It’s been ten days since Pop left us. So many people have offered consolation and wisdom for what we face. They tell me it will get easier, that time and memories will see us through. I believe them. I have certainly found reasons to smile and laugh in these past days, but I also find that I cry over the smallest things now.
I think it’s the moments in between the moments that get me the most. The quiet moments when my mind is still. That’s when I think of the little things, just out of the blue. Like lunch, and how every day when Dom and I would meet at home for a lunch of leftovers from last night’s dinner, we would be stirring or re-heating or pulling plates out of a cabinet and he would casually ask, “Want me to see if Pop wants any?”
“Of course,” I’d say. “There’s enough.”
A few minutes later Pop would come striding through the side door into our kitchen, tea glass in hand. “Hello, hello,” he’d say, quickly followed by, “Get back!” as he admonished our dogs to stop greeting him with such enthusiasm. He would stroll around the island and take a seat at one of the middle barstools before launching into a lively conversation about something on the news that day, or a chat he’d had with a friend that morning. Many conversation topics began with Pop waving his hand in the air as a means of pointing our attention in a certain direction as he stated, “Dominic, we need to…” followed by a task or chore that he wanted Dom’s help with somewhere on the property.
Pop would eat with us, compliment the meal, then lean back in his chair with a satisfied sigh before saying, “Alright. Let me get back to your mom. Thanks for lunch. It was delicious.”
“Alright, Pop,” Dom would say. “See you tonight.”
I’d chime in with, “You’re welcome, Dad. See you later.”
And then Pop would walk out the door with one last, “Thank you.”
Pop thanked us every time he saw us, even when I didn’t feel like we had done anything to be thanked for. Each time I told him goodbye, he would answer with, “Good night, now. Thank you.”
The last time we spoke he thanked me. I truly feel like it should have been the other way around. Of course, I didn’t know that was to be our last conversation. That night, it should have been me thanking him – for unbridled laughter, for raising his boys to be perfect gentlemen and showing them how to be great husbands and fathers, for being an amazing father-in-law, for letting me see his own strength as well as weakness, and possibly for leaving that strength behind so that each of us who miss him can use it to get through the hard times without him.
I imagine it will always sting when I think of the things we won’t get to do again with him. But I will be forever grateful for the time we had and for the gifts of his love and laughter, which he shared with all who knew him, holding nothing back. I will remember to say “Thank you” every time I think of him, and I will smile at the memories. One of my favorite Rose Kennedy quotes reminds me that it’s okay to find joy even after loss: “Birds sing after a storm. Why shouldn’t people feel as free to rejoice in whatever sunlight remains to them?”
You know me. I’ll be looking for the sunshine.
Robert Joseph Mainiero
October 27, 1942 – January 3, 2018