555 HEAVEN'S GAIN 555
I was definitely a Daddy's girl and from a very tender age, I knew my father was a superhero. Better than that, he was MY hero. I am the youngest of four children with an eleven year age difference between my closest sibling and me. Sometimes being the youngest was difficult because my sisters and brother were able to go out and do things that I was old enough to participate in yet. By the time my siblings married and moved out of the house, I was only fifteen years old...and outnumbered by parents! Oh my!
Thankfully, I had a very good relationship with my parents, especially my father. My father, Joseph N. Esposito, was born on July 18, 1938 in Manhattan. He was the third of seven children born to my grandparents. As far as I know, my father loved to tinker with things and would often be found trying to take things apart and put them back together again. He loved to find out how and why things worked. One of my favorite stories was about how my father fiddled with some wires and ended up picking up the distress signal from the Andrea Doria. Another favorite was when he decided to build a helicopter, strapped his younger sister in it with him and flew several feet up into the air before it crashed down. Once my grandfather was spotted running out of the house with his belt in hand, my father detached himself from the contraption, left his poor sister strapped in and headed for the "caves" only returning to the house secretly so his mother could pass food to him through the window.
My father entered the United States Army in 1958. Within a year's time, he became a Private First Class. It was also noticed that he was pretty handy with a pistol. He gained a spot on the United States Army Pacific Pistol Team and earned over twenty-one medals for his skills in shooting rifles and pistols. He was informed that he was selected to compete for a position on the United States Olympic Team but declined because it would have meant reenlistment and he had a fiancé to get home to, my mother, Anna.
I love looking at my father's photographs from his time in the Army. It's hard to imagine how someone so young was accomplished in so many things. I used to enjoy listening to his stories about his time in Korea and Hawaii. Although my father was in Korea for quite some time, he wasn't there during the conflict and, therefore, is not considered a wartime veteran. It's unfortunate, because he did serve his time on the Asian continent and mentioned that there was still conflict around him.
My father was a very contemplative man and had a very warm and loving heart. He was the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off of his own back if someone was in need. He had a way of dealing with people...and animals. Due to his gentle nature, it was not uncommon to catch a glimpse of him through the bedroom window while he was in the backyard with sparrows sitting on his shoulder or feeding squirrels from his own hands.
He was loved by all and never had an unkind word to say about anyone. He always tried his best and if someone told him that he couldn't do something or figure something out, he would prove them wrong. Case in point...my father never went to college. He left school in the seventh grade and then eventually got his GED in the early 1980s. Even without a degree, he was extraordinarily capable in Mathematics and the Sciences. He taught himself how to make things using stained glass, he built scale replicas of the B & O Bridge and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and in his later years, created models of lighthouses that were so architecturally accurate that they are on display in museums. I'm so proud of all the things that he has accomplished in his life. Unfortunately, he never knew his own worth.
On the eve of the eleventh anniversary of his passing, I'm feeling rather melancholy. I can relive the moment when the phone call came in from the hospital. It really is amazing how eleven years can fly by, but it still feels like an eternity since I've seen him face to face. Sadly, my father was a heavy smoker. He began at the age of thirteen and I think I can honestly say that my father enjoyed smoking. He tried quitting a few times, but always returned to it. The years of cigarette smoking contributed to some of the health problems he experienced later in life. On April 21, 2005, my father was experiencing his fourth heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. While he was there, the doctors saw that his arteries were blocked severely and he presented with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Time was of the essence and, this time, my family and I had a different feeling. In the years prior, we knew that Daddy would recover from his heart trouble, but this time did not feel like the other times. When I went to visit him in the hospital, the first thing he said to me was, "Take care of your mother. She is not going to handle this well." His advice frightened me because it felt as if Daddy was giving up. I spent a lot of time with him while he was in the hospital the last time. He gave me his gold cross the night before his surgery.
On the morning of May 5, 2005 (Ascension Thursday), I got a phone call at work from my brother telling me that our father's aneurysm ruptured and I needed to get to the hospital right away. I never knew I could drive so quickly. I pulled into the hospital's parking lot within fifteen minutes of the phone call. I found my mother in the waiting room looking very lost. The doctor came out and said that they did what they could, but the next twenty-four hours would be critical. He told us to go home and come back later on. I took my mother to Church and after 12:00 Mass, we returned to her house.
At 2:55 PM, my mother answered the ringing phone and a second later, threw it against the wall and ran into the bathroom. Confused and alarmed, I held the phone to my ear and heard the doctor say, "There was nothing else we could do. I am very sorry." Silence...numbness...confusion...
The doctor informed me that we needed to come to the hospital to view him. After my brother and I notified our sisters, I drove my mother to the hospital. When we entered the hospital room, Daddy was lying there motionless. The heart monitor next to the bed registered a flatline. I had to look away. His hands were cold. His cheek was cold. His spirit was gone.
I had to leave the room and give my mother some privacy with her love. As I sobbed in the hallway, the nurse came over to console me. I asked her if my father was in any pain. She told me that he was aware of what was happening and they made him as comfortable as they could. I asked the her if he had any last words. She said, "Yes. He said 'Tell my wife I love her and happy anniversary'." My father expired on their 43rd wedding anniversary, May 5th, 2005 (555).
I wish I could say the pain of losing Daddy is gone, but it isn't. I am able to function in daily life, but not a day goes by when I don't think about how much I love and miss him. I know that he was in so much pain physically that his quality of life would not have been decent for him if he survived, but I'm selfish. When I was sixteen, my father was my best friend. He was disabled from work at that time and we spent many summer days together traveling to different local lighthouses. We talked and laughed for hours and shared so many stories. I feel so fortunate that I had my Daddy in my life...even if it was only for twenty-nine years. It doesn't seem like a long time at all...29 years.
May 5th comes around too quickly every year. Each year that passes takes me further from the wonderful memories I had with my father. I am so thankful that I have photos and videos of him. I am relieved that if I want to hear his voice, all I have to do is watch a home movie. Daddy was the glue that held the family together.
I will now end this extremely long memorial excerpt with some words of advice my father gave to me over the years:
1. "Don't sweat the small stuff."
2. "There is a time and a place for everything."
3. "You can do anything you set your mind to."
Daddy instilled in me a love for research. Patriotic through and through, he taught me about our flag and how to display and fold it. He taught me to take copious notes and keep accurate records. He taught me how to give people second chances even when it was difficult to do.
"Thank you, Daddy, for being the absolute best man in my life. You were the standard that I held boyfriends up to. Kevin reminds me so much of you. I know you are always with me and answer me when I call out to you. I miss you terribly and I love you more than words can express. I hope that I make you proud because you always made me proud. Until we meet again, I remain your loving daughter, Elizabeth."