Friday, December 05, 2014

The Crooked Star

It must be that time of year, because I constantly keep thinking and talking about my dad a lot. It's only been two years since he passed, yet I sometimes feel like he's still here in a way. I still have those dreams, where I wake up in the dream while meeting him, and I always say, "Is it really you, Dad?" And he quickly motions his hands to come over, "Yeah yeah -- it's really me, hurry!" We have a 10 second "meet time" where we hug and say hello and then it's over just. like. that. Poof. Gone. I wake up almost instantly, either smiling or crying. It depends. I do believe these "meetings" in my dreams are real, because I verify it right in the dream itself. "Is it really you?" Or, "Is this real?" -- Meaning, 'am I really and truly seeing you in my dream as an actual meeting' sort of question. But why for only 10 seconds or less? During Mom's last day of radiation when they made her ring a bell to signify her treatment was over, I literally saw my father standing behind my mom, smiling from ear to ear. Then the image was gone, just. like. that.

With so many memories, I ran out of tissues.
December 5th, 2011, yes today -- I remember it was a Sunday. Madelene and I had gone to the farm to pick up a Christmas tree. Dad was done with his radiation treatment and waiting to undergo other procedures. He was okay for the most part and living life normally, whatever "normally" is. He laughed while watching Madelene and I carry this monstrous tree inside the door. Needles and branches were breaking off (bad sign) and we lugged it into the middle of the living room. We stood the tree into an incredibly small base and started getting out the decorations.

"Would it be okay if I sat here and watched you two decorate the tree?"

The actual tree from Dec 5th, 2011.
As if he had to ask. As a tradition, Madelene and I always make Bailey's on the rocks while decorating the tree and listen to Christmas music. We poured one for Dad as well. Mom always twitches once the Christmas music goes on and then locks herself in another room to avoid it all. Dad sat there and laughed the entire time giving us his two cents, "Dat' star is crooked," as Mad and I bickered about how the decorations should be.


"The lights are supposed to go on first and inside the branches!"
"No! Put the tinsel up first!"
"He's right, the star is crooked, move it to the left!"
"Cut the stem because it's gonna start to limp!"
"It's fine! Just plug it in already!"

As normal as we can to try to move through the holidays, there's always that strange void. I always have those memories of when I was growing up with my sisters on the night before Christmas Eve. I miss the preparations for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian tradition held in many households. I miss smelling shrimp boiling on December 23rd, to prep for the big Christmas Eve party. There are no smells of lobster and crabmeat salad being mustered up, no delicious aromas of garlic and breading for the stuffed clams wafting up into our area while we all slept (or tried to) 2am in the morning. Dad would retire and head off to bed at around 5am, sleep the entire day off and then wake up at 5 or 6pm to shower and get dressed for the festivities. Mom would start frying shrimp and yellow tail around 6pm, batting me off with a spatula as I tried convincing her that I'm the "taste tester". She'd create this amazing antipasto, along with Italian bread, assorted cheeses and a ton of chips just to nosh on before the real deal came shuffling out of that tiny kitchen. That was all I have known Christmas to be for the past 35 years or so.

Dad always dressing up as Santa.

Christmas is still as beautiful as can be...it's just different.

I met an old friend the other day in the supermarket. I hadn't seen in him like 20+ years or so. He asked how I was doing and then started reminiscing about my father. He said, "Oh wow, I remember coming to your house and your father feeding me this enormous plate of food that was so delicious, I nearly rolled out of there! He was great!"  I didn't tell him anything and just smiled. I pictured it too. Both my parents always did the same thing -- fed you till you couldn't breathe. I think most Italians tend to do that to make you feel welcomed. I have come across quite a few people who remember Dad and 99% of the time, I don't say anything, unless they ask, "So how is he?"

The best team ever.
There's a huge part of me that feels awful about writing about dad because of my mother. The both of them together did so much for the family during the holidays, and mom still does so much till this day. I don't mean to put Dad in the limelight because Mom and Dad were quite the team. But when you lose someone, especially a family member, I guess it's pretty normal to feel it more around the holidays. We feel the loss of the other "team member" a little more. There's no wood being chopped outside, backhoes running up and down the hill fixing the road or snow getting plowed without calling up a contractor to do it. Last week we had roofers here to fix some things around the house. One of them asked, "I remember your father hired me to do his roof years ago," as he stared off into the view. I responded with,"Oh yeah?" Nothing else was said. I wasn't in the mood to fish for another, "Oh, I'm sorry," or any other sort of sympathetic response.

When somebody is missing, what do you typically do? You look for them. Or, you look for signs of them, perhaps even memories and dwell on them. For instance, last June my BBQ that I bought for Dad broke. I got it for him on Father's Day. Oddly enough, the first time we wanted to BBQ was on Father's Day. I bought this huge stainless steel BBQ grill that day and secretly wished him a Happy Father's Day while we put it together. It was twice the size of our old one. I hope he saw it. Regardless, there are so many reminders, so many memories that come flooding in because of my Dad's excitement around the holidays. He loved every second of the holidays because he loved every second of being with his family, regardless of how many times he would shout, "Get outa' here, Debbie!"

So yeah, December 5th. I remember it well. I think I always will. I remember him sipping his Bailey's and making fun of us while we trimmed the tree. "Ugh God! You two are crazy, you know dat'?"

He'll always be missed. I'll make sure the star isn't crooked this year, Dad.

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