My dad died unexpectedly on the coldest day I can ever remember, in January of 2007. After my mother called to tell me late that night, I dropped the phone. I then ran through the deep snow and into my back yard–barefooted–and lay there, looking up at the clear winter sky and wailing, making a snow angel. It was all I could do, just to feel something. Lying in that snow.
My father often joked that after he died, he was going to haunt us, scare the crap out of us, and generally just mess with us. He *really* would’ve liked this shirt. It was his nature, he loved to antagonize. And, really, haunting is about as good of a gig as you can get if you are a jokester. To this day, no one can make me laugh like he could.
Before he died, he was able to enjoy his three grandsons: my sister’s son, and my twin boys. Mine, conceived after many years of trying, finally born to my husband and me out of a successful IVF treatment. He loved them all, especially since he had no boys of his own, blessed with three daughters instead. My boys still have “Pap Pap” stories, and for that, I am happy. I am happy that they remember him and all of his antics, no matter how horrifying they might seem to someone who didn’t know him. But really, his complete disregard for any rules or social mores he didn’t like were part of what made him who he was, a true original. And–perhaps–a little insane to an outsider.
Several years ago, my mom gave me some of my dad’s books. The twins were looking to bring something in for show-and-tell and really wanted to take some of Pap Pap’s books, so they found the box and began their search. Below is the selection of my father’s books they were going to bring in for show-and-tell one day back in 1st grade. Thank God I checked their backpacks that morning.
My father was a prolific smoker. Lucky Strikes, unfiltered, 2-3 packs a day. As my mother later told me, one day the twins were at my parent’s house without me and they were very curious about my dad’s cigarettes. My mom said that one of them came running into the kitchen yelling “Pap Pap let me smoke, Nunni!! Pap Pap let me smoke!” My mom, not believing what this 3-year-old was saying, went to find out the real story.
“Bill, you didn’t *really* let the kids smoke?”
“Ann, it was one puff and they’ll never ask me to do it again.”
So after he died, things were dark. Even more so, boring. Soulless.
So when I took that pregnancy test in March, two months after he died, I wasn’t expecting anything. I’d invested in about 20 pregnancy tests through the years and had never seen a positive. But, it was my birthday, and I wanted to go out and drink. Heavily. But, I felt funny. I couldn’t button my shirt because my chest was bigger than normal, and I just felt odd. Might as well take a test, not that I really thought that it would be positive, but just so I could go out and get drunk with a clear conscience.
There it was, two lines. I was pregnant. I cried. I cried out of fear, I didn’t really want another baby. I cried because I was such a horrible mess after my dad died that I didn’t think I could handle it. I cried because I was sad. Sad that my dad would never get to see this child. I cried because I was happy. A new life. I cried and cried and cried.
My sister, Sara, was also pregnant. She had found out about a month before me. We went to get our ultrasounds on the same day. There were our due dates, written on the back of the pictures, exactly the same: 9 months and 2 days to the day after my dad died.
What a gift to have to look forward to. What a way to make the pain a little easier. I was nearing two weeks late with the delivery, and the doctor told me that I could only go as far as November 10th. Holy crap, November 10th was the Marine Corps birthday. That was the most important day of my dad’s year. He was a proud Marine through and through, and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. If this baby could wait, that would’ve been the ultimate kismet. But, alas, Anthony Fabrizio was born in the late hours of November 7, 2007. Sorry Dad, I almost made it to the 10th, still wish I could’ve hung in there longer for you…
Today is Anthony’s birthday and he is four. If he were a Muppet, he would be Animal. He is energetic, funny, totally disruptive, loud, and frequently escapes our home to play outside. He would stay outside all day and night if I let him. He loves the woods and animals and he has a sparkle in his eye like my dad’s…a sparkle saying, “what can I get into next.” He hasn’t smoked yet, though.
So Dad, you weren’t lying, you have done some of your best work. Really, A+ stuff, here. I miss you every day, Bill Cubbage. And now I see that haunting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is it just throwing around pots and pans or banging on the rafters late at night. Haunting is really just leaving a piece of your soul. So, Anthony is part of you, part of your soul, and that was a gift.
Left: Dad wearing a vintage Harley Davidson coat with Allison inside (c. 1973) Right: Allison wearing that same coat with Anthony inside (c. 2009)
And…he is driving me f**king crazy. Thanks you jagoff, you got me…
Finally, Happy Birthday to my sweet little Anthony. Don’t ever smoke. Oh, and Stay Gold.