Saturday, May 13, 2017

Let me start by saying that the headline is a bit misleading. There is no way this will be my final goodbye to a great man; my father. But it will be the last time that I openly discuss or write about his passing in this way. The healing that has begun needs to run its course (like a race), and unless I am reminiscing on Father’s Day or another major holiday I will spare my readers on social media and this website from listening to my tales of woe. I think we all are entitled to grieve and feel pain and happiness and any other emotion, but I also understand that there are limits to what others want to hear from others. Sad that I have to wonder whether I’ve posted too much about the past week or two on social media, but this is the day and age we live in.

What I have learned throughout this process is that I am not alone. Many others have experienced the loss of a parent or a loved one and although that is comforting to know, I’ve also learned that each person is an individual who deals with this situation in their own unique way. For instance, there is no way that I can know the pain and anguish my mother is dealing with. She lost her husband and soulmate of over 51 years. My personal experience is really put into perspective when I begin to think of her and what she is dealing with. All I can do is continue to support her and be there for her in whatever way she needs me. It is my duty as a son and one I take very seriously.

Yet, I am faced with the future that is wide open and for an unknown amount of time. Do I have 40 years left? Maybe 30? What about 2? We never know. What I do know is that my future, however long that may be, is without a dad. He is gone and will not be returning.  The hardest part is knowing I can’t call him anymore. Well, that’s not true. There is no “hardest” part.  It’s all difficult. Looking back at the past few years it has been difficult. Difficult to watch. My dad’s health took a turn in late 2014 when he suffered a stroke. It was a really bad stroke. The kind that should have cost him his ability to live a normal life, if not take it altogether. I’ll never forget standing outside of the doors leading to the operating room at the hospital where he was having blood drained off his brain. We were wishing him luck and wondering if it would be the final time we would see him. It wasn’t. It was only the first of many times over the course of the next 2 ½ years that he would defy the odds, rise from the ashes, and defeat whatever ailment was bringing him down.

But each time he came back, it was with a cost. There is always a cost. Each time he bounced back it seemed that it took a bigger piece of him and his ability to fight. My dad was a fighter. He taught us to fight for what we wanted and never give up. It was this advice that I gave my father a little over a month ago when I visited him at the hospital. This time, he spent 45 days in intensive care and on a regular floor for a variety of issues. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and heard him say, “Why don’t they just let me die?” It shocked me but it made me realize that everyone has a breaking point. While we still had an opportunity, we discussed his advanced directives with him while he was still capable in the event that another situation would happen and my brothers and mother all convinced him that he should continue his fight. His response made me laugh at the time (I literally laughed at his response not because of what he said, but how he said it).  Only the way he could, he said with disgust, “I guess I lose, I’ll go one more round.”  I remember thinking at that moment about how precious life is, and yet, here was a man who had given up on his fight, but because those of us around him talked him into staying he would go one more round. He might as well have been agreeing to eat at a restaurant he didn’t want to go to because everyone else wanted to go someplace else. Even though he is now gone, it’s no less comical to me than it was at that moment, yet the seriousness of the situation is not lost on me. I’d like to say here that I wasn’t laughing hysterically. I chuckled and smiled at the ridiculousness of the discussion and the way in which we were handling such an important decision. I envision those kinds of conversations to happen in a way that I pictured to be much more resolute. Life is funny. No sense in fighting the smallest shred of humor in any situation. Honestly, dad would have wanted it that way.

It was also right around the time we were having this critical conversation with my dad that my wife texted me and told me I needed to call her. As it turned out our other greyhound Sam tragically passed away from a heart attack. Talk about putting the cap on a completely horrendous month (Becky’s grandmother also passed away, and as you’ll recall we had to put our dog Jasmine to rest as well.)

Without a doubt I will never forget my father and all that he meant to me. We didn’t have the greatest of relationships early on in life, but I think that can be said of a lot of people. Once I figured out that he only was looking out for me and my interests and made peace with a lot of our issues did our relationship blossom. Unfortunately, I just never got enough time with him especially after I moved from the area. But I will cherish the last few years and what it meant to me personally. I can only pray that we will be reunited again in heaven and I’ll get to see him with his leg intact (he lost part of it back in November; one of the many aforementioned variety of issues).

When he was in his final day, I talked to him a lot. I told him that I loved him. I told him it was okay to let go and be in peace. I also told him thank you. Thanks for all he did for me while he was alive. A lot of it he didn’t even know. But as I wrote in this book (which is what this website is all about), he taught me by his example. His work ethic and mental strength is incomparable as far as I’m concerned. I owe my dad a lot of what I am and what I have become as a person. And as I said to him in the eulogy that I was blessed to give I can only hope to become half the man he was by following his examples.

I miss you dad. It’s goodbye for now. But not the final goodbye.

POSTSCRIPT: I actually wrote everything prior to this on April 22 and just couldn’t bring myself to post it. As I sit here today (5/22/17), writing yet another paper for my doctoral program, I have decided to take a break and finally put this final message up. It’s been over a month now, but I still have bouts of terrible sadness, and at the strangest times. I get sad at night when the house is quiet and I begin to think for myself. My days are extremely busy and I often don’t get a chance to think much for myself. But when it’s quiet, and the world is going to bed I talk to my dad. I get sad. I also can read an article or watch a baseball game or get into the hockey playoffs that are going on right now and a story about a player and their dad will touch me in ways I couldn’t have imagined many years ago. My dad loved sports. It was one of the things we had in common. I will never forget him coming to my little league baseball games in his police uniform to watch me pitch. He was so proud of me and our Saint Francis football team when we won our conference in 1991. He even went with me a few times when I officiated Penguin Cup Finals at Mellon Arena many years later. I continue to follow sports, and remain active as much as I can (as time allows and my body will let me). In fact, I will be refereeing a few spring league games this afternoon. It will be the first time I’m on the ice since dad has passed and I’m sure that at some point my mind will wander back to the day I took him into the bowels of Mellon Arena for an “insider’s look.”  I’ll be on a much less prestigious sheet of ice today, working a game that means a whole lot less. And I’m sure to get sad at some point, but I’ll know I have a job to do and will keep it inside. The other thing I’m sure of is that that repressed sadness will come out at some point. But probably in the dark of night, when the lights are dim, and my mind wanders to the good times. Many years ago, taken for granted, but more recently enjoyed and I’ll be thankful for that and for knowing that he is okay now, and watching over me.

Love you dad.

Run on…

One of the shell casings spent at his 21 gun salute. #semperfi

My dad at the age of 10.

Dancing with Becky at our wedding (1997)

Pretty sure this was at my brother’s wedding (1998)

From left: Uncle Don, Dad, Gram Pavic, Aunt Pat, Uncle Dick, Uncle Tom (behind). Date uncertain

Dad in the Marines (1960’s) during the Vietnam War

A very young couple; my parents.

Mom and Dad with Barney (I think).

Classic dad. There aren’t words that can improve this.

Dad on his 1981 Harley. We used to watch CHiPs all the time. He was more Ponch than John

Retiring as Chief of Police, 2009.

My mom gave me his Marine sweatshirt that he wore for the first time the last time he came home from the hospital. I’m honored to wear the colors on his behalf.

Crossed Ladders #respect

The final ride.

Final resting place. R.I.P. Dad

Also goodbye Sam. The crazy month cost him a chance to have his own post like Jasmine. We had our differences, but I’ll miss him just the same. #goodboy