Dear Dad: It’s hard to believe that you have been gone for two
years today. I remember getting the call that you died as if it
Mom said from Fort Myers that you just had a spaghetti dinner –
for a skinny Irish guy, you sure loved spaghetti and pizza – and
that you collapsed outside the little restaurant where they already
knew and loved you.
Dear Dad: It’s hard to believe that you have been gone for two years today. I remember getting the call that you died as if it were yesterday.
Mom said from Fort Myers that you just had a spaghetti dinner – for a skinny Irish guy, you sure loved spaghetti and pizza – and that you collapsed outside the little restaurant where they already knew and loved you.
Mom said the paramedics worked so hard to get your heart beating again, even though it was obvious that you were on full oxygen and had a pacemaker, and that the odds for revival were slim.
They instinctively knew it was someone special in this world, we agreed that night, and it made us feel a little better.
I was especially sad because I didn’t spend Christmas with you in Florida that year, like the previous year when we had so much fun. The plans changed because the Winter Olympics loomed in Utah, where I was the Editor at a newspaper in Provo. You said to wait until June, when the weather would be that much better for us and for your passion with the game of golf.
You said to take care of work, to do your job as well as you can, just like you always did. I wish I would have overruled you, but I learned that sometimes you don’t get another chance to see someone you love so dearly.
I never saw you cry, no matter how sad or difficult the circumstances were. When someone died in our family, even when it was your mom and dad and sister, you were the strong one who called the funeral home, who took care of the necessities.
That didn’t mean you weren’t emotional. Are you kidding? One minute you were a rocket ready to blast off, the next holding a trembling puppy softly in your arms.
I stubbornly refused to cry during your wake and funeral, even when the VFW guys marched in and saluted through tears of their own, even when your beloved golf partners “The 76ers” filed in, even when the bagpiper played “Danny Boy”, even when “The Parting Glass” was played and sung as we rolled you out of church, even when they fired the 21-gun salute, even when I privately said goodbye to you after the tent at the cemetery had emptied and we were alone for a moment.
This past Christmas, I declared a no-tears day again in your honor.
I walked in the rain on the beach at the ocean and thought about how much you taught me and meant to me from the time I could remember to this very minute.
Sometimes you reasoned with people so well, they knew you meant every word and just wanted to do the best for everyone. You never lied about anything. You were known for telling it like it is.
You also taught me to fiercely stand up for myself and our family and close friends. Take a stand against bullies and cowards, they are usually the same. Put up your dukes if you have to. Keep your elbows together. Aim for right between the eyes.
The past year has been even more difficult without you than the first. The Notre Dame games were so emotional. Guess what? They couldn’t tackle worth a damn this season. And they never passed on first down!
I did see them clobber Stanford in person, and I felt you sitting there next to me in the cold and rainy stadium that night when our Fighting Irish magnificently marched down the field and scored a touchdown on their opening drive.
The local high school band did a great job on the Notre Dame Fight Song and I knew you were helping “ring down the thunder from the sky.”
Christmas brought a lot of memories of when we were young and you worked so hard at those tough jobs in the steel mills or factories as a pipecoverer. But you always greeted me and my brother with hugs no matter how exhausted you were.
There were always presents under the tree for us, no matter how slow work was or how tight money was for a young married couple owning their first home.
I sure missed seeing you or at least talking to you on St. Patrick’s Day, but the photo of you marching in the South Side parade sits on my desk as a daily reminder.
There was a Veteran’s Day parade in downtown Hollister and I sure thought of you and how proud you were to be elected Commander of the VFW post in Michigan City. Your picture from when you were in the Army in Korea is also in my office.
Well, I better get back to work. “Keep your nose to the grindstone” you used to say and it still makes me laugh.
I sure miss you, Dad. But you are with me every day because I’m a lot like you.
And you were right: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Thanks for always being there for me, Dad, which continues to this day.
You are my all-time hero.
I love you.
Mike Fitzgerald is Associate Publisher/Executive Editor of the Hollister Free Lance. He can be reached at 637-5566 ext. 337 or at [email protected] His commentary appears in every weekend edition.