Replacing Fear with Love….
Hello! From Long Island. An island of beauty. An island of state parks & abundance of nature, all surrounded by water. It’s my land. The same island my parents moved us to 60+ years ago. From Brooklyn, New York. They were living the American dream. They told the story many times. My father borrowed 500 dollars from Grandpa Angelo, to put down on a foreclosed home in Huntington Station, New York. On a whim, they decided to move to the suburbs. A big backyard and a pool! I was one years old when we moved from Brooklyn. I would stay with my Nanny for a week or two in the summers in Brooklyn. Good Times. Carefree and light. I loved the vibe of the inner city. In 1962, My Dad was appointed to the NYPD. It was the same year I was born. He often told the story that one day he got on the road to his new job as a Police officer in (where else?) BROOKLYN! He drove 2 hours in traffic to get to the new post and thought he made a terrible mistake! How could I move my family out to the “boonies” the potato fields! And, now travel several hours a day back and forth? Was it all worth it? Somehow, someway, he did it and he never complained. He worked nights and days and a lot of overtime. He loved fixing up the house and mowing the lawn. He made a beautiful vegetable garden and tended to it for hours each week. He loved fishing and coaching sports and camping. He loved planting flowers and rose bushes for my Mom. He loved his life and family. He taught us everything. He took us everywhere. He had very few friends, (you can count true ones on one hand Lisa Marie..he would tell me) IF you’re lucky enough! He loved a good meal, a strong cup of coffee and he loved to grill meat and spend time with his kids. He always worked hard. He was always sweaty and dirty from work. Building something, fixing something, he LOVED it, his life, simple abundance. He was happy and satisfied with life on Long Island. He loved and protected us. He had an extensive career with the NYPD. He retired 20+ years later with many great stories and a Bachelors degree in psychology/sociology. He definitely lived the American Dream. The difference was he appreciated everything he achieved and earned. He took care of everything. He provided. He encouraged and supported us. He was a tough ole bird. A no nonsense, do it my way (the right way) kinda guy. As I became a wife and mother, he became my bestfriend. Gladly, giving me sound advice. He encouraged me and supported me. He valued me, he trusted me. We became close and respected each other so much. We only moved once as a child, to a larger home to accommodate my Grandparents moving in with us. It was well “crowded” but, we were a family, together, supporting one another. When my Dad retired, he bought a bar and saved all his money and moved to Florida with my Mom. They bought a new retirement home in a cul-de-sac. Life seemed perfect….or so we thought. Ten years later, my Mom convinced him to move back to Long Island. She longed to be closer to her children and now Grandchildren. He did it. He wanted her to be happy. For my Dad, Life was simple. He never complicated anything. He had his priorities and his shit together at all times. Who knew I would be so much like him? Who knew his strength and love would carry me, sustain me, heal me through my darkest times. My Dad was the Rock, the epicenter of our family. He died, quickly, at 64 from stage 4 lung cancer. He didn’t even know he had it. He was not ready to cash in… he begged God. He begged the oncologists for just a couple more years. He cherished life. He didn’t get his wish. He only lived 7 months through horrendous Chemo and Radiation treatment, and then he died. Cancer sucks. He was so sick and vulnerable. We never left his side. We all stood in the sunlight, surrounded by each other, holding each other and sadly, watching him die slowly. During the last days he had a spiritual awakening. He was born a Catholic, oddly, he was more an agnostic. He played on the fence about religion and spirituality. He believed in God. He didn’t worship. True fact: In the 80’s, He met the Pope (John Paul) on the steps of city hall. The Pope stopped and gave him a medal and a blessing. I remember that night. He came home with a light in his eyes. He said.. I just met the man who has seen the eyes of God! He was awakened…impressed. That was short lived for him at that time.
When he came home from his last treatment, he was sick. He couldn’t sleep, or eat. The doctors scanned his body and told him the cancer had spread. He should get his affairs in order. He was in shock. I sit in the tiny office with my Mom and watch him beg the doctor. Heart wrenching. I’m so weak Doc, but, if you think I should try another round… he stops my Dad and softly tells him. Tom, No, I don’t recommend another cycle. I recommend you consider hospice and get your affairs in order. Time stops. The clock ticks. We leave. My mother is crying. I am driving them back home. The end is near. He says to my Mom. Are you crying for me or are you crying because I am dying? I don’t remember her answer. We just cried. We all gathered. He wanted us all to be with him. It was late September. His favorite time of year. Cool, breezy spectacular weather. He couldn’t sleep anymore. He would get up at 2, 3 in the morning. Organizing papers. Paying bills, etc. Then he would walk with my Mom. He made/designed and built a magical garden in their new little house. She wanted an oriental garden, Pergola, with a pond and a waterfall…a huge vegetable garden…he built it all, with his hands and heart…just for her. He grew his favorite flower, The Morning Glory vine. He grew them every year. He would pick each color and hold it in his hands. He made her a bouquet every day and he would say… Mitzi.. have you ever seen a more beautiful color in your life? Look at this blue… pink…white…God made these. They are simply perfect beauty. He lived for a week in a spiritual awakening. He called for his son Michael to come home from N. Carolina. He knew his time was near. He was sick, dehydrated, weak, malnourished, sleepless. Yet, he smiled. He stared at my children and held them. He took them on short rides on his ATV and laughed and played catch. We all stood strong, dying right along side him. Our rock. our mentor, our father who protected and loved us every single day of our lives was sick. Nothing Else Mattered. NOTHING. No job, no money, the world stopped and we grieved and loved each other. We were a family. We were all shattered. When my brother Michael arrived. He stood up and walked to the door and he said.. My Hero. Finally, He is here! Shaking and trembling he waited to hug his son. My father died 2 days later. In fact, he waited till his hero arrived and gave him permission to go to Jesus. My brother Michael told him… Daddy, go to Jesus Daddy, I got Mommy, I will take care of her. My brother told me, my Dad in a semi coma, took one breath in and didn’t quite exhale. He passed peacefully with my brother holding him tight. My Mother was taking a bath. It was the greatest loss of our lives. It is over twenty years ago that we lost this great man, husband, father and son. I remember him in the hospital bed watching the coverage of the 9/11 attack. He was such a patriot! He absorbed and purchased time life books of 9/11. He still was well and able enough to support and mentor my youngest brother Anthony, who served as a first responder immediately after the bombings. I am grateful that he was alive and able to help his boy, Tony, his Tiger as he nicknamed him. He served in the US Air Force as a intelligence specialist in Berlin Germany during the Korean war. My oldest brother Thomas was born in a AF hospital in Berlin. He lead a very interesting life on earth. He was raised by a single mother and worked since he was 11 years old. He had a strong opinion about most things. IF you asked for it, be prepared to get a straight forward one. He had an arrogance and a confidence that sometimes made him butt heads, but he was fair and honest and trustworthy. He told us often. No one, I mean NO ONE loves or cares for you like your parents and grandparents and siblings. They are all you have in this harsh, sometimes cruel world. If you are ever in real trouble, we will always be there to help and rescue you. Don’t ever forget that. I never have. I think of him often. I wonder how he would have approached this pandemic/virus state of affairs. I know he would have provided everything he had for his family and neighbors. He would keep us safe. He would protect his little world. Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that all we really have right Now? Each Other? Nothing else should matter. Stay safe, stay home, be smart, be brave. This too shall pass. Amen.
In loving memory of my father… Thomas Joseph.
with eternal love & abundance