I’ve always taken so much pride in the fact that I am my father’s daughter. I know a lot of you know this by how much I’ve talked about him. I like to believe that my relationship with him was really special.
When I was growing up, there wasn’t anything I didn’t want to do with my dad. I used to spend nights in the garage fixing things with him. We’d have the space heater on in the winter time, and my mom would have to come outside and tell me it was time to come in and go to bed. When we had our boat, I’d sit in the engine room with him handing him tools as he’d wedge himself into corners and into positions that you didn’t even know were possible. I’d wonder what he was doing and then he’d emerge with a piece of the engine that was so big that I wondered if the boat would ever start again. And then he’d show it to me and explain which hose did what, how it broke, and what we needed to do next. And I LOVED to learn it all.
Some of the best memories of my life were on that boat. It was one big adventure for me and our whole family. And the things I learned about boating translated into life lessons as time went by. The boat was a 42 foot carver and he taught us everything about it. Jaime and I would get excited every time we were pulling into a new marina to prepare the lines, and jump off on the dock to pull it in. We weren’t even teenagers yet and people on the other boats would look as us in awe as these two little girls managed everything before the dock-hands even made it down to our slip. He’d let us drive it, and sometimes he’d even go sit on the front deck, leaving us in the pilot station just to show us that he trusted us, and to give us the confidence that we could handle it. And before every new destination, we would take out the charts (this was before GPS) and map out our location via longitude and latitude, and figure out our route. And when we finally made it to the next place, he’d tell us to grab the hose and the scrub brushes. We’d put our bathing suits on and clean it from top to bottom. He never hired anyone to fix or to clean… he wanted us to know that we had to help if we wanted to have fun…. He’d always say, “You kids have no idea how easy you have it… and you have no idea what it costs and what it takes to maintain all of this….” He kept us humble.
The 4th of July was his absolute favorite day of the summer, maybe even the year. We’d have 25 to 30 people on the boat as we made our way to New York City to see the Macy’s fireworks. There was NOTHING that dad liked more than to see everyone having a blast on his watch. There was food and drinks, and as we made our way down the river, we all loved seeing the crowds gather at the water’s edge, knowing that no one could beat the view that we had from the boat. We all found our place to sit and cuddled under blankets as we listened to the star spangled banner echoing around us as each boat tuned into the same radio station. I’d look up at my dad, sitting at the pilot station with a beer in his hand and a huge grin on his face. And then I’d smile… knowing how special these moments were. Memories that would stay with all of us forever.
But boating was only a small part of the joy he brought to all of our lives. Not everyone knew this, but we used to have an attic full of Lionel trains… dad’s winter hobby. We had mountains made of paper mache, farms made of coffee grinds, and snow made of cotton. Dad had a switch board with so many wires, and labels that looked like he was controlling satellites in outer space. There were so many tracks and trains that sometimes we’d have 11 trains going all at once. And again, dad was teaching us.
Dad was a natural entrepreneur and hustler. He was a paperboy before he was even a teenager. He bought his first real estate property when he was 19. By the time I was born, he had several properties, and he used to take me with him to visit the tenants. He’d teach me about how he’d look for a good deal, fix up the places, and find the tenants that would create enough cash flow to pay the mortgages. I was barely a teenager. It was no mystery why I was never ver interested in playing with dolls. At Christmas, one of my favorite things to get from Santa was a toolbox. And later on in life, when I went to college, I think I was the only girl in my sorority house who brought and electric screw driver.
Dad was also a distributor for the Daily News in queens. He always had tons of paperwork to do. I’d sit next to him in his office in our house entering numbers into the computer. He’d give me phone numbers to call and I’d be nervous that I’d mess something up and I’d say…”But dad, what do I say to them?” And he’d say “Don’t worry, just ask a few questions and you’ll figure it out.” And the person on the line would soften up once they realized they were talking to a 7 year old.
As I got older, boys started to come by the house. And dad loved having barbecues in the back yard, as long as the guys did some work to deserve it of course. I’ll never forget the time there was a huge thunderstorm and a very large tree branch fell onto our overground pool in the back yard. I was in 7th or 8th grade at the time and a few of my friends were over. I don’t think the storm was even minutes over, and he already had the boys outside, all with handsaws in their hands, cutting up the branches and transporting them to the side of the house… I’d watch from the window, mortified and embarrassed that he was putting all of my friends to work. And yet, somehow they’d walk in smiling and joking around with Dad. They only liked him more because of it.
In the more recent years, the experiences and circumstances with my dad changed, but the connection and nature of our relationship always remained the same. He lived in Florida most of the time and I always loved going down to visit. His house was decorated with 2 things, photos of his family… and tools. And when I say decorated, I mean… the walls were practically plastered with pictures. You couldn’t walk into a bathroom, a closet or a hallway without seeing pictures of one of us thumbtacked, nailed or taped to the walls. He has always been the biggest family guy I know. I happened to book a last minute trip to see him just before leaving for india a couple months ago. Some mornings I’d make him breakfast and coffee, and other mornings he’d make it for me. Every night we’d go out to dinner, or hang out at a bar near the water. And I loved the fact that me and my dad could just hang out together like that. We’d talk about everything… family, business, ideas, travel, relationships, and just life in general. Not everyone knows this, but dad was a really “deep” person. We were riding on the motorcycle one night and we stopped at the beach just to go for a walk.. and he looked at the stars and said “isn’t it just amazing how there are billions of stars in the sky and we are on this little planet in the midst of all of it. There’s so much out there that we don’t know about.” He always said things like this. He was always curious, always wondering, always contemplating. People would joke with him saying he looked like he was in the Mafia or was on the Sopranos, but he was really a big softie (aside from the occasional outburst of course.)
While I was there we also went to an art gallery on the beach, and a car show which we drove to in his 1976 Cadillac. Everywhere we went, people knew him… they’d come over with a huge smile on their face to say hi to him. Then they’d look at me and say “Your dad is such a good man. And he loves you girls so much.” I’ll never forget when he dropped me off at the airport early in the morning at the end of that trip. Goodbye’s were always really hard for him. We’d always hug a little longer, and he’d turn away quickly so that I wouldn’t see the tears coming to his eyes. I walked into the airport and he’d roll down the window one more time to say good bye. And as the car started driving away, I looked back one more time. Not knowing that this would be the last time I ever saw him drive away.
I cannot tell you how much I loved my dad and how much I will miss him. But life goes on. And one thing I know for sure, is that my dad knew how much I loved him. And I don’t hold any regrets.
I used to always say to him that “everything happens for a reason”. And even though this might be one of the hardest things to find“reason” in, I’m sure he would want me to hold on to that belief. So I’ve done a lot of soul searching this week, and here’s what I’ve come up with.
- Death reminds us that it’s never too late to hug the people you love. It’s never too late to say sorry, or to start fresh.
- A death reminds us of the fragility of life. It makes us re-evaluate our priorities, our goals, and our intentions. It makes us ask those deeper questions… “Is this what I really want? What legacy will I leave behind? What memories will others share about me when I’m gone.
- A death encourages us to get more connected into that “other domain”. That domain that some of us may call heaven. To detach from the physicality of life. And that perhaps the more we believe in this “other side” the more our sadness starts to fade. We start to see that whether the body is present or not, we are all on the same plane.
There is a quote that I love by Tara Mohr that says
"In the end you won’t be known for the things you did, or what you built, or what you said. You won’t even be known for the love given or the hearts saved, because in the end you won’t be known. You won’t be asked, by a vast creator full of light: What did you do to be known? You WILL be asked: Did you know it, this place, this journey? What there is to know can’t be written. Something between the crispness of air and the glint in her eye and the texture of the orange peel. What you’ll want a thousand years from now is this: a memory that beats like a heart– a travel memory, of what it was to walk here, alive and warm and textured within. Sweet brightness, aliveness, take-me-now-ness that is life. You are here to pay attention. That is enough."
I love you Daddy. Rest in peace.