As I sit here and wonder how to begin this post, debating between, “It’s been a tough 18 months…” or “It’s been a tough decade…” or “The Day my Dad passed away…” none of those sounded right or appropriate or were just too darn depressing. Through the worst of times, there must always be times that you spend in utter happiness, gratitude, and joy. And, I always have and I always will. Tragedy cannot change your happiness in whole. Maybe at times and in part, but never the whole.
Listen, I have struggled with some form of anxiety, depression, sadness, melancholy, OCD…all sorts of mental health issues for as long as I can remember. But nothing, not getting a divorce that cut me to my core, not being diagnosed with heart disease at 32 years of age and having a small heart attack, not having a sister go through cancer twice, or both of my parents go through heart issues, not the 10-month long break-up with the love of my life, not the last 15 years of my life that I’ve struggled painfully with infertility, not my lifelong battle with being somewhere in the range of overweight to obese and all the pain, humiliation, and torment that goes along with that. None of these things have come close to the pain I have felt in the past 19 days. Yes, today is January 13, 2017…so 19 days ago was Christmas Day. The day I lost my Dad.
After an almost 2 year, incredibly courageous and awe-inspiring run with some awful cancers, where my Dad never gave up hope for his recovery, never behaved in any other manner than with bravery, strength, and amazing determination, my Dad chose to move on from this world. I say, “chose”, not like he took his life. But we believe, he had had enough. The cancer had spread for the second time from his esophagus & stomach to his liver & abdomen. He was suffering through his second round of chemotherapy, he hadn’t eaten much of anything in months, he was a shell of his once larger than life self, both physically and metaphorically. Even before he passed, I already missed him. His spark for this life was close to gone and it was painful to see. He had always been such a huge presence in our lives. Hilarious, bossy, thoughtful, adorably childish, full of love for everyone.
I remember being at the hospital one time, maybe a couple months ago, he was getting some hydration, I believe. I always did try to stay upbeat, positive and just “act normal” as much as I could around him because who wants someone that’s crying all the time and just constantly asking you, “How are you feeling??” But, this day, I said to my Dad, “I just want to see you smile…” and he replied, “I can’t, Ab.” I’ll never forget that. This man, who was once full of all sorts of smiles, had none left. At least that day he didn’t. I would see his smiles again in the coming months. But that day, and other days towards the end, he was fresh out.
So, why am I writing this sad story about the passing of my father on Christmas Day? Because writing has always been therapy for me. Because my Dad loved this blog. Because my Dad would want me to remind people about what life is all about. Because I want people to see that this process, otherwise known as “life”, is damn hard. It is. I know. But like my Dad, I will never give up hope. All the terrible things that go on in this world, from disease to politics to mean people to wars and on and on, that my hope and belief in good will never be compromised. Maybe I will falter here and there, I’m only human, but I will continue to rise and rise again. To trust that love, fairness and kindness do always win. Sometimes we question that. I know I have, especially the fairness part, but I do believe that there is a reason. Maybe a reason I’ll never know, but I have faith that there is some higher reason for why things happen the way they do. I’ll always choose to the best of my ability, to be kind to others, forgiving, positive, generous with my love and with hopefulness, I will do my best to continue my Dad’s legacy of courage and strength.
I will carry with me his love of life, his ability to find funny everywhere, his motto that he always told his girls, (my two older sisters, my Mum & I) he’d always tell us not to stress about everything and just always, “Assume the Best.” I’m really gonna try, Dad. For you.
I’ll miss you every single day for forever and I hope you heard me say to you, before you left for that Happy Hour in the sky where I know so many amazing people were so excited to see you, that I was so grateful for your love and for all you did for me in my life. You were one in a million and I am so blessed to have called you mine.
I love you so much.
P.S. Below I have pasted the eulogy that I read at my Dad’s Celebration of Life last Saturday, January 7th, as I’ve had people ask me to make it public. It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but there was nothing that could stop me from telling the stories about my Dad. It was a post that I had written for him in 2014 for Father’s Day, I loved that he had already read it and it wasn’t just a bunch of nice stuff about him that he never got to hear.
Click the link for Original Post“ My Sweetie: His Name is Paul. But Please, Call Him Skip.”
Somewhat Edited Speech Below:
My Dad was born a “Paul” but the story that I’ve heard, was that one of the nurses said to my Gram when he was born, “He doesn’t look like a “Paul”, he looks like a “Skip“. Now, whether or not this is a true story or something that I’ve made up in my head over the years, who knows. But, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend that’s a true story.
So, what did this nurse mean? What does a “Skip” look like anyway? Well, I think I’ve figured it out…so, let me tell you…
First off, a Skip is hilarious. Always a funny joke to tell you, an infectious laugh that made you laugh, even more, funny comments to everyday conversations, an ability to find the funny in everything.
A Skip is a guy who welcomes all people in with big bear hugs and makes that noise on the squeeze…you know, the “UHH” noise. Skips are amazing huggers.
A Skip knows a lot about everything. Skips are very smart. I remember in school; my Dad could help me with any subject. It was kind of annoying actually. Biology? Get a scalpel. English? You NEVER end a sentence with a preposition, Abbe! (Something he said to me in the last month when I had said to my Mother, “Where you at?”) History? The telephone was invented on March 10, 1876. Math? Let me go get my protractor. He didn’t even take Spanish, but somehow he’d say, “Shouldn’t it be “muchacho, not muchacha?” On and on. You could ask my Dad about pretty much anything and he’d have an answer. He really should’ve been on Jeopardy, one of his favorite shows. He also would use words that I had no idea what they meant. Like, big words. Like, Scripps National Spelling Bee words. I sometimes thought he was just showing off by using these unnecessarily big words in casual conversation. “You know, Abbe, they erected that building down the street over two years of fastidious & assiduous labor…” or “Why are you taking such a circuitous route to the airport?” he might say. I’ve spent many hours of my life, Googling words my Dad had said so that I could know what he was talking about.
A Skip is a guy that didn’t care that he had three daughters. He was happy. He just made them go fishing with him and taught them to sail and love basketball and cars with him. I mean, maybe he’d call my sisters and I “Mark” sometimes, but who cares, right? We knew he was talking to us.
A Skip is a guy that you can call at the age of 16 from the gas station down the road, after about 9 car accidents that you’ve already had and have to tell him that “A friend was driving my car and when she got out of it, she didn’t have it in park and it rolled backwards on top of a 1969 mint condition, hunter green Corvette.” And a Skip says, “I’ll be right down” and when he gets there and you’re totally freaking out that you’re going to be murdered, or worse, have your license taken away…he walks over and puts his arm around you and says, “I’m just glad everyone is okay.” Then, deals with the repercussions. But of course, you go home and lose your license for about a month…and then have to hear about said story for the rest of your entire life.
A Skip is a guy that comes to your elementary school dressed in a suit once a year to pick you up from school early to drive to Boston to take you to your annual Celtics game and out to dinner at some place cool like Benihana. He also tells you lies, like he knows the guy on the court named “Spider” who is brooming the floor. He goes as far as to bring you down next to the court, pre-game and yell out, “Spider!” Spider waves. (Spider just waved because he was a nice guy. My Dad did NOT know Spider personally, as I came to learn years later.) I literally thought my Dad knew a celebrity. However, a Skip does NOT let you buy any food, drinks, foam fingers, t-shirts or any other “over-priced junk” that they sold there, as much as you may have pleaded with him.
A Skip is someone who HATES nail polish remover. With so much passion and enthusiasm. You can be removing nail polish at your dormitory an hour away and he’ll yell, “WHO’S USING NAIL POLISH REMOVER!!!! IT SMELLS AWFUL!!! NOT IN THE HOUSE!!!”
A Skip loves a good email joke forward and to forward them on as well. And, you rarely were with him when he didn’t want to show you some funny animal video or touching video of a 9-year-old singing Ave Maria so beautifully. “Isn’t that incredible?” he’d say.
A Skip can make this AMAZING sound of a race car whizzing by you with his hands cupped over his mouth. It’s so awesome. I’ve tried my whole life to master this as well and although, I do believe I have inherited this gene of his for this special talent, I have yet to truly reach his level of skill. I will keep trying.
A Skip LOVES to shop, especially on Craigslist. A Skip has been known to purchase items such as a skee ball game, a real casino slot machine, a poker table, bar stools, bumper pool table, remote control monster trucks, infrared gas grills, Queen Elsa dresses, Boat Captain hats, I could literally go on and on. A Skip LOVES a deal. Even if the deal means that you have to drive 3 hours to pickup said deal. And get the deal dry cleaned and search for backup rechargeable batteries, but these are just minor details when getting a super good deal on something that basically, no one needs…and often, no one wants. He always tried to pawn them off on the three of us girls after Mum had had enough of them in the house. “Anyone need four bar stools? Dad, none of even us have a bar.”
A Skip is a guy who maybe had a tough time talking with his three daughters growing up. Boys, makeup, tampons…these are things easier spoken about with your Mum. But as grown children, you’re surprised at what perfect and thoughtful advice a Skip will give you about anything. It’ll make you almost sad that you hadn’t started asking his advice earlier.
A Skip loves life. Loves people, friends, strangers, babies, dogs, laughing, going out of his way to make everyone just a little bit happier.
A Skip is incredibly thoughtful and kind and generous with his time, love, help, advice and friendship.
Whether he is a Paul or a Skip, I don’t care. He’s my Dad. He’s my “Sweetie”, a nickname I gave him years ago, and he laughed every time I’d call him that. My Dad was an inspiration to me, my sisters, my Mum and so many people. If you were lucky enough to know him, consider yourself lucky enough.
I’m not saying that a Skip by any other name would smell as sweet because I don’t know EVERY Skip, but my Skip, my Dad…always smelled great. (I think it was the Old Spice or the 4711 Cologne that he loved and made us all scour the internet for when they stopped making it…)
So, listen…maybe your Dad isn’t a “Skip” maybe he’s a Tommy, a Dave, a Bobby, a Charlie, a Sean, a Troy or a Johnny. But maybe he loves Craigslist or cars or Boat Captain hats too and he’s hilarious and full of love and kindness…he can be an honorary Skip.
My Skip, my Dad would have loved this party. He loved parties. I believe he is here now, laughing at all the funny stories we’re telling about him, smiling his beautiful smile with his twinkling eyes because he’s overwhelmed with joy with the sea of people who’ve gathered to celebrate his magical life. On behalf of my sisters, Leigh & Sara and my Mum, Judy, we thank you all so much, from the bottoms of our hearts, for your friendship, kindness, prayers, support and love that you have shared with us over the years. It means the world to us all.
In closing, we, the O5…that is our secret family name “The Original 5” …we, the O5 ask each of you to carry with you for the rest of your lives, as hard as it is to do sometimes, the motto that our Skippy said so often to us and truly believed with all his being. He’d tell us when all of us worry warts were worrying about something or other, “Why worry about what challenges that there could be in this life when you can just always choose to “Assume the Best”?