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One More Day

Dear Dad,
I sometimes think about  if I had one more day with you…a healthy you…what would I do?  What would I say, that I couldn’t say to you as you lying dying in a hospital bed in August of 1991.  Had I known that you would not make it through the night I probably would have said more.  The last thing I said to you was that I love you…and I will see you later.
First I would tell you that I didn’t know you were dying….or I didn’t want to believe it.  I’m still not sure twenty four years later.  But how does a seemingly healthy man leave his house on Friday for a weekend at Atlantic City and wind up dead on Sunday in a Tom’s River hospital from something called “Sepsis”?  Six days after your 61st birthday, nonetheless.  I have to tell you, as I turned 54 last week you don’t seem as old now as you did when I was 30.
But actually, the first thing I would tell you is that I love you, I miss you terribly and I am proud to be your son.  And I know you loved all of us, too.  You may not have said it very often but you showed it…by how hard you worked, by the way you loved our mother and perhaps most by attending every game of ours that you could, although you probably still would have gone even if none of us were playing!  I wouldn’t have enough hours in the day to tell you all the lessons I learned from you and how I often think of your inner strength and the courage you had.  How did you forgive a man who abandoned your family, leaving his wife, your mother, to raise two young boys?  I still marvel that you were able to become friends..or at least friendly, with your own father after almost 15 years of not seeing him.  How many Father’s Days did your heart break and you long for your dad?  How many questions were left unanswered and likely unasked?  As kids we never knew the story of your father’s abandonment but it does explain why you held so much in…why it was so difficult to talk about yourself or your childhood, so hard to express emotions and why you made your family such a high priority.  I have learned…and cherish…that value. I know now that you were the glue that held our family together; I never thought of that before you died.  However, if I spent the day talking about these things (which you wouldn’t want to talk about anyway) you would never get the chance to do some of the things I had planned.
I don’t know the order we would do things, but here were some of my thoughts.  You would meet our son, one of the grandsons you never knew.  James is like you in many ways and I know you would have had a great time with him.  Like you he is a huge Jet’s fan, although he hates our Mets and Rangers.  But you two would argue sports which would be as much fun to hear as when you argued with Michael about who was more talented, Bob Dylan or Frank Sinatra.  I had so much fun listening to the two of you make senseless points about how one was better than the other.  Ironically, Bob Dylan just released a CD of him singing Frank Sinatra songs!  (Was that sound I just heard you turning over in your grave?).  Janine and Laura were only eight years old when you died.  You should see them now!  Beautiful, talented, accomplished and married to two great guys.  We would spend some time with them.  Perhaps Janine would make one of her special meals….Laura would help, too, but she is nearly ready to give birth to  your fourth great grandchild.  Sometime during the course of the day Susan and I would bring you down to the house in Lavallette.  We know how much you and mom loved the Jersey Shore and we would take you two out to our favorite restaurant, Spanos, in Point Pleasant.  And it would be our treat since you took us out to the Sea Shack in Hackensack to celebrate our engagement just a few weeks before you left us.  I have to tell you, that night was the best I had ever seen you….Healthy, happy and retired.  It is a shame you didn’t get to enjoy your retirement though because mom says you two had a lot of plans.
At some point we would have to play a round of golf with Daniel and then have a big party with all your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They would hear you laugh at Peggy and Janet because for some reason you found them funnier than the rest of us.  And you would tell stories of when you found bottles of whiskey in Richard and Russell’s room…well actually they found you as they dropped on your head when your tried to fix  the ceiling tiles . They can watch you race mom again…a rematch 40 years in the making.  You would be so happy and feel so blessed.   What a wonderful legacy you have left.  I would want to take you to a Met’s game, go to Callahan’s for a hot dog, get to the horse track for at least one more bet and talk to you about Local 1, your work experiences and the life lessons we both have learned.  It seems that by the time I was mature enough to have those talks you were gone.  It would be fun to show you all the inventions made since you were taken from us.  No, you don’t have to go to a store and become a member to rent movies anymore.  And there are no more VCR tapes; I know you thought that was the greatest thing on earth.  Now you can get a bazillion channels on T.V  if you wanted to and you would be in your glory.  Sometimes I think that the “remote control” was your favorite invention of all time.  And there are these things called laptop computers and cell phones.
A day is only 24 hours and I could never do all I would want to do with you in that short amount of time (although you never did need much sleep).  Besides,  when the day ended we would have to part and I don’t think I could ever say good-bye to you again.  It would hurt too much.  So instead of wishing for one more day, I will look forward to our reunion.  Not that I am rushing it, mind you.  We will have plenty of time to catch up.  For all eternity.
So for now, Happy Father’s Day, dad.  Thank you for everything. I love you.  I will see you later.
 What do you think?
How does it make you feel?
At my father’s funeral I requested that the lyrics of this song be read.  It is called “Festival Of Friends” by Bruce Cockburn.
An elegant song won’t hold up long
When the palace falls and the parlour’s gone
We all must leave but it’s not the end
We’ll meet again at the festival of friends.
Smiles and laughter and pleasant times
There’s love in the world but it’s hard to find
I’m so glad I found you — I’d just like to extend
An invitation to the festival of friends.
Some of us live and some of us die
Someday God’s going to tell us why
Open your heart and grow with what life sends
That’s your ticket to the festival of friends.
Like an imitation of a good thing past
These days of darkness surely will not last
Jesus was here and he’s coming again
To lead us to his festival of friends.
Black snake highway — sheet metal ballet
It’s just so much snow on a summer day
Whatever happens, it’s not the end
We’ll meet again at the festival of friends.
Note:  I am actually interested in hearing what you think and feel.  Your responses are appreciated.  And they are private.  So feel free to respond with your thoughts and your own reflections to What Do You Think?