Oh Joe? Sadly, Won’t See Him No More…

I wrote last week about my relationship with my father-in-law…how he learned to tolerate me…even accept me into his family and treat me like a son…and how he laid in a hospital gravely ill from some undiagnosed illness…

They finally got around to diagnosing it last Wednesday…West Nile Virus…and last Friday, an hour after removing him from his ventilator, he passed away…peacefully and with his family by his side…the way a true family man would have wanted…

Joe was an interesting study…part engineer, (the featured image was something he was working on…even in his final days)…he was part pack rat, he was a fiercely loyal and protective father…each one of his kids probably has a story of Joe vs. the school system on their behalf…and maybe even for his own satisfaction too…I think sometimes he would take the contrarian view just so he could try and prove it to you…I remember a long, circular discussion/debate(?) I listened to between him and a family member who was a state trooper about the concept of Implied Consent…check your drivers license if you’re not sure..God love him, no one would ever Deny he could debate the living hell out of an issue when he wanted too…

I remember when my wife and I bought our first house…Joe took me to this old warehouse near where he lived…it had all kinds of what I might think of as trash, but what Joe and others might consider treasure…Joe suggested that there were certain sized screws and nails that I should have…in bulk… around the house when I wanted to construct or repair something…”you mean to tell me the contractor/repairman won’t have his own bulk stash on his truck?”…it wasn’t long before I figured out that Joe probably wanted them there for his own use when he came over…he also insisted I have a good workbench…and so I built one, I over-built one he told me, not that he was complaining…

Joe and I finally put all those nails and screws to good use building an 8’x12′ shed in my backyard…and it was here that Joe might have made several mistakes…first of which was truusting me to have the area leveled off so we could start right in on the construction…what looked good to me was actually off about a foot from the front to the back and don’t even get me started on side to side…but after a couple of hours and multiple trips to a nearby construction site where we grabbed rocks of all shapes and sizes, we were able to lay a somewhat questionable looking foundation…one he thought  might be a problem in the future…but it never was, at least not while I owned it…

Joe’s second mistake, and one we laughed about often, or at least Joe did…was to leave that weekend before the shingles were laid on the roof, leaving that job to me and me alone and maybe repaying me for not having the ground leveled off…I did alright though, at least the roof never leaked nor did any shingles blow off…but it took me longer to finish than I thought it would…and for one stupid reason…if you’ve ever seen an asphalt shingle before it gets laid, you may have noticed that clear strip of plastic on the back that covers over the glue line?…it was a pain in the ass peeling off all those plastic strips…my pants pockets were filled with them as I worked…finally, I was frustrated enough to call Joe and complain and wonder aloud how roofers get anything done with all that plastic to be removed…I got what I deserved…at first absolute silence…then the laughter on the other end of the phone told me I was about to become the punch line in some family joke for years to come…I persevered, finished the roof…maybe not as well as Joe would have, but good enough for government work…

I had some good times with Joe…taking my son, his only grandson, fishing for the first time was one…Joe was smart enough to take us to the fish hatchery where my son was IMG_0505sure to catch as many fish as he wanted…the only thing Joe didn’t plan on was that Joe would be the first thing my son would hook with his first cast…this time it was my turn to laugh…it was a great moment and one I’ll never forget, the way he never forgot my shed roofing escapades…and half an hour later, my son was sitting on a bench eating our bait…we were only using mini-marsh mellows…apparently the fish love them…

I have many other stories of times with Joe…we all had them…vacations to Disney World, Bush Gardens, and Mexico…some were good, some maybe not so IMG_0506much…sometimes all together, and sometimes one on one…because if there was one thing about Joe it was that he loved to have family around…coming from my family it felt a little suffocating at times…but in the end Joe raised one hell of a tight knit clan…really, really tight…

Joe was Italian, what I might consider old-world…a man who loved his Italian heritage and all the traditions such as the 7 Fishes on Christmas Eve dinner that come with it…I’m pretty much a mutt…some different things from my father’s side, and Irish from my mom…so I’ll leave Joe with this old Irish prayer…one that I like and I’m sure he does too…

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand

 

 

This One’s For You Dad…

I’ve had a tough time this week…I came to the realization that it more than likely is time for a change in jobs…doing the same job for over 16 years makes it difficult  to leave and finding something new at 57 won’t be easy to do…not to mention I work for someone I consider a friend and who may be reading this in the middle of his latest bowel movement…but that’s okay, I respect him and at least he reads whatever self-important thing I happen to be driveling on about…

But this really isn’t about me…this is about someone who I’ve known for over 30 years now…and as of this moment lays in a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator…in a hospital that is struggling to find even the slightest of reasons why he’s in his current state…don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing anyone at the hospital of malpractice or anything…but it sure feels like they’re over-matched right now…and it has become harder each day to watch my wife’s family deal with the frustration of not knowing…and seeing my father-in-law survive thanks to the tubes he’s hooked up to…

I met my future father-in-law Joe when I helped his daughter, now my wife, move from her apartment in North Philly to one in South Jersey…the logistics of my relationship being my best freind was dating her roommate and they introduced us one intoxicated Saturday at the Jersey Shore…I don’t know, maybe it was just me who had over-indulged…anyway we got along pretty good and yadda…yadda…two weeks later I was renting a truck to help her move…not because she wanted to be closer to me…she had finished pharmacy college and got a job with a pharmaceutical company in South Jersey…

of course Joe liked me right away, helping another guy move, or in this case his daughter, is a big step in any manly friendship…and in the 30 plus years I’ve known him we’ve never had a cross word…even though I’m not really sure I would have been his first pick to marry off his daughter to…this was clear to me when I asked him in the frozen foods section of a supermarket if I could marry his daughter and his first response was, “What?”… we all know when someone answers a question with what that they’re stalling for time…further evidenced by his call for help to his wife further down the aisle, “Uh, Peg, (future mother in-law) come here please!”…the trepidation in his call for help obvious…but we worked it out, we were able to buy all the frozen seafood we needed that day, Joe agreed to let me ask his daughter, and I left the supermarket with the uneasy feeling that Joe liked me, but he thought his daughter could do better…story of my life…

Joe has always treated me like a son since I married into the family…I on the other hand have never felt comfortable calling him dad…I always felt my actual father was only deserving of that…usually it was just Joe, or Hey, uh, or So, uh, as in “Hey, uh, did you see the Penn State game?”, or “So, uh, how you doing today?”…and you know what?…I was wrong not to call him Dad…after 30 plus years of treating me like a son, of always being straight with me…making sure I knew when he was proud of me…making sure to always Pamper my kids, his grandchildrenhe’s earned it…I only hope I get the chance to tell him…