Cigarettes And A Death In The Family

It was 21 years ago today.  January 28, 1991, a Monday.  I was 19.

I was going to northern Clearwater to visit and entertain my girlfriend at the time. My mother had won a contest Kash n’ Karry held where if you won, you got tickets to go to the Super Bowl.  Except my mom couldn’t go, my dad was very sick…he had cancer.  And the cancer had gotten to his brain by this point.  So, I went with a friend of my mother’s, an avid Giants fan, happy to see the New Yorkers eek out a 20-19 win.

So before I left for Clearwater, my Dad had asked me for smokes.

Christmas 1973 or so...

Watch the birdie..

“Hey P.J., could you find me some cigarettes?”

Something like that, I don’t remember the exact words.

I had been asked by my mother to refuse such a request.  No telling what my dad would do with a lit cigarette without all of his faculties.  So I had to tell him no.

It would wind up being my last conversation with him.  No movie-like endings or farewells.  Certainly not the way I wanted it to end. Awkward.

That night, a little after 6pm, I got the call.  I was told to go back home to Largo.  Wasn’t told why, just come home.

So I’m with my girlfriend and her mom, she’s driving me back…when we get to the intersection of Highland and Lakeview in western Clearwater, it hits me.  Dad has passed away.  That’s what I was trying to be told.

Sure enough, I was right.  The next few days were a blur.  I was at his wake on Wednesday night, and his funeral the next morning.  It was open casket.  Seeing a body full of life now stripped of it…well, it was overwhelming.  Remind me not to go out that way, would you?

So sometime this weekend, I will be going to back to visit.  It has been 21 years.  It feels more like 21 minutes.


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