I could use a nice walk to Arlan’s 

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Next week will mark the second anniversary of the passing of my dear old dad, Larry. The sting and the emptiness of his loss is still a very real and important part of my life, because the day I lose completely that sting and emptiness will be the day he no longer lives on. And I never want that to happen. Ever.

I so miss the little guy, who wasn’t always that little. He died at 95 years old and, physically, he was was just shell of the man I admired and looked up to for the more than 50 years of my recollections. Even when the scourge of Alzheimer’s-related dementia took its toll on his mind and his body, he was still my all-time hero, maybe even more so for the last five to eight years.

Larry was never one to give up or give in, and through those final years he always questioned why he was at Catholic Memorial Home (a place that couldn’t have treated my dad any better and with more dignity). “I don’t belong here,” he would bemoan. “I should be in the cellar working with my tools. You are taking care of them, right?” 

“Of course dad,” would be my mantra, even though my brother and I had moved my parents from their home of nearly 50 years long before.

I miss him so much and I relish the time I spent with him when I was a lad. I still think back on those days with warmth and melancholy. It’s the changing of the season that sparks those memories now, being that Larry “gave up the ghost,” on a glorious autumn day. I think back to my Saturday night walks with Larry to Arlan’s Department Store in Fall River, a store that in later years burned to the ground in an enormous mill fire on Plymouth Avenue. 

The walk was about a mile and we would spend that time talking. I can’t honestly recall what we talked about. I was just a lad and certainly my end of the conversation couldn’t have been all that stimulating, but Larry absorbed every word as I spoke, and I do recall feeling so special because of that.

We would poke around the store, mostly in the hardware section, not exactly my cup of tea, but I was with Larry and that’s all that mattered. We would walk home in the dark, but I wasn’t afraid, again, because I was with Larry, who wasn’t more that five-foot-seven and 150 pounds — typical French-Canadian! To me he was bigger than life.

I remember he would have so many nicknames for me, a trait I picked up and used on my own kids and dog, and sometimes even Denise when I knew I could get away with it.

I was and still am a sports fanatic, and as a boy I played organized baseball, basketball and ice hockey, and Larry only went to one game out of the hundreds I played. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to, it’s because I asked him not to. Simply put, I would have been too nervous to fail in front of him. I never told him that, and he couldn’t have cared less if my teams lost, but’s that’s how much I valued his respect.

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I miss going fishing with him and my brother. The two of them were avid fishermen. Me, not so much. I hated the idea of hooking a fish in the mouth and bringing it out of its element, but Larry wasn’t a sports fisherman. We cooked and ate everything he caught. And I still miss him calling catfish hornpout. I enjoyed more scraping for quahogs at Nanaquaket Pond. It was good old Larry who prompted my great love of bivalves of all kinds on the half-shell. Raw, cold, salty and soooo good.

I still miss going to the home to see him, even when he was ornery (which didn’t happen with the staff there, he was nearly always the perfect gentleman, never wishing them to fuss over him). But that’s the nature of the dementia beast — family members are often the target of their frustrations. But he would usually tone it down and start telling me his stories of his time in the U.S. Navy as a man in his early 20s, aboard a destroyer in the South Pacific during World War II. I looked into his beautiful baby blue eyes and see into his soul as he told tales of tending to wounded shipmates and speaking with compassion about enemy soldiers he saw come to their demise.

I saw Deacon Peter Cote, a chaplain at Catholic Memorial, last week, and he said he still thinks of Larry’s Navy tales. He was noted for them.

Larry slipped into a coma and his death was imminent and expected shortly, but in true Canuck fashion, he held on for nearly two weeks before he earned his much-needed rest.

Since then, I lost my mom, but that’s story for another day, and my beloved Igor. Some would say that’s tough losing three cherished beings so close together, but I see it as I don’t have to worry about them now, but their absence is still crushing.

I love you dad and miss you, and I am so fortunate to have had you, and even more fortunate to have your memory very much alive in my Canuck heart.

JolivetDB@comcast.net


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