He served as the Safety Officer, a role fitting his personality. Picture a man who enjoyed collecting flashlights and bungee cords “just in case.” My mother called him her MacGyver. Those friends he made at the Power Squadron? They later saluted my father so eloquently at his wake in January, 2013. As for me, I regret to say that because my children were so young, I did not really go out much on Maggie Rose before dad’s sudden diagnosis of glioblastoma. His cancer was aptly named as it blasted a hole through me. I’ve been taking on water ever since, watching it leak out of my eyes at the most inopportune times. I didn’t notice how frightening the world was until dad left it because he was always my personal safety officer, and I took it for granted.
What I remember about boating with dad those few times was how comically serious he was about safety. He seemed so overly prepared for every possible scenario, so it’s unfathomable that he could suffer a seizure on his boat. My husband and brother were out on the bay with him; no one aboard was prepared for the horror of this emergency. The Brookhaven and Islip Town Bay Constables helped guide them back to shore, and I remember leaving the driver’s side door of my minivan open at the dock with my kids inside, still strapped in their car seats. I ran toward the back of an ambulance parked at a dock in Patchogue and tried to compose myself as I swung open the doors, calling “Dad?” in a weak little voice that surfaced somewhere from inside my parched throat. My personal safety officer sat up with effort, looking alarmed at my hard to-conceal panic, and reassured me. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’m fine.”
Over the next 17 months it was difficult for the family to come to terms with who we were losing. During Superstorm Sandy my husband promised my hospitalized father that he would take care of his boat. That promise led to dad giving us the boat, a gift we had trouble accepting because it meant confronting his death. (Nothing else would ever prompt my father’s parting with his beloved Maggie Rose!) While my husband and I never pictured ourselves as boaters, we have grown to love taking our children “camping” on the bay.
This year marks our second season as boaters. Going out on the bay is both fun and really emotional for me. At the end of last season we sold Maggie Rose to buy a 32-foot Pacemaker that we call Underdog. We named it that as it became my dad’s nickname during his courageous fight against brain cancer, and the memory of him mimicking the cartoon theme song, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!” won’t ever leave me. He would have loved this boat and I would love to have him along for our adventures.
“The water’s dark and deep inside this ancient heart, you'll always be a part of me."