Today is the anniversary of Dad’s death, and he’s been on my mind all day. In fact, I woke up this morning hearing just the faintest sound of his whistling, a sound that left me almost as soon as I registered it in my sleepy consciousness. I think it means that I need to spend more time remembering the happy moments of his life, the times when he was content with all and cheerful.
For a deeply religious man, Dad spent a lot of time shaking his fist at the universe and trying to control the outcomes of things he couldn’t possibly control. When things got tense during a Yankees game, my mother would recall him standing closer and closer to the TV and shouting directions, as if his proximity would somehow carry his voice over the wires to Derek Jeter’s ear. If I got a bee sting on my toe while I was walking in the backyard, I shouldn’t have been wearing sandals, even if it was an 80-degree summer day. If milk was spilled, fingers were pointed.
And yet, when he was cheerful, he made it feel as if nothing could possibly ever go wrong. He was at his most chipper when he was doing something useful around the house or talking to one of the grandkids. And for a deeply religious man, he was at his most cheerful walking OUT of church, on the Sundays when we’d pick up a loaf of Italian bread and the Daily News and go to my grandparents’ house for a feast. That’s when you’d catch him whistling, and that’s a memory that will last me a very long time.