Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Letter From Boo-Boo
My sister and I were eating dinner on Sunday, the day our father died, when a thought suddenly popped into my head.
"He used to call me 'Boo-Boo'," I blurted as I zipped up my coat.
For those of you who don't know, Boo-Boo was Yogi Bear's sidekick as the pair of them prowled Jellystone Park in search of picnic (pic-a-nic?) baskets.
I don't remember much about Boo-Boo, but since he was small and I was the baby of our family, I guess it seemed like a natural choice for my dad. I hadn't thought about that nickname in years.
We had a bit of scare earlier this week when the Medical Examiner's Office said they had taken my father's body and required us to go down to their office near King's County Hospital and identify him. It seems that since his injuries resulted from a fall, they "wanted to ask us some questions."
Naturally, it was pouring raining when my sister and I went and naturally I was furious and frightened. I felt like I was being accused of something--like maybe they thought I murdered my father. I half-expeced to see Columbo come walking out and start questioning me.
But all we had to do is sign some forms and ID a photo of my father--it was horrible. His eyes were open and it appeared he had severe bruising to his face, something he did not have when we first saw his body at the hospital.
Our funeral director later told us he didn't see any of these markings and figured they had faded away. But it was very unnerving.
So for the last two days we've been holding our father's wake. Family and friends have been coming to the funeral parlor to pay their respects and offer their support. It's really quite touching. The only good thing about tragedy is that you find out who your friends really are.
We put up a photo board with pictures of my father as a young man--there's a shot of him from the army and several photos of him with my mom and the four brats, his children.
There's even one with my Italian grandmother, so there's three generations in one photo. For all the troubles we had, there were plenty of good times, too.
It's amazing seeing him so young. Having been around him so long when he was old and sick, it's quite a jolt to see him back then when he was strong and healthy.
We put up a board displaying his army medals and a photo of him and my mother taken 25 years ago at my brother's wedding. They're smiling, looking into each other's eyes, and toasting each other. I would like to imagine them like that for all eternity.
My brother from California flew in and walked into the service Tuesday night with his suitcase in his hand. He had a long trench coat on and he looked like a soldier on leave. He's spending the week here with me in our family house and we're kicking around a lot of memories.
We're all exhausted, but the turnout has been quite good. My sister and I picked out a memorial card with a picture of St. Patrick on it, something I know our father, a first class Irishman, would have appreciated.
During the calling hours, Mary, my dad's aide, brought in some of Ronin Tynan's CD's, so we had Irish music playing in the background. My brother said we should have played the Clancy Brothers, since my dad used to play their records non-stop. I grew up hearing The Wild Colonial Boy, The Irish Rover, and, of course, Isn't it Grand?-I still remember the chorus to that one:
"Let's not have a sniffle,
Let's have a bloody good cry,
And always remember the longer you live,
the sooner you bloody well die."
Grief can be so tricky sometimes. I find that I'm able to deal with my mother's loss or my father's loss, but when I think about losing them both, I get very upset. I know all things must pass, but that's a lot easier to say that it is to live it.
I wish I hadn't fought with my father as much as I did. There were just times when we got in each other's way. While I was here, he was forever taking my stuff--clothing, books, whatever, and often damaging them. We fought pretty furiously about that more than once, I can tell you.
As we gathered his clothes for burial, I couldn't find a decent shirt of his. So I donated one of my own shirts and ties for the cause and he will now be buried in some of my clothing. Not too ironic, now is it?
I knelt before his coffin tonight and asked him to forgive me. I squeezed his arm and asked God to take care of him. He went through the Depression and World War II, two events I can't even being to understand.
Tomorrow is the funeral and after that, who knows? I wanted '07 to be a year of change and it's certainly shaping up to be just that.