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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

Today is the third year anniversary of losing my dad, and I'm finally feeling acceptance. Weird, huh? I've always been a little slow, so this comes as no great shock to me. I was really lucky to have such a good guy in my life. This is not going to be some dead daddy day pitty party, so it's okay, keep reading. Acceptance takes the tears and turns them into smiles, flooded with good memories.

When you witness someone on their death bed, it kind of haunts you. It takes a while for the good to shine through those last few days. Like a scratched record, those last moments... last breaths, play in your head on a continual loop, while your heart searches for one good solid memory prior to illness taking over.

I tried really hard to be the family rock. It felt like my role at the time, and I was honored to be that for anyone willing to accept my gesture. That last morning, I walked in and just knew. I called hospice and told them we needed them to come. I called the church and asked Father Flannigan to come. I called my brothers, uncles, aunts and a couple of my dads friends. I was focused on what needed to be done.

I walked in again to visit with him. He was sleeping. We had baby monitors set up, and I called out to my mom and sisters because his breathing seemed so labored. It was time. I don't know how everyone got there in time.

I remember Lane 2 looking at my sister Mary crying, and trying to be her aunt's rock. Tears welled up in her big brown eyes as she looked up at the ceiling trying to make them go away. She's a lot like her mommy.

Mary took Lane 2 in her arms and they cried together. Rocks solidifying in great pain and love.

As I gave information to the priest and the hospice lady, Anita took Mom in her arms. She stroked her hair and kissed her. The roles had reversed. The daughter, taking care of the mother, consoling and loving, helping her overcome her greatest sadness and fears. Very solid.

Angie was knelt beside dad's bed telling him how much she loved him, clinging to his arm, tracing his facial features with her fingertips as if she was forcing herself to never forget her daddy. With a guy like him, there would be no forgetting. Etched in stone.

The oldest of the grandkids, Yoda, who played a caretaker role more than any young man should have to, paced a worn out section on the hallway rug, welcoming everyone into Dad's room. Ushering them out and offering a shoulder along the way. The statue of David had nothing on that kid.

Uncle Eddie ran down the street toward the house. There was nowhere for him to park. His eyes, overwhelmed with worry, his lip stiff. Solid granite.

Uncle Giant's hands dwarfed Mom's face as he wiped her tears away. Trying to be the rock, he hugged all of us kids, holding back his own emotions. He even called the hospice lady sweet pea, a term of endearment to console this person he'd never met. He was a gentle giant, the diamond in the rough.

In the last seconds we all made sure we said our final words to our wonderful dad, not that we didn't think he already knew, but we all seemed to want to make sure he knew.

And just like the good old days, we were talking over each other. His final moments, like the rest of his life, surrounded by really loud people who loved him. Now, I finally have freed myself of that day enough that I can visualize the good old days. Dad would be the first to say we all have rocks in our heads. I guess he really was right.

Something really weird and cool happened last week. I had an impulse to clean the closet in my bedroom. When I saw old purses in there, I emptied them out to throw them away. As I looked at all of the weird shit I saved, I laughed when I found a piece of paper with my dad's handwriting on it, and then I said, this has got to be a sign. You know why?? It was lottery numbers written on that piece of paper. Dad always played the lottery.

The next day, feeling rather confident, I bought a ticket. Lane 2 asked if she could have some candy. I said, sure. She put caramel Bull's-eyes on the counter. A candy she never gets, and my dad's favorite. I really felt like he was hanging out with us. You know? Anyhow, the next day, I was looking for my camera cord, that I haven't seen since we moved. I wanted to show you the footage of Lane 2 getting her Wii!!! Great story for another day. But instead of finding the cord, I found a printed lottery ticket.

It had the same numbers that were written on the paper, the same numbers I'd played. I smiled at the thought of my dad haunting me in a non-scary yet freaky way. Was he trying to send me pennies from Heaven? Yep, I was sure he was.

The night of the big drawing for $220 Million, I switched back and forth from Idol to the channel that plays the game. Some guy comes out on the stage, with a guitar and starts singing "What a Day for a Daydream"... the same song, my dad and brother sang often. The same song my brother Jimmy played at Dad's funeral. I seriously had goose bumps.

After the lottery drawing and my big loss. Yeah, I lost, but I didn't, you know? I was laying in bed, listening to a rerun of Cold Case on the TV as I dosed off, and I heard the song, "Is You is or is You Ain't My Baby" another song Dad always sang.

And then I told that man to get the hell out of my room! Seriously people, I was trying to sleep.

Today I will go be with my mother and siblings and we will be happy for the time we did have.