I guess I took for granted that my dad would always be around. Now, I know that everyone dies, but I never would have thought it to be him so soon. My dad never said a lot, he didn’t have to. He was a gentle giant. When he did speak, his words were full of meaning, very impactful and always heartfelt. Just knowing his kids were in his house gave him peace and great joy. As a father myself, I never go a day without kissing my beautiful kids and wife because well, you just never know.
The day my dad died I missed a call from my mom, so I called her back within minutes, and I will never forget the tone in her voice. Strong and scared at the same time she said “dad fell”. Keep in mind my mother doesn’t like to get anyone worked up, but I could just tell this time was different. I was taken a little by surprise because he had fallen before. He’d been a police officer for 32 years and had his leg damaged from back surgery years ago from a car accident while he was on patrol. She told me she started doing compressions and said “it doesn’t look good; I just want you to be prepared”. I left for PA as soon as I could, crying and praying that my dad would be ok. Now, I pray every day regardless but this one was more of a request to God to ask him to not let him go, so that I, we can all say goodbye to him, to tell him we love him one more time, to just thank him for everything he has ever done. I’d give anything to be able to sit beside him on his boat on Keystone Lake to cast out into the water again. To sit behind my drums while he played his Les Paul and hear his voice singing one of his favorite songs. Turning the street tires into slicks on the old S-10 to make one more pass down the quarter mile, or to just simply walk beside him in the woods before sunrise on the first day of deer while letting him settle at his favorite spot before I moved on to mine. Life changed that day in a blink of an eye.
I was in Warren, Ohio that day with my family and in-laws. As I got on the Ohio Turnpike about 3 minutes in, I looked into the sky and saw a rainbow. As much as I didn’t want that to be the sign of my dad passing, it was. It was a beautiful rainbow. Between my balling, praying and driving, I managed to take a picture of that rainbow. It is a horrible picture, but nonetheless one I will keep forever. Minutes after, I got the call from my mom saying he didn’t make it. I will NEVER forget those words, or the tone in her voice, ever! I wanted to jump through the phone and hug her right then. I couldn’t drive at that point; I had to pull over and then continued to cry for the next 40 minutes or so.
The irony with my dad dying is that he did so on Labor Day. Ever since I was a child, my father had always worked 3, maybe 4 jobs at a time. He was the Captain of Police in my hometown. He was respected by a lot of people, young and old. The local football team dedicated their game to my dad, along with a moment of silence, the Friday following my father’s death. A lot of the players reside in the neighborhood where he patrolled almost every night where he righted people’s wrongs and always guided them when someone needed help or was down on their luck. Just like at home.
My dad died in the kitchen of his house where we grew up, cutting up cucumbers. What is more ironic is he died at 6 PM which is the exact time he was to go out on patrol. His last words to my dear mom were, “Honey, Honey,” with every ounce of love in his voice, I’m sure. He died of a heart attack. Following his death, I couldn’t listen to the radio for more than a week. He loved music and was a great musician. I’ll admit, not having any music on in the car was a weird feeling, but I just couldn’t listen. It was way too hard. My Father was the one who taught me to love and appreciate music from a very early age. I used to drive my parents nuts from banging on pots and pans, while learning to play! Music was always on in our house growing up. To this day, my taste in music is huge, thanks to him. The day after he died, I went to the store to pick up a few things I needed and as I walked the aisles, the song “Wipeout” came on. My dad and I played that song for years when we played together. It was almost bittersweet knowing that my dad loved playing that song only because he was so proud of his son being able to play it. It was pretty symbolic.
Some things you learn in life can’t be taught, but instantaneously come to you right when they need to in your life. I learned to be a drummer when I played in his band. Sure I knew how to play before, but with him, I learned to feel the music and play what I feel. I learned less is more. With music, my dad taught me control, timing and to not be too overbearing. Not only did he carry these attributes in music, he carried these traits very well throughout his life and I now practice them daily in mine. It’s habitual. My dad was always ready and willing to lend a helping hand to anyone, even to complete strangers. Sometimes that took him away from being with his family. I realize now that he understood that other people might have needed his help just a little more than we did and he knew we’d be fine.
The last time I talked to my dad in person I had dropped my kids off at our midway point from Ohio and Pennsylvania. He turned to me in conversation and said that Tanner is really ‘something else’ and that Jenna was a ‘beautiful girl’. I am so blessed that Tanner & Jenna were able to be a part of his life, if only a short while. Pops will be deeply missed. My kids still talk about him pretty often! As we were leaving, he told me he loved me and I did the same as I kissed his cheek. In hindsight, I think he almost knew this would be the last goodbye, the last time we see each other. He hugged me just a little tighter that day.
One thing that will stick in my mind forever is the display of emotion at his visiting hours from the three officers that worked together and his partner from his days working in probation. They proudly stood guard at my dad’s casket led by my dad’s best friend and fishing buddy Bill. They never left the entire time we were there, standing for 7 hours or so. It was tough for me to see grown men cry but just another token of how much my dad meant to a lot of people. It was unforgettable. Thank you! I remember my dad telling me a long time ago that I will one day be surprised to how many people knew him. It was proven at his viewing, with over 1000 people that showed up, most of them telling me stories of how he changed their lives.
My dad’s legacy is what really inspired me to create cuff & veil. As I was collecting my thoughts & writing down everything regarding this story, the words Fresh, Sweet and Timeless were the ones that stuck with me. All because cucumbers are fresh, honey is sweet and rainbows are timeless. Those words are sprinkled throughout my site, my life, and in the films I now create.
Never stop telling your dad, or anyone you care about, that you love them. If you haven’t told them recently, now is a good time to start. Think of it this way, my dad gave me life.. What would my life have been without him in it.