Saturday, June 20, 2009
My nephew Adam became a dad for the first time yesterday, on Father's Day. He and Rebecca welcomed Max a little after 5 a.m., a hefty 9 lbs., 1.4 oz. Max would have been my father's fourth great-grandchild, and he'd have fallen in love immediately with this little guy. When we speak of my father, it's often said, "No one loved babies more."
My dad passed away in 1993, the week before Father's Day. Alfred Jospeh Henry Lewis O'Farrell (Val to most) was the son of a noted New York City police detective, Valerian O'Farrell. He had a very interesting childhood, went to Notre Dame, and joined the army where he was stationed at Pearl Harbor after the attack. He was a tall, handsome Irishman and could charm just about anyone. The greatest gift he gave us was his love for our mother. He died in his 76th year, much too early for his wife, three sons, and four daughters who appreciated his life but felt cheated out of more time. He had always been so vital and youthful. He never became an old man, except for those last months in a nursing home after suffering a devastating stroke. Those months were not what he would have wanted, and I'm grateful that, as time goes on, that period of time has faded from prominence in my memory. Now, I remember my father as the strong, younger man of my childhood, who'd lift me high in the sky, whose wingtips I'd clunk around in, who let me dance on his feet. He loved to listen to baseball on the car radio. He rarely missed his kids' meets or games, and he played golf (no cart) whenever he could, right up until the stroke. He was a decent man who treated people with respect. My dad traveled for a living and loved to be with his family whenever he was home. Despite the size of our large family (seven kids), when we were young our parents enjoyed taking us out to dinner, to hotels, to vacations on the Jersey Shore. We traveled more than I ever did with my own children, and perhaps that's why I am always ready to pack a bag today to experience the next thing.
I was 39 when my dad died, and it was a rough year. It was also the year I became a single mom after nineteen years of marriage. I had a job I didn't love and kids who needed more from me than I could give at that time. Little did I know then that life could get better. My dad would have said, "Sister, you'll be fine" and I would have believed him, but he wasn't there to say it. Life did get better, and sometimes in dreams I sense his presence and fatherly assurance that I am, indeed, doing fine. I'd like to think he's somehow aware during life's successes, and guiding me through its challenges.
A friend I knew lost her father who was well into his nineties when he passed away. She was in her sixties at the time, and devastated at his passing. People at work were wondering why she was having such a hard time of it. Ater all, he'd lived a long, productive life. She missed work for a long time and had trouble resuming the life she had before she lost her father. I was curious about how hard it hit her, and when we talked about it she said, "No matter how old your father is, when he's gone, he's gone. You only get one." I understood.
This was posted on Monday, June 22, 2009
photo credit: google images