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.