Seven years ago today my father died. I don’t speak of him often as we had a complicated relationship. He was a man full of love, laughter and terrible jokes. He taught me how to play tennis, hockey and chess. He played guitar for us, and sang. He was a good grandfather and loved his grandkids dearly. The amount of love that filled him was levered with equal parts anger. He was a drinker with a temper, and it made for an unsteady childhood, to put it mildly.
My oldest daughter had just turned six. We had the whole family over for her birthday dinner at our little house in Toronto, and my dad arrived with his personal support worker. I made meatballs, and my dad said I would of made my grandmother proud. My dad was half Italian, and liked good food. His mother was born in Calabria, with family roots in Sicily. He was dead two days later on Thanksgiving Sunday.
My friend Heather was visiting when the policeman came to my door. I immediately started joking with him, asking if he needed backup, or if he came to arrest me for being so awesome? I now know that it is rarely a joking matter when a police officer arrives at your door. Jess and I left our young children with Heather, and we went to identify my father’s body.
When I arrived at my dad’s house in Markham I set about calling his family. My stepmother was on a well deserved vacation at the time. I couldn’t understand why my phone call to my uncle was not connecting. I finally realized that they had blocked my father’s number. His relations with his family had become strained. Addiction rarely improves relationships. As a result, I hadn’t seen many of my father’s siblings in years.
This past spring, I went to my cousin’s wedding celebration in New York State. I reconnected with my aunts, uncles, and cousins on my father’s side. It was so lovely to see people who look like my dad, and me. It filled a void that I have been unable to fill on my own. I hope to see more of them in my near future.
And today, my stepmother is visiting us for the first time since we have moved to the County. I have asked her to bring my father’s photo albums so we can reminisce about my dad and the happier times we had. My children don’t have many memories of my dad, and I want them to know the good parts about him. I believe he tried his best as a father most of the time. Some people are unable to overcome their personal demons, and my dad was one of them.
On the day of my dad’s funeral, I wrote him a letter of thanks and forgiveness and left it in his embalmed hand. Sometimes it is easier to forgive someone when they can no longer do harm.
Seven years is a long time. A lot has happened over that span. The world keeps spinning after death, kids grow up, lives continue. Tonight, over our bowl of meatballs, we will toast a man who brought both joy and sorrow to this world.