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My Father’s Spunk From Start to Finish

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By Charlie Sacchetti

After recent surgery, my recuperation has provided me with a lot of time to think. I remember that during my hospital stay, in late March, my thoughts drifted to my father Henry’s last days as he spent them hospitalized. His stay, however, was much more eventful than mine.

Having been a widower for two years after our Mom Catherine’s death in May of 2002, Dad had fought to stay independent, living in that big Philadelphia row house, on Buist Avenue, alone. He drove, shopped, walked to the bank, made house repairs and generally worried us to death. One vivid memory I have is driving down his street for a visit and seeing him climbing down from the top roof after repairing a leak. He was 89 and earlier, he had climbed out of his bedroom window, onto the lower roof and leaned a ladder against the wall and climbed to the top.

This was a tough guy. Being this way, one can understand his absolute unwillingness to become a burden to his children. However, no one can beat the aging process and sooner or later, even the toughest of men face that reality. In Dad’s case, his diabetes and heart condition had started to take their tolls. I brought up the idea of his moving in with us but that idea didn’t fly. Only after his sugar issues caused him to have brief, near-blackout episodes did he consent to end his driving. Seeing the opportunity, I simply told him these episodes could put an innocent child at risk and that was all I had to say. I became the chauffeur. The shortness of breath became more frequent too. At the age of 91, he caught a terrible cold and after taking him to his doctor, he was admitted to Mercy Catholic Hospital. He was found to have congestive heart failure and after two days, we laid down the law and told him that the “gig was up” and he’d be living with us from now on. He didn’t argue this time.

The plan was to have him stay with my sister, Kathy and her husband George, for a few days so we could make all of the logistical arrangements for his move-in. So off he went to her house in New Jersey.

However, two days later, he had another bout with heart failure and was admitted to Virtua Hospital in Voorhees. This was not a good visit. Dad wanted out and had to be restrained at one point to prevent him from sneaking down the fire escape. When I visited him, he told me to untie the straps holding his arms to the bed. I said “not if you’re going to try to fly the coop!” He promised he’d behave so I told the nurses to do so. He calmed down.

The next night was Friday Oct. 15. My wife, Luann, and I along with our daughter Rosie went to visit. Rosie gave Dad a beautiful holy card of the Blessed Mother and tacked it onto the bulletin board so he could see it from his bed. Out son, Michael, was studying for an exam and would visit the next day. Dad looked remarkably well. He was sitting up in bed and having a ball talking to an Afro-American nurse who happened to speak fluent Italian.  I wished that we had an interpreter since their conversation was full of laughs and we could only the moment from afar. After the nurse left, Dad took better notice of the holy card and asked to see it.

What followed was amazing to us.

Dad took the card, kissed it and then looked into space with the most peaceful, angelic smile I had ever seen. I immediately thought that he had seen his loving wife, whose devotion to our Blessed Mary,was complete and endless. All three of us were awestruck from this look on his face that none of us had ever seen before.

When he was finished with the card, Rosie reattached it to the board. I then told Dad that Mike was studying and would come back with me tomorrow to see him. Dad, lucid and peaceful simply said,

“I’m not gonna be here tomorrow”.

I said,“Dad, don’t start that stuff again, you aren’t going anywhere until they release you.” Soon after, visiting hours were over and it was time to leave. At 8p.m. we left to go home, kissing Dad goodbye.

At 6 a.m., the next day, Saturday, Oct. 16, I received a call from Dad’s cardiologist telling me that Dad had passed away peacefully at 2 a.m. Ironically, Dad had died on the same day, Oct. 16, that Luann’s Dad had died many years earlier.

Dad had done it his way. He wasn’t going to be a burden and he sure wasn’t going to “Be there tomorrow.”

It seems like God had other plans.

Charlie Sacchetti is the author of the book “It’s All Good … Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change.” Contact him at worthwhilewords21@gmail.com.

jmcbride
Author: jmcbride

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