Opinion: Cheers to Dad’s memory

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Much of life has been lived in these past three decades or so since Dad passed away. Grandkids were born; they’ve been raised; and they’ve launched independently into the world. Even as he may be watching them from the afterlife, content with their many accomplishments, that generation is only reminded of his very real contribution to their lives as we prompt and inform them of it.

A young man just diagnosed with the esophageal cancer that would take his life a few months later, Dad confronted a new reality – namely, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Like him, we leaned into any good we could find in a not-so-good situation. If there was to be one meal before a long road of a liquid diet of tasteless sustenance, what would it be? Without hesitation, he declared St. Elmo Steak House. Early Christian martyr Erasmus of Formia became the patron saint of sailors and, ironically, abdominal pain. Dad picking the namesake restaurant seemed odd at the time. Why didn’t he ask for his grandma’s tasty apple salad served at the family farm, now long gone? It seemed he wanted us to sit with him in a familiar and, perhaps, unchanging accommodation. With the choice, he hoped to imprint a vivid memory that could and would be relived many times over.

Each year, his progeny treks to a large round table in the back of the iconic restaurant to be reminded of the sinus-opening power of the famed shrimp cocktail and toast a person who the majority of those now gathered never knew. There is comfort to be found among the countless photos and wood-paneled rooms. In its vibrancy, the place itself directs us to imagine what might be even as we are surrounded by what has come before.

Cheers, Dad.  And thank you.     


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