When you lose a father when you are barely 16, its a big deal. I remember it as the most difficult period of my life. I was in tenth grade. He was a man who had a major heart condition, who should have never tried to go to work in a heavy snowstorm, on the first day of Spring, 1958. I tried to stop him as he was under doctor’s orders not to walk in heavy sand or snow. School was already cancelled. I put my arm across his path trying to stop him. He pushed me aside and went down the stairs. I knew it. Forty five minutes later, the Weehawken police are at our door. He collapsed in the Port Authority and was taken to St. Claire’s Hospital on W. 52nd St. When my mother and I arrived, they put us in a room and told us he was dead. They gave me his stuff, rings wallet, change etc. in a paper bag.
My mom had a major depression following his death and came out of her room only to go to work and do the minimal chores. I was on my own, alone and I started to have panic attacks, and scary dreams. I tried to figure them out myself and I started reading Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. It helped to think differently from a lot of people. But I now had some clarity on what I need to do to survive and hopefully prosper. But for now it was just an idea. Any wonder I wound up a therapist?
I was feeling sorry for myself and knew my road was going to be harder than the other kids. We were poor and I wasn’t being guided. On baseball Awards Day I watched other kids’ fathers escort them to the podium. After games I watched dads and sons game talkin’. I was envious of every kid who had a catch with his dad.
I Went with my father to his doctor and listened to Dr. Fialk tell my father he had to quit smoking. He never did. For years I was mad at him for never even trying to quit. Took it a sign I wasn’t important enough.
Father’s Day was a lonely one for me, every year a cruel reminder of Loss. One year I bought him a card and left it at his grave. I Did this thing in my head, and damn it I still do it. I would do the math, 16 years with him, 1 year without. 16 years with him, 10 years without. Today we are 16 years with, and 59 without. Some things never go away.
It really only changed when I had my kids, not that I ever stopped thinking of him, but now I was the dad, and I made sure I was going to be around for a long long time. I would try to teach them to see and listen. Well at 75 I still feel young and am healthy, and Am here for my kids and hopefully theirs. So, Happy Father’s Day dad, I still miss you. You had my back in those early years and it saved me some skin.