Rest Easy Daddy

I can’t seem to sleep, I am up all night with mini panic attacks replaying the last weeks of my Fathers life in my head.  I describe the last week like a record player…. the needle lays down to play the music and as the record spins so does my head…. spinning and spinning the thoughts of the last weeks.  The record is over and the needle picks up and it plays again.  I just can’t stop spinning.  The questions and speculations swirl in my head and likely will be doing so for quite sometime.

I’m feeling a bit selfish as well because I want my dad back. Well I want my 1999 dad back.  I’m selfish to think that there’s something I could have said or done that would have kept him around longer. I’m selfish to think that his love for us could have trumped his depression. I’m selfish to keep asking “why” when I know I’ll never get the answer.

For now I will try and enjoy life, work to slow the spinning and try and seek joy. Oh and I promise to never ever leave my family wondering.

My father had a choice. He chose to leave. Janice didn’t have a choice, she did NOT choose to leave. An orphan at 42 years old.  Yes I am angry.

Friends have asked me to share my eulogy.  Its not edited and was written on my phone mostly on my flight home from Florida in April.  I knew this was coming.

 

Hello my name is Christina Ann Marvullo Alexander and I am an adult child of an alcoholic.  A remembrance of my days where Mom and Dad had me attend al anon meetings as a child.  Our Father was a 30 plus year member of the 12 step program that worked on a model that you can not maintain sobriety unless the drunk surrenders to a higher power became a staple of our everyday life as both my Father and my brother are friends of Bill W.  Our alcoholic family was one of chaos, inconsistency and sometimes unclear roles. I think that’s what has happened to me my husband tells me I think I am everyone’s MOTHER!

 

The death of someone whom is essentially a hard person to love is complicated.  The death of a person with whom you have had a broken relationship means now that relationship can never really be repaired.  My Father was himself too a broken person but Laura and Joey and I are left with what remains and we now begin the process of making peace with it.

 

I have often thought about what I would feel like in this moment.  Because ever since I was a little girl our Dad was sick. Sick with a physical disease and dealing with addiction  struggling with sobriety and what I can now see as struggling with mental illness. In thinking about this day it has opened up many places inside of me revealing long hidden places that hold both anger and joy.

 

Every parent wishes to pass along some wisdom to their children and our Dad was no different.  As I sat and considered what I would write today I tried to focus on the lessons I have learned from him.

As a child I never really thought much about our trip to concerts, backyard listening to baseball games on the radio while working in the garden or our fishing adventures.  In retrospect, however, I now understand that Dad was – consciously or not – imparting some useful lessons on life.

 

Long before there were i phones or satellite radio or any of these highly addictive electronics to keep children entertained and planted on the family couch for hours.  Fishing was my Dad’s method of spending time with me and teaching me something that he loved. Reading the Newsday and checking the schedule of the incoming tides was a daily routine.  Then off we would go to do some fishing. Now the drive there was usually me in the front seat with a six pack of miller light between us. The beer wasn’t even placed in a cooler and the thought of me wearing a seat belt was not something that crossed his mind.

The days were long and hot but I learned how to celebrate the success of the catch but more importantly I learned about waking up ridiculously early, how to purchase bait, prepping for the day and sometimes we wouldn’t catch a single fish.  I suppose this is what I learned – how to accept failure and patience. The lessons were that waiting and waiting was just another variable in my Dad’s meticulously constructed equation on how catch a fish.

 

Gardening was another love of his, all done while listening to the New York Yankees on the radio.  Well if Janice was outside she would change the station to listen to the New York Mets and that my friends began my love for the sport.  Baseball like fishing were his perfect summer companion, the game has a rhythm that mirrors summer – the pace is gradual and sometimes slow and often laid back.  Fitting as Dad passed away on the summer solstice the longest day of the year, my beloved first day of summer. Indeed these sounds of summer ring in my head when thinking of Dad – from the shed radio where an umpire calling balls and strikes to a vendor hawking hot dogs and peanuts , these sounds come loud and clear in my mind.  The sprinkler running on his beloved garden as Joey and Laura and I along with our neighborhood friends would slide down the lawn on our famous yellow slip and slide .

 

Music was another of his passions.  Rides in the car always had a 8 track in of Billy Joel or Led Zeppelin or Willie Nelson or many of his doo wop favorites.  Singing along was Janice whom most don’t know took vocal lessons for years and had a beautiful voice. I can still hear her sing Barbara Streisand and my Father sang the Bee Gees part and funny Donald and I do the same thing today.   We went to countless concerts together the best being Eric Clapton and Elton John he took my friend Alexandra and I and we were in awe of the whole experience. Dad went to see Willie Nelson a few months back calling to tell his son in laws Donald and Mike all about it and wondering how much longer that old goat would be on stage.

 

Joe Monroe as he sometimes was called or also known as the boss – had a huge loving family.  Too many Marvullo’s to count. But in the end it was his six grandsons that made him smile the most.  John Joseph whom was named after him, Daniel who just a month ago chose Joseph as his confirmation name, Christian (that was his middle name), Michael Joseph who too was named after him and babies Antonio and Max.  A few more boys and we can make a baseball team! He was so proud when the spoke of those boys I think the thought of that being his biggest accomplishment. When we told the boys of his passing Daniel said “but he said that he would come back up and help me perfect my curve ball.”  MJ said but we were going to have ice cream Nina but now the is an Angel with Nanny Janice.

 

You died exceptionally early Daddy, the young and fit and handsome man I see in the garden picking your beloved tomatoes died  when you lost your beloved Janice and that man had been replaced with someone we really didn’t know for the last fifteen years.   A man you didn’t really even know for the last fifteen years either.

 

So as we head into the dog days of summer where the calendar turns faster then we would all like and playoff races heat up in major league baseball I encourage you to stop and LISTEN to a baseball game, turn on some old tunes on the radio, head to Joe’s beloved Long Island Sound, throw in a line, sit and listen to the boats go by.  For we shall not pass this way again.

 

 

Cools ~ The Boop ~ Joe Fatz

Recently my father Joe has learned how to use FaceBook.  You know him he is the guy THAT WRITES IN ALL CAPS-POP.  He is enjoying catching up with the day to day Alexander Adventures as well as catching up with old friends.  He recently found his old friend John Swift on FaceBook and a few weeks ago John found me through a thread my father had started on motorcycles.

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Me and my Aunt Annie Marvullo-Himmler 1982 ish.

John writes on the thread “Hey Cools” and I was instantly transported to 8 Maple Street in Glenwood Landing.  Cools that was my name my father gave me as a little girl.  Mostly because I apparently enjoyed running around in my diaper or with nothing on and my “coolie” was hanging out.  I have no idea how he could have even remembered that but boy did it bring a smile to my face.  John or “Jackie” as I remember was the son Mr. and Mrs. Swift who lived a few houses away.  He would be often found at my house visiting on his motorcycle and chatting with Mom and Dad while they were outside doing yard work.  After I closed my computer for the night after hearing from Jackie I began to tell the boys stories of my child hood at 8 Maple and the great times that we had with our neighbors and friends.

The boys asked me more about why my name was Cools and I explained to them how we all got names from Dad.  Dad and I were best buds for years, I was his fishing buddy, his gardening buddy, his lets watched a baseball game buddy and lets go to the store for a pack of cigarettes and drink a six pack at the beach parking lot buddy.  Laura was the most girly of girls “The Boop” she was nicknamed after the sassy Betty Boop.  I can just see little Laura running around all dressed up in Mom’s heals flipping her hair all around and putting on Moms makeup.  She was always a girly girl and me not so much.   Then came the Prince, the apple of my Fathers and Mothers eye Joseph Christian.  Well Joey was dubbed  “Joe Fatz” cause till this day the kid is so filled with hot air and gas.  He stunk up a room then and can clear a room now.

Some of my favorite memories of 8 Maple was summers doing yard work as a family.  The front of our home had a brick wall at street level.  We lived on a very steep hill and our home was just at the top of the hill.  Boy that hill killed me and my friend Kelli so many times as we ran after baseballs down the hill scratched up our knees and went home bleeding from playing stickball.  The wall in front was a great place to hang out with your friends and share a homemade tupper wear ice pop made by Janice.  Dad had perfectly trimmed bushes along that wall and our job as kids would be to pick up all the trimmings when he would cut them several times a year.  We had a beautiful half wrap around porch on our home with beautiful old style spindles that Mom would paint what seemed like every year.  In front of the porch was a large patch of pachysandra a low growing groundcover plant that seemed to cover a large portion of the yard. The back yard was just beautiful, plant after plant filled the parameter of the rear yard.  Dad built a shed next to his garden but this was no normal shed.  Dad had running water in there, a telephone and cable TV.  He wanted his man cave to be a escape location from us crazy kids.  Dad built a railroad tie box next to his shed it had to be twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide for his beloved garden.  Summers were simply awesome with the fresh Roma, beefsteak  and cherry tomato’s, green beans, peppers (sweet and hot), basil, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce and the list goes on and on.  Mom would go out and pick fresh veggies for dinner every night.  In August all the neighbors were happy because there was simply too much and Mom was giving away what she could not freeze.  August was my favorite time also because with all the veggies Mom would make ciambotta an Italian vegetable stew, I can sill see the pot steaming and smell the garlic roasting.  Dad had a huge compost pile that we would bring the veggie scraps, coffee grinds, egg shells and newspaper too.  Dad would turn it every few days and he made the most amazing soil for his plants.  The plant’s that he began to grow in the winter in the basement under the lights in ice cube trays.

Mom and Dad made a good team, well at least most of the time they did.  Funny how I see DJ and I working together in the yard just like they did.  I have my little Town of North Hempstead composter and my little corner next to my Home Depot shed where today I grow a pretty good Roma and some killer cherry tomatoes.

Thanks Mr. Jackie Swift for remembering Cools, The Boop and Joe Fatz…. The memories will live in my heart forever.

 

Joseph SR

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The original Joe the Plumber….Here is a photo of my Father “post” Janice.  Ya see Janice would never allow the Harley and certainly not the pony tail.  Practically children themselves when I was born — they were both 23 — they were thrust into adulthood while still, in many ways they were kids.  I believe my father’s midlife crisis missed all the typical marks. There was no Rogaine, no convertible, and unfortunately for me, no round-the-world family cruise. His path to middle age can be summed up all by the sudden loss of his teenage love Janice Vesloski.

Dad was a hard worker, spending my younger years as a business owner – J and J Heating (Janice and Joe).  A plumber by trade he later worked for Pall Corporation in East Hills.  The business went under sometime in my Elementary school years.  Mostly because or at least I think Dad’s love of Miller beer.

Dad’s drinking got worse and worse and came to a head sometime my freshman year of High School .  I was told many times that “Your father has to want to do it for himself. When he hits rock bottom, he’ll make changes.”  Well Rock bottom hit and Mom sat us all down and said “Daddy’s going away for a little while.”  And she sent him to a rehab program in Upstate New York.  I still have the letters he sent me from there.  He asked me to take care of my Mother and my siblings and that he was getting better for us.  Shortly after he came home his new passion was educating himself on  Employee Assistance programs for those with drug and alcohol addictions in the workplace.  He started a counseling center in Sea Cliff to help those who were trying to become sober and his life’s work after that surrounded the AA program, the 12 steps and taking it one day at a time.

Through the years I watched my dad throw himself (compulsively, I may add) into many passions. Once, he invented a new product he called “the chum buddy” in our basement, a fishing lure that he and my Mother would drive around the Island and sell (I can still smell the plastic being drilled out).   He had tee shirts made and even got some vanity plates for his Chevy van.

Some may call him Cosmo Kramer…though eccentric, Kramer was friendly and kind-hearted and filled with quirkiness – Pretty much sums up Joe M.  Unfortunately what I often saw was his inability to transform those passions into a measurable result.  I always wished my dad given more time to his purpose — why he did what he did, why he wanted what he wanted — his passions may have resulted in a more favorable and desired outcome. There was something he was always looking for… I think he still is still looking…..

Dad always taught us very important lessons here are just a few:

  • How to make a mean clam chowder and english muffin pizzas.
  • A fresh unwashed tomato from the garden is best shared with your Dad.
  • Farting is always funny. Even at the dinner table. Actually, especially at the dinner table.
  • You can be mad at someone and still love them at the same time. This can be very confusing.
  • Marry your best friend.
  • Religion was praying to God the Yankees would get the win.
  • Swiss cheese is to be eaten on wonder bread with mayo and fresh tomato.
  • My father taught me about JUSTICE.  “One day you’ll have to teach someone, and I hope they give you grief, just like you did me.” and I did.
  • When you turn 18 and your eligible to vote – Vote for the vowel.  If the man’s name running for office ends in a vowel its likely he is Italian and he is the one you should pick.  
  • Listen to your Mother.

While my childhood was often filled with anxiety and tension, there were nevertheless some beautiful times with my father. Looking back, what I can be most thankful for are the lessons I’ve carried with me.

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