When we were cleaning out my dad’s house in preparation for selling it, I came across an unlabeled box. I opened it up and discovered a stack of newspaper clippings. I picked up the top one and saw that it was one of my columns for the Ewing Observer.
Digging deeper into the box, I found that the box was full of my columns. My dad had clipped every one of the columns I ever wrote for the Ewing Observer and kept them in that unlabeled box in his hall closet.
Dad had always sworn that, instead of a tuxedo, he would wear our Irish clan’s kilts at my wedding. I told him that no father of mine would be wearing a skirt to my wedding. He capitulated and ordered a powder blue tux for the wedding.
The night before our wedding, the bridal party was milling around in the back of my church, waiting for my dad to get there so we could start the rehearsal. All of a sudden, my dad marches down the aisle from the front of the church, clad in the full Irish outfit — hat, sporran (Irish man-purse), the clan plaid draped across his chest, and a pair of my argyle socks.
Our priest, who was a good friend of the family, simply rolled his eyes and said, “Are we ready now?”
At the actual wedding, after dad walked me down the aisle and lifted my veil and gave me a kiss, he forgot to take his seat next to my mother in the front pew. He stood behind me and George for probably only a few minutes (felt like a lifetime). George and I kept casting sideways glances to see if he was still there.
At some point, dad sat down. I don’t know exactly when. I was too busy saying vows.
My parents picked us up from the airport after our honeymoon. When we got off the plane and were walking down the hall towards the terminal, we saw my parents standing there behind a rope erected to keep the bystanders out of the hallway. Keep in mind this was before 9/11 and people were allowed to go right to the gate in those days.My dad jumped the rope and came running to greet us. These days, they would have cuffed him.
Dad once got ejected from one of Georgie’s travel soccer team tournament games for yelling at the ref. My dad was wearing a bright yellow tee shirt that had the team logo on the front and “Number 5 is my grandson” on the back.
Dad was banished to the parking lot for the remainder of the game. I could still hear him yelling throughout the rest of the game. The next day, the local paper wrote about our game and mentioned the “man in a bright yellow shirt getting ejected from the game.”
My parents traveled the globe. They went on more than 30 cruises. Dad once smuggled flower bulbs out of Ireland and gave some to us. I can only imagine him pulling bulbs out of the Irish ground while my mom whispered, “Don! Stop! We’ll get arrested!” and then “You missed a couple over here.”
To this day, we call them the Irish flowers even though they are really primroses.
Dad insisted on running his own household after Mom passed in 2011. Grocery shopping, cleaning, you name it. We caught him up on a ladder cleaning his gutters! It was not in his DNA to accept help. He did 200 sit-ups every day and walked 3 miles, weather permitting.
Then he had a massive stroke which left one side very weak. He entered Greenwood House, which was a godsend for dad and for us.
We watched as dad faded. He went through the motions, but he had lost that spark of dadness that I treasured.
On Wednesday, Sept. 16, nine years to the day my mom died, the angels led dad into heaven to greet all those who went before him.
My brain knows dad is in a better place, finally reunited with the love of his life, no longer in pain. My heart just needs to catch up.
Ilene Black has been a resident of Ewing for most of her life and lives across the street from her childhood home. She and her husband, George, have two sons, Georgie and Donnie.