Since my father passed away over 4 years ago, my brothers and I have gotten into the habit of sending each other songs that he used to listen to.
My father probably had over a hundred cassettes, many of them mixed tapes that he had made over the years. He had such a wide interest in different kinds of music. My father would listen to classical, rock from the 70s-80s, 50s pop music, and so much more. I have a station on my Pandora music app with some of my dads music and it goes from “Hasta Ayer” by Marc Anthony to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis.
My father played the trumpet growing up and he later taught my two brothers how to play. They would practice everyday after school. I’m sure they’ve forgotten how to play now, but who knows. Music was just a big deal to him, and now it is to us.
Since my father listened to so many songs while we were growing up, we don’t remember all of them. But whenever each of us come across a song that he used to listen to, we send it to one another. It’s a nice way to remember our father.
Last week, my brother Chris sent me one song that I had completely forgotten about. It was the 1972 song Go All The Way by Raspberries. I clicked to play the song, and after about 10 seconds into the song, I was brought right back to my childhood living room. There was my father, sitting in front of his stereo, listening to this song and singing along.
And I just started sobbing.
That memory of my dad was so vivid at that moment, and that song brought me right back. I’ve had certain songs bring back memories but nothing as strong as this one. Maybe it was because I had forgotten about it, I’m not really sure. This time was just different. And it made me miss my father so much more.
I’ve had smells bring back memories too: my father’s cologne, my mothers cooking, pinchos cooking in the city. It’s funny how certain sounds and smells can recall memories.
It’s bittersweet when the memories of my dad pop up in my head. My smile turns to tears because I wish he was still here. My father should have died an old man, he was too young. So much has happened since he passed away. And I just want to pick up the phone and call him, to hear his voice. I want to ask him advice about the girls and how he handled things with us when we were kids, knowing full well he wouldn’t remember. I want to sit with him and make him laugh, I was good at that.
I’m not sure where my dad is now, I don’t know if there is an afterlife. All I know is that when I die, hopefully a long, long, long, time from now, I’ll get to see him again.
This passed weekend, the hubbs and I went on another hike, this time on Superstition Mountain, and I really enjoyed it. A six-mile hike with steep elevation, a climb up a ten-foot stone wall and a stunning view from the top. Every time we do a challenging hike, I can’t help but think of my father. He would have loved hiking up a mountain, the views are fucking gorgeous. So when I get to the top, I feel accomplished, and then I feel sad that I can’t call him and tell him I’m at the top of a mountain and how I wish he was with me. To be honest, there aren’t many moments in my day where I don’t think of my father. But today especially, as it’s his birthday. He would have been 57 years old.
As some of you know, I’m the youngest of three, and the only girl. And I was daddy’s little girl completely. We didn’t always get along, as we are both very stubborn, but there was never a moment in my life when I doubted my dads love for me. My dad was everything to me. He was so funny and he made friends with everyone he met. I remember as a kid, walking down the street with him and people would stop him “Hey Ray!! How’s it going? You look good! Send my love to the wife.” My dad would reciprocate and when we kept walking and I would ask my dad who that was, and he would look at me and say “I haven’t the foggiest idea.” I have so many great memories with my dad. I could probably write a whole book on my dad and it still wouldn’t do his life justice.
My father was an alcoholic, he struggled with alcoholism for as long as I can remember. And it seems unfair for me to simplify his life down to being an alcoholic, because he was so much more than that. But I mention it because his addiction to alcohol is what killed him. I imagine everyday what his life would be like today if he had been strong enough to overcome alcoholism. And even though it’s foolish to think about, I can’t help but feel that I should have done more to help him.
I remember many times in my life when my father would stop drinking. He would check himself into the hospital so he could detox, since his withdrawals would be so bad. But it wouldn’t be long before he was drinking again. And I remember the last time he checked himself into the hospital to quit drinking. It was after he met my first daughter, his first grandchild. He was in awe of her, and how much she looked like me when I was a baby. And it seemed to me that he tried to stop drinking this time so he could be apart of her life and watch her grow up. My dad wanted to be around for my daughter, and this time seemed liked it would stick. But maybe that was wishful thinking, we’ll never know.
My father was diagnosed with cancer not long after he stopped drinking.
He had tumors in his pancreas and liver. His doctor was talking of surgery to remove the tumors and seemed confident that he could get them all. I traveled back to New York from Florida to be with him. I drove him to his surgery and I was hopeful that he would be okay.
But he wasn’t.
Over a year after his surgery, my father passed away from sepsis, which is a deadly infection that shuts down the body’s organs. He got an infection from a stent he had gotten in his pancreas that was supposed to be removed. But he had skipped that procedure because he had been too afraid to have another surgery.
I remember getting a phone call from my oldest brother. He was crying. He told me that my father was dying and that I needed to get to the Bronx right away. The first thing I told him was that dad was going to be fine. He’s been through so much in his life, he’s not gonna die now.
“No, the doctors said he might not make it through the weekend.”
He put my grandmother on the phone, my father’s mother. And she explained everything to me. I remember turning to my husband after getting off the phone and telling him we needed to get to New York right away. We packed up my SUV and drove through the night. We got to the hospital the next morning and we were greeted by my uncle as soon as we parked. I felt like I was in a fog the whole time, this couldn’t be happening. And we went upstairs to his room and I went in. He seemed so small in that hospital bed, even though he was 6’1″. I shook my dad awake and told him I was here. He opened his eyes and looked at me, “Hey, Jubes,” he smiled. And I pointed to my daughter outside the room with my husband. She said hi to him and he waved to her.
And he never woke up after that.
He passed away three days later. I held his hand while he took his last breath but I still hoped that he would wake up. But he didn’t. I’d like to think he waited for me to get there before passing away. I was able to say goodbye, and I feel lucky that I was able to. My husband came back to the hospital and we both cried as he held me outside of my fathers room.
My father was gone.
His funeral was a few days later, and that final goodbye was the most painful for me. I would never see my father again.
This April will be 4 years since my dad passed away. My father would always quote the Billy Joel song, “Only the good die young,” and I had always believed he said that to tell us that he would be around for a long time. But he was only 53 when he passed away. So my dad was good, I knew it all along, and I hope he knew it too.
My heart shattered the day my father passed away. And even though I’ve gotten better at dealing with him being gone, the pain never goes away. Even though I got to say goodbye to him, I still feel cheated out of not having more time with him. I still have moments when I want to call him and see him. I wish I could ask him questions. And when I had my second daughter, I was so sad thinking that she would never meet him, she will never experience how much he would have loved her. All I can do is tell my daughters about him. He was an amazing man.
I’m sitting at my desk, writing this. The wall above has a frame with two pictures of my dad along with one of the last letters my father wrote me. The last line before his signature says “I will love you forever.”