Archive for July, 2018


Thursday, July 19th, 2018


My father died on July 4th at 11:50 at night. My family was on vacation in Delphi, Greece. We’d just checked into our hotel and I turned on my phone to see if we had WiFi.

A minute later, an email arrived from my sister Adrienne. “Dad is crashing. He’s in ICU.”

It was still July 3 in California.

Even if I turned around and left that minute, the soonest I could get to San Diego was in thirty-six hours.

Adrienne again: “Can you FaceTime?”

I couldn’t because I’m a technology dinosaur, but my son Mateo knew how.

Mateo set it up and we called. My father’s head filled the small screen, his eyes unfocused, his skin pale green.

“We’re in Greece,” I said. “Remember when you were shipwrecked in the Mediterranean?”

My father’s face, not moving, a tube up his nose.

“I love you,” I said. “I love you, Dad. I love you. I love you.”

I tell myself I saw him smile.


I had visited my father the week before we flew to Greece. My sisters Deanna and Adrienne were there. We visited him every day in his Memory Care place in Coronado. Any food he requested, we brought to him. One day we brought a submarine sandwich from Jersey Mike’s: spicy ham and salami, the works. Another day we brought a Reuben on rye from the good deli, with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, secret sauce. A third day, it was jelly donuts from Stardust in Imperial Beach, with real coffee.

He wanted food that was bad for him, loaded with salt and sugar and fat. We didn’t care. We gave him whatever he wanted. When we watched the Preakness, he ate four finger sandwiches, three deviled eggs, and two brownies, and this after a big lunch. My father lost the ability to stand, to write, to toilet himself. But never his appetite.


Because I live in San Francisco, I was able to fly to San Diego to visit my father often. When he could still operate his scooter, he scooted to Smart & Final to buy Almond Joys. He scooted to the Tidelands to watch children play soccer and the Pharmacy to fill his dozens of prescriptions. He scooted to the hospital and the bank, to the liquor store on Orange for Lotto tickets and the bottles of whiskey he kept hidden behind his computer monitor.

Once, in his Memory Care place, my father got a speeding ticket for knocking over a medicine trolley. A few times out on the road, he flipped the scooter and frantic passersby dialed 911. Among ourselves, we called him The Phoenix. Anything serious turned into a false alarm. The last words he spoke to me were the same words he’d said for years: “You’re looking good, kid. Love to you and your family.”


My father raised his five children Catholic. At Mass on Sundays, he sang louder than anyone else. My father loved to sing. He had a beautiful voice.


I’ve been writing my father’s obituary for a week and can’t stop revising it. Now the edits are miniscule: changing a participle to a verb in past tense or moving a prepositional phrase.

I think: If I don’t finish writing my father’s obituary, maybe my father won’t really be gone.










My father

Monday, July 9th, 2018

My Dad died on July 4th, at age 89. He was lucky to live a good, long life. What I want to tell you about my father is that he loved Olivia and Mateo as deeply and totally as he loved all his grandchildren, from Day One. That may seem an obvious statement—of course he’d love his grandchildren, doesn’t every grandparent? But from the countless adoption stories I’ve heard over the years, I know love doesn’t always happen and it doesn’t always happen automatically.

I cherish many qualities of my father, but his unconditional love for my children may be the quality I cherish most. (The photo of him laughing is one of my favorites. He’s holding his first great-grandchild, my sister Adrienne’s granddaughter. The other shows him with my late, beloved mom, Gerry, the love of his life.) Rest in peace, Dad. Flights of angels.