I remember coming home and hearing from my older sister that Dad was in the hospital.  It was his heart.

Like most, I am sure that my image of my father was much greater than what one could see, though his figure was indeed imposing.  My father was a bulldog of a man.  Five-feet seven and two-hundred-and-fifty pounds.  His shoulders wer half as wide as my own at five-feet-nine and one-hundred-sixty-five pounds.  His complexion was dark, betraying his one hundred percent Eye-talian heritage.  A south-sider with an accent approaching the “superfans” of Saturday Night Live.   He was a meat-man.  A wholesale meat distributor if you prefer.  He drove his own truck and purchased meats downtown and sold them to restaurants and delis in the south suburbs.  Obviously, his lugging sixty-pound cases of polish hams around had something to do with his brutish figure.  His work often ended up on the dinner table.  We ate good.  Steaks, chops, and chicken breast on weekdays and deli meats on weekends.  A meal only existed if it centered on meat.

My dad was at times a stereotype.  Quick-tempered, easy to laugh, loud, resentful of authority and intellectuals, emotional, irrational, driven; to him family was the end-all-be-all.  A “good” Catholic with five kids who rarely attended mass.  He worked constantly, and smoked constantly.  Four packs of Pall Malls a day.  If he ever ran out, he would pull off the filters from my mom’s Carltons and smoke them.  There was either food in his hand or a cigarette danglingn from his lips.  I will never forget the smell of my father’s so very heavy, callused, thick hands.  Stale smoke with a tinge of sweat.  Never to be forgotten.

I don’t even remember what hospital it was:  Good Sam, Christ, West Sub.  I could care less.  The place made little differnece.  I can’t even see the room anymore.  I guess the intensity of the moment blotted it out.  I remember a gray fluorescent light above the bed.  The bed itself was one of those large mechanical affairs, more beast than haven.  When my eyes adjusted to the light, I just could never have prepared myself.  He had fallen in upon himself.  Such a small, frail man.  Mortality slapped the shit out of me.  He was ashen pale.  Gone was his dark bronze.  His loud voice was small and hollow.  “I’m okay.”  My dad was a terrible liar.  The ridiculousness of his statement made the reality that much more real.  Where was that powerful figure?  The man who had both motivated and terrified me.  The irresistable force and (sadly) the immovable object rolled into one was gone, replaced by this small, weakling, who had no presence at all.  He was diminished, less than he was, less than perhaps he had been.

I lost the only father I had known that day.  I would now have to see him as a human being and not some mythological figure.  What a bitter pill, so rapidly thrust upon me.  He was mortal.  He coudl be struck down at any time from that day on.  Cold, numbing fear.  Yet, I was a lucky one.  My father did not die.


Matt LoConte, Class of 2000