|my daughter in front of his grave stone|
I think of my father as a pillar holding up the world.
My father was sick for six years.
March 24, 2011, he died in the morning sometime between 6:30 and 7:00am. I know because I was staying at the house and I got up twice to go to the bathroom. At the time, the unearthly sound of his breathing could be heard throughout the house. When I got up the second time, I noticed it was quiet, and I ran to my mother, sleeping on the couch, to say, I don't hear him anymore.
When people called on the telephone we used words like gone and passed. You didn't say he's dead, he died this morning. You said, he's gone, he's not with us anymore, it's over. When they took his body away, I have a clear memory of my mother crying, saying that the bed was still warm.
Every March I think about these things. Sometimes I forget it's March and can't figure out why I'm more depressed than usual.
My father was an amazing storyteller. Before he died, family members tried to record him telling his stories, but only a few got saved. He was fascinated by human behavior, and had experienced the world through many means. He was a NYC police detective for twenty five years. Born in Brooklyn, to parents whose parents were born in Sicily, and grew up in Little Italy. My grandmother worked at a candy factory in Brooklyn. We used to see the factory buildings from the Gowanus Expressway, and every time we crossed it my father would say, that's where grandma used to work. They lived in a two bedroom apartment where three brothers slept in the same bed.
|In Like A Lion, 2011, oil on canvas, 50x72"|
When he got drafted into the army during Vietnam, his war was not a bloody one, it was a cerebral one. He was an MP, and his job was to stand guard and protect the perimeter of the camp. Alone in a hand built wooden hut staring into the jungle for hours through the night, waiting for enemy soldiers to appear. He told the story of that palpable fear, of hallucinating and trying to stay awake, of napalming the trees and brush. He told the story of meeting God in that jungle. He wanted me to paint a picture of it, but I never thought there were enough materials in the world that could depict that kind of profound experience.
|his necklace that I inherited|
I think I've been searching for the safety and security of that pillar holding up my world. Maybe now that I realize this, maybe now I can finally grieve this loss properly and be my own pillar. I am my father's daughter, and I am proud of that. He was a man among men. He walked in love because he really believed it, without ever seeking or needing a reward for it.
March is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. For me it has stayed a roaring lion all this time. I'm ready for the lamb. In all the losses I grieve for, suddenly I find myself grieving for him as if he just died.
I think my father would be disappointed at my rotten decision making, but I know he would still love me, because his love was unconditional. There were no conditions, or limits. He would walk to the ends of the earth for you, and he'd let you know it. He'd whistle, and sing you a song about it all along the way too. He had a song for everyone, and he was always singing it. One of the many songs he sang to me was Peggy Sue, which he of course changed to Sammy Sue. If you want to know how I know the words to every 1950-1960's oldies tune, my father is the reason! There's a picture of me at my last exhibition opening where I think I look a lot like him. More than anything, it's the expression on my face. It's a proud look, and it's the same way he looked at me so often throughout my life.