Gone fishin’

By Kris Ferrazza | Jun 10, 2021
Al Ferrazza

After 91 years on this earth, my dear dad finally has taken a “trip” he’s been talking about for more than a year.

No, he didn’t go to Italy to see his cousins. Or to Hawaii to see the hula girls. This one didn’t involve fishing or casinos. No, this trip was a one-way ticket and no suitcase was required.

He died in his sleep June 1.

My stepmother passed away more than a year ago, just before the pandemic struck. Since that time, my father has been talking about getting his affairs in order so he could join her. He was ready to go wherever she was, and we would spend hours on the phone talking about what might be next for the two of them.

He would speculate about possibly being reunited with her and our other loved ones. He was curious about the afterlife and reincarnation. Naturally, we discussed heaven, hell, the pearly gates, St. Peter and everything in between.

So I can’t help but wonder what he experienced when he drew his last breath last week. I was at his bedside just hours before while he slept. I kissed his cheek, whispered, “Good night, I love you,” in his ear, and was only gone a few hours when he slipped away.

Is he with my stepmother? Did he reunite with his parents, siblings and son? What about his favorite dog? If so, they all must be having quite a time for themselves.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I can’t believe I’ll never again go through the ritual of giving my father a gift. He had a talent for guessing what was in any box or package, no matter how we disguised it. The gift-opening experience was a highlight of the day.

It usually went something like this: he would pick up one of the neatly wrapped gifts, hold it to his ear and shake it.

"Socks," he'd say flatly, without a trace of doubt in his voice, and set it aside unopened.

My siblings and I would groan because he always nailed it.

We’d hand him the next package, and he’d shake it.

"Shorts," he'd say, meaning men's briefs. Again, he was correct.

On it went. “Tie.” “Watch.” “Belt.”

One year, we even put rocks in the box and incorporated oddly shaped household items like hair brushes to throw him off. It was futile.

Shaking the odd, rattling package, he said, "It's a hat."

We were stunned. As the eldest child, my siblings would look to me for an explanation of this wondrous feat. I had nothing.

Growing up, the five of us kids were notorious for using construction paper, crayons, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and clay to fashion homemade gifts from the heart. We proudly would present these creations to him on his special day, along with the other presents purchased and wrapped by our mom.

After opening his "real" gifts, he would move on to the handmade items. We would be giddy with excitement and anticipation as he unraveled the crumpled paper surrounding each craft project. For some reason, a cardboard paper towel roll or toilet paper roll usually was involved. Don't ask me why. I guess they were just readily available in our house.

So now it was payback time. No longer looking confident, Dad would unwrap each messy, low-tech gift and look perplexed.

"Oh," he'd say brightly, eying a shapeless blob of clay, "It's a little turtle."

No. Guess again, we’d say.

"Um, oh, of course. Yes, now I know. I see it … it's a whale," he'd say, turning the blob.

Nope, not a whale either, we’d say.

That’s when he’d run out of patience.

“Well, how am I supposed to know?" he would shout. "You kids and your toilet paper rolls! What kind of presents are these, anyway?"

We’d giggle with glee, clap, jump for joy and repeat the whole process the following year.

So even though it’s been decades, it’s a running joke in the family that my father would pause each time he was about to open a gift and first ask, "This isn't a toilet paper roll, is it?"

Perhaps I’ll have to start a new tradition with my husband this year, just for old time’s sake. I’m sure we have a cardboard toilet paper roll around here somewhere.

And the beat goes on.

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