I was watching, Dad


I was watching when you were taking care of all the women that didn’t have people to stand up for them.

Rosemarie, Donna, and Patty next door. She was a widow, and you spent more time in their driveway fixing her car and stuff in her house than you did in our own backyards some summer weekends.

Ethyl across the street. All times you cut the lawn, and the home repair work. How you made us gut and prepare all the snapper we caught when we went fishing and bring it to her because she was on Social Security. How that one tree that fell in her yard almost killed you when it snapped back on your legs when you cut it down with your chainsaw so it wouldn’t damage her house after the hurricane.

Amalia – the little lady from Spain that we drove to church every week because she couldn’t drive herself and was “trapped” in her house. She smelled like old people, and told me my school-spanish was wrong. She was going to teach me “Castillian” spanish – the language of the kings.

Rosealie next door to us. Another widow, whose husband died while we lived there, leaving her  alone in that house.

         >>>(I believe she was mentally disabled, almost like a child, now that I think back)

You checked in on her – helped her move when the state took her property away for the highway project. Bought her junky furniture to help with the move and get some money in her pockets. She was the kind of lady no one would talk to or help because she was different – and you did both of those things.

Widows, all around us. You were the only guy helping, now that I think about it.

How you took care of little Richie Frye because his welfare mom wouldn’t spend any time with him, and just let him run loose around the neighborhood dirty and hungry. We hated him at the time, to be honest. I didn’t get it then – but I get it now. She wasn’t a widow – just single if she was ever married at all. She probably appreciated you picking him up and taking him to the beach with us those times. Weird now that I see it that way. His brother kicked the shit out of me one day – and you still took “little Richie” to the beach. That stung, Pop.

You fought for Mom’s mom, when grandpa was abusive to her- which was a lot. I heard when I was a kid watching you tell her you’d drive her to the airport, buy 2 tickets and fly her down to her sister’s house in Florida and take her away from him…all she had to do was tell you. You handed her a ticket that she never used. I saw the whole thing.

Dad – I have a lot of women in my life now. It’s kind of weird. But they all need my help to one degree or another. And I’ve been helping. I didn’t connect to the why until just now.

It always comes with a cost though.

Sometimes the people you help – that need the help the most, don’t want it or reject what you did after the fact. I see now that it’s because the people closest to them always hurt them. Doing something nice for someone usually comes with a catch. People don’t want to feel obligated. They have enough unwanted obligations. So they push you away.

Sometimes the people you help don’t ever fight for themselves. They let you do all the fighting. And that takes its toll on you. It grinds you down to the point you don’t want to help anymore. You ask, “what the hell am I doing?”.  Sometimes.

Sometimes the most hurtful part is dealing with the people who have been hurting the women who’ve been hurt. They don’t like you standing up for them. It shines a spotlight on how shitty they’ve been to the person you’re helping. They get ferociously offensive, and lash out at you AND the person you’re helping. These are the worst kinds of situations. They take the deepest tolls. It evokes certain feelings…I wonder if you ever felt this way. They are not happy feelings.

Most times I don’t count the cost, and I find I’m waaaay out there – pretty exposed and vulnerable before I know where I am in the situation. I know that’s not a healthy place to be, but sometimes some people – the ones who hurt others –  only understand “crazy”. It’s their native language, and they won’t back down until you speak the song of their people.

I watched you sing those melodies more than once.

I’d like to hope you’d be proud of me – of the man I’ve become/am becoming.  But I get really angry – the way you used to get – when I see someone being mistreated. To a fault most days. I’m not sure I’m built for it the way you were. Or maybe the anger took the same toll on you it takes on me? There are enough genes in “here” from you, that I’m pretty sure it did.

Did you ever regret it? Helping? Did you ever once say, “this is the last time?” Did you ever get in so deep you looked back and thought….”Crap.”

You ended up living in the mountains in the Catskills by yourself with mom….but then she found a widow to help….and you started helping her too, when she was dying of cancer.

I haven’t yet…given up. In fact, I’m really proud of these ladies. (there are men to help/ I am helping. Just a lot of women lately, it seems).

They’re getting stronger….little by little. Small changes that turn into big changes when you take that burden away for a little while. Time to heal, and get back up on their feet and stand, you know? I didn’t appreciate how strong a woman could be, that is, until this latest season of my halfway through life phase.

I hope your granddaughter Abbey will be as strong as these ladies are, someday. God you’d love her, Dad. She’s amazing – the best of all of us.

I kind of get why you did it, now.

Sometimes people just need someone to stand in the gap and say, “I believe in you. I’ll help”.  To people that get forgotten. People other people don’t think will ever fight back. You were kind of a superhero like that, I guess…your other glaring faults and personal kryptonites aside. I could have had a worst example growing up.

Tell Mom, and Ethyl, and Rosemarie…all the ladies that I get it. Tell them your daughter in law and granddaughter – they’re strong like them….so much stronger than I am most days. I’m trying to be a better dad than you. I say, “I love you” a lot more than you did in front of the boys to them. Hug them- tell them I think they’re beautiful and that I believe they can do whatever they set their mind to.

Sometimes I drop the ball like you did – but maybe a little less often than you, and that’s gotta stand for something, right? Maybe your grandsons will do even better than you or I did with their wives and kids. I think that will be true. I know it.

I miss you. It’s hard figuring out what you would do. I have a hard time remembering your face sometimes – or your voice. Tonight was a good touchstone for me though. Remembering the widows.

That was all you, Old Man. And I was watching.



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