard all your life makes you come to respect that money doesn’t come easily. Listening to ’80s Celtics games and baseball on the radio, him explaining to me things I’d ask about or did not understand. When I was little I guess I had a knack of bumping my head on the corners of the kitchen table, which were sharp right angles. He sanded them down to rounded edges so I wouldn’t hurt myself on them anymore. The times weren’t always fun and games though – if I needed discipline , he’d give it as well. There would be Friday nights when he’d take me down to the mall and we’d get a pizza – the old Papa Gino’s that existed in the Assembly Square Mall way back when. That’s what grandpa’s do.
He helped me with financial aid and times when I needed rides. I can still remember the time he tried to beat the E line subway train on Huntington Avenue by Ruggles by gunning his K-Car across the subway tracks and scared me half to death. He had a daredevil way about him. Looking back know I laugh at it. I miss that. In many ways he helped get me going and starting out on my own. He never helped me with any homework (he had to drop out of school by 6th grade to work and help out his family – that’s what you did back then), but he taught me a lot of other things. And although he never openly showed us love, I knew in my heart of hearts that he did.
One of the saddest days of my life is when I saw him die. He had been suffering from congestive heart failure for a few years toward the end. He probably could have prolonged his life further I bet by not being so stubborn and doing what the doctor told him, but that wasn’t his way. I caught him a few times sneaking a cigarette by the side of the house, he had been a smoker since he was a teenager. Of course back then , he told me he took it up because my grandma at the time had considered it “manly”. My, how the times have changed. His face always lit up when I visited him in the hospital when he saw me, even covered up by all those tubes and oxygen masks.
I can remember telling him “Thank You for everything!” as he looked at me with my tears streaming from my eyes, myself being unable or even unwilling to try to stop them. I can remember him looking up to the ceiling after that, all loaded up with morphine to ease his pain, and it looked like he was seeing something, and then he tensed up, and let out a sigh, kind of, and that was it. He was gone. I think he didn’t really want to go, but he held on just long enough to see that we’d be alright and able to fly on our own now.
Even to this day, I can sense him watching over me, especially in the times when I feel I need him there, by my side, in spirit. That’s what grandpa’s do. That’s what father’s do.
So now today I am who I am thanks to his guiding hand. And I like to think he watches on me from above in all that I’ve accomplished and have yet to.
Job well done, “Dad”.