Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Hero - A Tribute to My Father

June 2, 1989, I lost my hero. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word to describe my father before, but nothing could be more fitting. How could I possibly capture all he was in my twenty two years, seven months, and five days with him into several paragraphs? (In actuality, he is in my thoughts everyday, so the clock is still running.) At the risk of failing miserably, this is my attempt.

(Right: Dad in 1961 Honeymoon in Montreal)
(Below: Grandma, Grandpa, & Heidi 1964)
It’s hard for any child to imagine his parents actually had lives before his arrival. To the best of my knowledge, here are some of the “before me” years. My father was born in Springfield Massachusetts on November 14, 1932 to Italian immigrants. His father worked several jobs but most notable in my mind was his work as a grip at MGM studios. His mother ran the house. She passed when I was quite young. My sister and I often comment that she had a face that looked as if it belonged on the bottle of authentic Italian pasta sauce. When he was a child, the family relocated (some have said fled due to Uncle Arty's mafia involvement) in California. My father attended parochial school through eighth grade and then attended Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. Upon graduation, class valedictorian if I recall correctly, he enlisted in the United States Navy at the height of the Korean War. Serving on the U.S.S. Philippine Sea (below), he worked with the carrier’s catapult and arresting gear.

Following an honorable discharge he lived in New Jersey where he later met and married my mother (below: Mom in 1961-Honeymoon in Boston) My sister was born in 1963. Following their move to California, I came along in 1966. Here in California, my father worked for Hughes Aircraft Company. He rarely talked about work but I know he worked with data processing. He remained employed by Hughes until he was unable to continue working shortly before his death. These details are of course just a quick overview of some of the specifics in his life. I’d have to consult my aunt for more specifics. What follows are my memories.

Everyone loved my dad. Everyone. He was in every sense of the word, a gentleman. By no means was he perfect and his humility would have him be the first to tell you this. As with most boys, I perceived my dad as larger than life. He was strong and could seemingly do anything. I don’t mean to have this viewed through rose colored glasses. We were not the happiest of families, made evident in the divorce of my parents in early 1981. Through all of this, however, there were indeed shining moments.

I’m a baseball fan. More specifically, I’m a DODGER FAN. Why? My dad. He introduced me to the game. He explained the rules. He taught me to love the game. He took me to Dodger Stadium to watch the team. I don’t have a specific memory that stands out. I think they all just rolled up into one. I really enjoyed the movie, 61*. But it wasn’t until the behind the scenes footage on the DVD that I loved the movie. In it, Billy Crystal describes his love for the game because of his dad. Similarly, it’s why I fall apart every time I watch the last 5 minutes of Field of Dreams.

Indian Guides
I never realized all the things my dad sacrificed for me. He took me faithfully to our weekly Indian Guide meetings. He even wore the ridiculous outfit that we kids wore. He built the coolest cars for me to race in the annual Pine-wood Derby.

Sundays at the Beach
Every Sunday we moved to the beach. We packed our car full with all the paraphernalia we’d need (and not need) for our weekly outing. Hoisted high upon his shoulder was the ice chest. I think this is where I got my early impression of how strong he was.

These simple memories might not sound to be anything extraordinary. Perhaps not. In fact, some would call them mundane. But I would not trade them for anything.

I don’t know exactly when my father was diagnosed with diabetes. I believe it was when he was when I was much younger. I don’t think I was fully aware of his disease until he suffered kidney failure in 1981, resulting in him becoming a dialysis patient for the rest of his life. Over the next eight years my father experienced just about every major complication that comes with the disease: toe amputations at first, open heart surgery, right leg amputation just below the knee, and countless hospital admissions. Had he lived longer, he would have gone blind. Witnessing this man-my father; Daddy,-deteriorate in body and at times in mind was the most painful thing I have ever endured.

Although broken in body, my father’s faith endured to the end. During this time, I came to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I invited my father to attend church with me. He showed an interest right away. He had been raised in the Catholic Church but as an adult, did not pursue it. During one Sunday service, the pastor gave an invitation for anyone that wanted to acknowledge Christ for salvation. Those responding were to remain standing while the rest of us were seated. Descending to my seat, I nudged my father as if to say, “We’re supposed to sit now.” But he stood firm. My father had received Christ. What an absolute joy. Although he went through bouts of doubt, and he wished he knew the bible better, his faith never wavered.

On the Easter before his death, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with him for numerous hours in his room. We talked about many things. I am most grateful that I got to tell him how I felt. He had expressed his grief over how certain things had turned out, namely his illness and the break up of our family. In response, I told him that he was the bravest man I knew. Although he felt horrible most of the time, my father was not a complainer.

Two days prior to his passing, I prayed that God would either heal him, or take him home. On June 2, 1989, Jesus took my father home. Although I would have loved more time with him here, his time here was done. Oh how wonderful for him to have heard the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

I love you, Dad and miss you every day. I long for the day to see you again in the presence of our gracious Lord.

(Dad in August 1981)


NuRose said...

Beautiful. Thanks for your comments on my blog about my father. Yours was so heartfelt; I think it is something that you never get past. But we had them; we had them for whatever time...And that is the miracle. God Bless You.

NuRose said...

Thanks for your comments about my father and the blog. God Bless you on your journey; he is with you, always. That is the blessing...

NuRose said...

Thanks so much for your comments on the note to my dad...I can feel your loss, but know God is holding his hand, always. I loved your piece, and the photos...

Enoch said...

Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog. I'll be sure to revisit. I had the "comment moderation" field checked so I didn't see your comments until now. Thanks again.

Dillo said...

More pictures! This was great! Touching journey back in time! I didn't realize your dad had been visiting the beach/coast for so long---I remember you and I had many great adventures from his place.