Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines love, in part, as “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” It states further, love is the “Object of attachment, devotion, or admiration.” My mother and father were the personification of love and I was their recipient and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Standing in my office on the top 19th floor I watched in wonderment and awe the day the Concord flew into Syracuse, New York. It was a unique piece of engineering and the enormity of it was breathtaking. Equally impressive was the earth shattering speed exhibited when the supersonic transport passed my window. Life is much like the moment I described; fast, wonderful, awesome, a Divine engineering marvel, the ability to live large, small, or in between and drink in the gifts of excitement that abound. Mom and dad were inhabitants of this earth and then poof; they just as quickly departed. Their physical beings were no more. However, I am so happy that when each passed on, all of my issues with them, real or imagined, had been resolved and they knew the love they had shown was returned by me as easily as a knee jerk reaction.
Clemett Pumps was the sponsor of my Little League baseball team. I don’t know what was more exciting, putting on my uniform or getting to go to the ball park candy stand. However, one thing that trumped it all was me looking from my shortstop position and seeing my mother and father sitting in the bleachers. The memory of love, being connected, a warm summer sun, and my young parents together on a bench, still brings a smile to me, even after five decades.
Once per week my mother would drive all the way home, after working in downtown Syracuse, pick me up, turn around and drive all the way back to downtown Syracuse. You see, it was my Thursday night private music lesson and the ritual went on for almost seven straight years. The tutored lesson with my accordion teacher, Mr. Joe Stanley (yes, I played the accordion) lasted for one hour and then the reward was going out to dinner. Mother and son would sit in a booth, while the antiquity of the room danced with the reddish colored light, amidst a cloud of smoke filling the air in the dinning room of the Wood Hotel. The nickels or dimes would go into the tabletop jukebox and I could play whatever songs I wanted with one condition…that mom could get to hear Patsy Cline in “I Fall to Pieces.” Both the hotel and my wonderful mother are gone now, but not the memories. I can never recall my mom looking annoyed or tired during those seven years. Instead she was effervescent, always had a pretty smile in place and she was the solid rock of a person I was so proud to call my very own mom.
As though it were yesterday I can still see the disappointment on her face the day she drove me to elementary school and I asked her to stop the car at the end of the sidewalk, rather than pull up to the front door. Mom halfheartedly smiled at me and said, “Afraid I’ll embarrass you by giving you a kiss goodbye in front of your friends?” Sheepishly, I didn’t need to reply because she knew the answer and from that day forward she stopped at the end of the walkway. Oh what I wouldn’t do for a loving kiss from mom today.
My dad never called me Dennis. No, not dad…he always referred to me as son or the kid. Both were terms of endearment to me. Many Saturday mornings he would take me with him to his watering spots, where the men would rehash the sporting events of the night past and who had what statistics and what the point spread was for the upcoming game. Matty’s Bar & Grill had free hot dogs on Saturday mornings, so it was truly a breakfast for champions. If I was lucky we would go to the Polish American Citizens Club. They had a small bowling alley, so while dad and his buddies hung out I could bowl three games. My father was a die hard hockey fan, having played the sport in his own youth. He would take me to countless hockey games and then have some of the Canadian players come and stay at our house. We really did live in festive times back then.
Although dad appeared stoic at times, he was really just a melted slab of butter. When my girls were little he showed up every week-end with a box of their favorite donuts. Right after the birth of my first daughter, not unlike most young parents, my wife and I were struggling financially. I worked full time in an insurance company, went to college three nights a week and the other evenings I worked as a security guard and weigh master at one of the oldest and largest farmer’s markets in New York State. The complex was massive and on the hour, with only a nightstick and a flashlight I would dutifully make my rounds with a time clock, punching in at designated buildings along the way. I worked until midnight and it was a dark, scary and lonely tour. There were hobos, and rats and other seedy types lurking in the dark. Then there was my dad. Out of the darkness I would see familiar headlights and better yet, my father getting out of his car. “What are you doing here dad?” I would ask. “Well son, I just thought maybe you needed some company tonight.” Does it get any better than that?
My father was a combat veteran of WW II and the Korean War, but would walk a mile to avoid a verbal confrontation with anyone. He was called “Uncle Charlie” by his peers and when he died the line at the funeral home formed from his casket, down the aisle and out the back door. He would have been completely embarrassed by such an outward sign of affection.
Yes, both of my parents are gone and like most teenagers, I too went through my rebellious stage and thankfully it passed as soon as it hit. I kissed both my parents and I openly told them I loved them and it was returned ten fold.
In parting, I want to leave those of you who still have parents, with some of my withered advice. Embrace them and let them know, before it is too late, that you love them and honor them. It is the holiday season and although I miss many who have left this planet, I will always cherish their love and devotion.