My dad Carmen was known by many names: dad, husband, Carmie, son, big guy, grandpa, brother but even all those names couldn’t encompass everything that the man was.
His life was full of challenges and tough situations from the start. He spent his formative years searching for stability and a sense of belonging. As a result, my most vivid memories of him are as a connecter. Whether he was the guy working the room without leaving his chair or the guy walking around trying to get you to buy raffle tickets with an “oh by the way have a free shot” tray of drinks, he had a gravity about him. A personality that encouraged you to tell and retell his stories. “I was there when Carmie…..’ they’d start. His smile and laugh could make you feel like you’ve known him for years and you two were old friends.
I used to think that I was just remembering my dad the way I wanted to. But then yesterday I was looking at his certificate of achievement from the army. Amongst the numerous accolades was this line:
“His positive attitude and personable manner assisted greatly in providing a cohesion among members of his section and created a highly favorable impression within the civilian and police agencies within the DC area.”
If that doesn’t encapsulate my father, I don’t know what could.
That’s not to say my father was perfect or without flaws. Far from it. He was complex and contained multitudes, good and bad. I wish we’d played catch more as a kid or that he was around more instead of working so much. But he was doing what he thought he had to provide for us. That was my dad: He spent his life making sure everyone else was ok and provided for, even at his expense. And when it came time to encourage us to follow our interests, he did that in spades. He was the consummate cheerleader.
One time me and some HS classmates when to a basketball tournament downstate that we had no business being at: we were outmatched, outnumbered and outgunned. But dad was the only dad to come down and see every game we played. He cheered us on from the sidelines as we got bounced around the court. And after every game he usher us out to his van where he had snacks and Gatorade for us to down, all while telling us how great we did and how close we’d were to winning, even though we knew better.
That was my dads greatest strength and the biggest thing he passed onto me: the Idea of perseverance. Perseverance in the face of adversity. Perseverance To keep pushing forward. Perseverance at all times. From perseverance comes the concept of hope and my dad was hope personified.
Here Lies Love - Donald Justice
Though books said nothing could save
Love from and early grave
And love from the wear and tear,
What flesh and blood was ours for love’s repair
We freely gave
This way and that we have
Eased love into the grave
And covered all with dirt
And laid the spirit too, through the witch’s heart
Knocking the stave
I love my dad and I’ll miss him greatly.