Thursday, March 6, 2014

In Memory of My Dad

I ask today for your 
prayers.  My father died yesterday and there is a dad shaped hole in 
my heart and brain and life.  Despite being 47, despite having ten 
children of my own and being married 24 years, a whole part of who I 
am is made up not just of his DNA, but his sayings, his mannerisms, 
his coping mechanisms for stress.  I can't say a prayer, cook a meal 
or drive the car without remembering --he taught me that...he 
introduced me to the love of food, he endured my hideous debut behind 
the wheel and as result, taught me how to swear.

No one would know by him that he went to Harvard Law School, for his 
first love always was Notre Dame.  No one would know he studied to 
get a Ph.D in Middle English, translating Sir Gawain and the Green 
Knight, he lived as a humble but brilliant lawyer in Southeast 
Texas.  If you met him, you knew he read, you knew he laughed, and 
you knew he prayed.  You also knew he loved his family beyond all 
measure, especially his wife, my mom.

My dad loved to sing and to feast, and so our home was often full of 
music and great food. He sang to court his bride "The Wild 
Rover."  He sang it to her when she worried as he was on the surgery 
table awaiting a major heart repair. My sister, brother and even the 
surgeons and nurses joined in, all faking an Irish brogue as only 
South East Texans can.  He sang the Notre Dame Fight song to me 
before I walked down the aisle, to calm my shaking, make me laugh and 
let me know, he was right there.  He sang at mass and when I sing, I 
can hear him in the harmonies I can't quite reach.

To have known my Dad is to know generosity and rich laughter. He 
could pun forever, he read everything, and if you were down, he'd 
keep pestering you with jokes until you laughed, not because he 
didn't take your pain seriously, but because he loved you enough to 
keep coming until you didn't hurt as much.  That generosity was also 
lavish in my mom.  Nothing said love more to me than her care for him 
in his last few years when that great brain was slowly erased by the 
cruel skulking thief that is Alzheimer's.  But his face lit up even 
if he couldn't find the words when she would visit him at the hospice 
care home where he stayed his last year. (He broke his hip and needed 
the extra assistance).  She would bring him Crab Gumbo and Bread 
Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.  She would sit with him while he ate, and 
sometimes, she fed him.  It was a luminous marriage, one where even 
when they were out of wine, the best was still served.

Big memories of my Dad include when he put on his waders and pulled a 
john boat through three to four feet of water in a torrent of rain 
with my mom, two brothers (one of who lost a shoe in the getting into 
the boat, my baby sister newly home from the NICU, our dog and me), 
down the street to a two story home owned by a neighbor.  Our home 
had filled with 18 inches of water.  It was the perfect image of my 
dad.  All that he owned, inherited or had earned was being destroyed, 
and he was there just pulling his family down the street.  And he did 
it again the next year when we flooded once more.  This was what mattered.

My dad had three sayings we hated.  "Burning Daylight."  It meant get 
up. It meant Sunday, get dressed, get moving.  It meant the fish were 
biting, no more sleeping.  It meant time to study.  The one thing it 
didn't mean was don't move.

"Now is the Time to Start the Big Push." never failed to get groans 
from the four of us, it meant get to work whether it was raking 
leaves, studying for exams, preparing for an audition, organizing a 
big event, it didn't matter, it meant get to work and whatever work 
you did before now, very nice, keep moving.  You're burning daylight.

"Breathe in.  Breathe out." This one he reserved for when we were 
truly stressed out, sad, or worried.  Though I suspect my having a 
tracheostomy as a child might have been the origin of the saying, 
with the interpretation being actually literal in my case.  Now as I 
look about my house, I see him everywhere. He was always there but 
now it's drawn in sharp relief.  The silver cuff on my arm that I've 
worn forever, the guitar from one Christmas that I still don't know 
how to play other than the refrain from Brown Eyed Girl, the picture 
of him during one of his skinny times (a protein shake diet) holding 
the 40 pound redfish I'd caught in the Texas surf.

The bottom line is I miss him, and I see his eyes in my children's 
faces, I hear his humor in my children's jokes, and my library is 
every room in the house and bulged with books just like his. And I 
can never read enough.  There are a thousand memories I don't have at 
the moment, but I also know as I go through the seasons, I will feel 
the after shocks of his loss and recall the Jasper County Sausage and 
rice at Christmas and the rosary in the car, and I will watch our 
wedding tape and have to wait until Heaven when I hope he comes and 
holds my hand as I tremble, and sings the Notre Dame Victory march to 
me again.

Rest in peace Dad.  3/5/2014

--Sherry Green Antonetti


Allison Gingras said...

What a beautiful testament to your Father's life. I absolutely love the way you took those things he said and carved them not only into memories but your own personal adages. Gives us all pause to listen back to our own parents voices in our heads. Please know of my prayers for his soul, and your family's healing.

Evi said...

What a wonderful tribute to a great man. Thank you for sharing him with us at this most difficult time. What a life he lived and how blessed were those who were in his life. Until you meet again. Take care, Sherry.

Cristina T said...

I held on as long as I could and you had me crying at the end. I am so sorry for your loss, Sherry. Please know that there are so many praying for your Father, for you and the quakes of memories through the seasons to come.

God bless,

Laura said...

Sherry, my mom just emailed us kids to let us know that your dad died. I feel blessed to have known him, and I know his passing leaves a big hole in my dad's life, too. I remember the summer we got to spend a week at your family's place in Galveston, and what a warm host he was; I remember a hilarious spoof on an Irish song that he made up at my sister's wedding with the rest of the people sitting at his table, and I remember always being greeted with a smile whenever I saw him, at Notre Dame or at my parents' house or a wedding. What a gift he was to so many. I will keep your family in my prayers.

LarryD said...

Prayers and condolences, Sherry. We just buried my dad on Monday, so I have a good sense of where you're at right now. Cos I'm still standing in that spot.

Kathleen Kelly said...

Dear Sherry, Thank you for sharing this loving tribute to your Dad ….We treasure every moment we spent in his company, as your big family always made room for friends. We travel tomorrow to Beaumont once more to share in his loving embrace, living on and reflected in your writing! See you soon~~ we share your sorrow but also rejoice in where he is NOW.

Sharon Woodhead said...


Maureen said...

So sorry for your loss; prayers said for you and him.

bruce standifer said...

The memories of Marty include being asked to help finish a dog run at midnight for "Fink". Good cigars and brandy; days fishing for specs and most of all the friendship through the years and watching his children who Susan and I considered our own and which he freely shared. He will be missed so very much.

Anonymous said...

Praising God for the gift of your father, thank you for sharing. May God give you his peace.

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