A true rock legend has left the building.
My Popi’s gone. Following a strong battle with heart disease, he left this life on Thursday, March 20, 2008, at approximately 7:25 p.m. I could go into detail about his death, but I prefer to remember how he lived.
There’s no reflecting on his life without recalling my mother. My Dad was dumb-struck, out-of-this-world, “I-wouldn’t-believe-it-if-I-hadn’t-lived-it” in love with my Mother. To give you an idea of how dedicated he was to her, some eight years following Mom’s death, a female friend of Dad’s began calling him frequently on the phone. Knowing that her interest was more than just casual, I though it was a perfect opportunity to have “the talk” with him.
I sat alongside his bed.
“Dad,” I said, “You were a good husband to Mom, and I just want to tell you … if you found someone you’d like to start seeing—you know, get married again—you should do it.”
My Dad turned slowly to look at me (as the goose bumps began to rise on my arms).
In quite a serious tone he said, “What are you talking about?”
“Well, I … uh … know she calls you a lot … and I just want you to know it’s okay. I mean, you said … she’s … your … friend …” I trailed off, seeing the look of distain on his face.
“And that’s all she can ever be! “Have you lost your mind? I ain’t got but one love and that’s my Baby Doll!”
(And it was then, your honor, that my father nearly killed me with The Look!)
Needless to say, we never discussed another marriage, another date, another liaison. Come to think of it, I don’t believe that woman ever called my Dad again after that night. Apparently, she too got the memo.
But that was my Daddy. He was the “when-a-man-loves-a-woman” type husband. In fact, about a month after Popi died, I was looking through his movie collection and saw where he’d taped the movie, “When a Man Loves a Woman.” I smiled as I knew why he taped it. It wasn’t the content (my mother was not an alcoholic, as was Meg Ryan’s character in the movie), he just loved the title and the song. Apparently a lot. As I looked through his collection, I found a second “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and then a third. I was like, “You gotta be kidding me!” But that’s just like my Dad—if it was about a man loving a woman, he was in! Hands down.
My Dad was an Old School lover! When it came to my Mother, he didn’t play. We knew we were loved ONLY from the standpoint that she was loved first. Fortunately, she didn’t mind sharing the love with us. Otherwise, I’m thoroughly convinced he would’ve driven her off to some remote rainforest where they could make goo-goo eyes and stare at each other from sun up to sundown.
There was one incident where my Mother had simply HAD IT with us kids! We were horrible on this day. I don’t know how it turned out that way, because Mom could wield a sword—and did—but clearly on this day she was outnumbered. The woman crumbled. She picked up her purse and left home, walking up the street, saying she wasn’t coming back.
Then Daddy found out. I gotta tell ya—it was quite clear we were not on his list of priorities that day. In fact, after he tracked her down and persuaded her to come home, he had a very brief discussion with us all. It went something like this:
She don’t leave. Ever. You’ll all go before she does. I’ll put you all out.
And we KNEW HE WOULD! Because you gotta know my Dad. He rarely yelled or shouted. He was mostly fun-loving. But on that day, his voice was very serious—his tone threatening. And we KNEW we had no option but to treat Mom with the utmost respect.
Let me interject by saying: kids are smart when things are laid out just so. Kids know the real deal when you hand it to them. I knew then that my meal ticket was Mom and Dad, and I couldn’t mess with the meals.
I was three.
To be continued …