I went to call you last night. I was sitting in my room, watching grown men play a child’s game. Alone. And when the last out was registered, in an improbable no-hitter, I needed to share my delight. I wanted to call you. But I couldn’t.
Since you left, a mere 18 months ago, there have been many moments, when I have wanted to call. To say, hello, to ask for advice, to share good news, and bad. To discuss world events or shoot the breeze. To hear your corny jokes and lift your spirits. Or have you lift mine. To boast or to lament, to celebrate another Mets’ victory. But I can’t.
If we live long enough, we will all experience loss. But losing a parent is extra difficult. You knew that better than most, having lost your mother at such an early age.
The death of a father is hard because of the countless roles he plays in our lives. Like many girls, he was my first love—fathers are role models for our future relationships. Before we leave the home, they are our care providers, protectors, teachers, moral guides, coaches, and breadwinners. A knight in shining armor with all the nicks and scratches buffed out.
If we are lucky, our dads are life-long friends. Until they are gone.
Last night, I wanted to call you.
Sadly, I’ve experienced this feeling before. When Mommy left us, there were millions of moments when I needed to call and hear her voice. Although I was about to flee the nest and embark on adulthood, her job wasn’t done, and I felt so alone. So needy. How would I go on? Navigating dating, marriage, childbirth, and womanhood alone?
Thankfully, there were some surrogate ladies who filled the void, but for the most part, I learned to fend for myself. It was life-changing to be a motherless daughter when all of my friends had theirs. It was painful.
Yes, I had my father, but quickly, you had found someone else. A lady who filled your days, and nights. She changed your life, and in many ways saved it. So, you went your way, and I went mine, relegated to an occasional telephone call and even less frequent visits. You started a new life with her and left ours behind.
There was a hole in my heart that couldn’t be fixed.
I cried many tears, but the experience also made me stronger, more independent, and more resilient. When the babies came, I thought it would change, but it didn’t. The hands-on Daddy I worshiped would become an absentee grandfather.
You can point fingers, and so can I, but in truth, it doesn’t matter. We came around; instead of sharing moments on your knee or alongside you in the car, it was via cellphone. The quick moments or “how do you feel today?” and the in-depth discussions on baseball, politics, work, the weather, and aging. The corny jokes returned and I was happy.
But the many ailments you bravely fought were taking their toll, and you grew weary. The countless visits to doctors, the endless hours of dialysis, and the isolation of COVID-19 were too much for you to handle. You made a brave choice to let go, but not before dictating your obituary to me. How brave was that?
Despite the physical and emotional pain, you had a message to convey. We were reminded that you overcome a sad childhood, were grateful for the women in your life (your mother, stepmother, my mother, your second wife, and your two daughters). The world needed to know you were a hard worker and a man of modest means. A child of The Depression who would never imagine the adventures he experienced later in life. You had stories to share one last time, making sure they were memorialized for your grandchildren to hear, repeat, and emulate.
This was your legacy.
The Bible says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).
Finally, it was important that you let us know, that you had no regrets. After years of self-reflection, neither do I. Few can say that, but you had made peace.
There would be one last call, and thankfully, I let you know the score of the day’s baseball game. The nurse said you smiled. Then I told you I loved you, again. Shortly thereafter, you were gone.
There will be other ballgames and moments I long to share. Last night I wanted to call you.