My dad turned 75 this past January. For his special day my sisters and I and Mama Romano decided to take him out to dinner to this funky Italian restaurant that recently opened up nearby. The bistro in question is this amazingly tacky, tongue in cheek joint that looks like a cross between Tuscany Chic and South Philadelphia glitz with just a touch of Las Vegas Glam. It’s the kind of place my mother lives for and my father tolerates.
Anyway, there are several “rooms” inside this eatery; they are all thematic and decked out to the nth degree in trashy Italian memorabilia. The Romano clan was seated at “The Pope’s Table”. A huge round seating area surrounded by Catholic iconography of all types and photos and paintings of Popes.
As we sat and enjoyed our dinner, people walked by in the hallway and would occasionally glance over to my loud, loving family and the older gentleman seated in the throne like chair at the head of the table. Often Dad would look up at the curious and make the sign of the cross or lift his glass of vino at them and say, “Bless you “. Some folks laughed, while I am sure others found the whole thing rather sacrilegious
My Dad, has always been a bigger than life figure. When I was a kid I was amazed and awed by his height and his strength and his seemingly endless stories about almost anything. Even today with his advanced age, he is still a few inches taller than me (and I am 6’2), he is still as strong as an ox, and he can still spin a longwinded though ultimately amusing tale about almost anything.
Another thing about him that has always amazed me is that he never seemed to get sick, I mean really sick. Yeah he’d catch an occasional cold or something like that, but nothing seemed to slow him down. He was like Superman … sometimes I wondered if there was any thing that could stop him.
He never was, and still is, not much of a health conscious person. He eats what he likes, still enjoys beer and whiskey … he did not even quit smoking until he was well into his 50’s.
One of the few times I ever saw him in pain was back in the summer of 84’ when he was involved in a horrific car accident. For a few months, I saw not only his body, but his spirit broken (the woman who smashed her car into his, was killed instantly, this caused Dad a lot of pain, and while the accident was not his fault, he still felt guilt at being involved in this woman’s death). Happily, with physical therapy and my Mother’s gift for not allowing anyone anytime for self pity, he pulled through and got on with his life. Ultimately, the incident slowed him down, but did not bring him to a stop.
Now don’t get me wrong, he is a senior citizen and sometimes it shows. His legs sometimes ache and his back goes out a lot, but that said, he’s actually doing pretty well….slowed down, but not brought to a stop.
And then …
… Last Friday, I came home from work and found a message on my answering machine. My sister had called to tell me that Dad was in the hospital. I called her back immediately with all kinds of horrible and morbid thoughts racing through my brain. When I finally spoke to her, I found out that he was brought to the emergency room that afternoon. He was in pain, seemed ill, running a fever… (My mind began to implode with thoughts of heart attacks and strokes and other horrid things)… turns out, he has a hernia.
A fucking hernia!
Of course at 75, even a hernia can be a bigger problem; there will be surgery and a recuperation period … but it was only a hernia.
I went to go see him and he seemed fine; fine enough to slip me a list of things he wanted me to go out and get him. I glanced down at the note and read, “A thirty pack of Coors Light, a bottle of Chianti, a bottle of “Makers Mark”…
“Are you planning a party?” I asked.
“Nah,” he said, “just stocking up since I can’t do any lifting for awhile.”
This past weekend has been a busy one, making plans for his surgery and keeping him off his feet and dealing with my Mother and sisters … still though, I can’t help but shake that feeling that once again, that bigger than life man, My Father, has only been slowed down and not brought to a stop.