It is the anniversary of Joe’s death. Ironically, I fixed the garbage disposal this morning (thank you, YouTube). I say “ironic” because Joe and the garbage disposal were archenemies. When I was ticked at Joe, I would run the garbage disposal excessively. Passive-aggressive, but effective.
Every year around the time Joe died, someone will ask Cole or me if we still miss him. I usually answer with a thoughtful look, and then whoever asks the question usually answers it, “Well, of course you do” and pats some part of me. There are worse problems in the world than stupid questions followed by hand pats, so I just accept the token of sympathy as I’m sure it was intended and we move on. But, for the record, we do still miss Joe.
The last six months have been especially bittersweet. Cole’s 18th birthday and senior project came and went without Joe. Cole missed his dad’s involvement in the project, and I missed sitting next to him during the presentation and talking about it for days afterward.
The senior play was next. Joe would have been so proud of all the kids, especially the young lady who played Charlie. He claimed she had star quality from the first day he met her (way back in first grade), and he was right. He would have pushed the moms’ buttons, annoying them as he rearranged the concessions table and talked way too loudly. As I stood at the concessions table during the play, I could almost hear him say, “Well, they don’t have me to boss around anymore.” Too true.
The next event will be the end-of-the-year rose ceremony. In the fall, the twelfth graders each presented the first graders with a rose to welcome them to the school, and on the last day of school the first graders will present each of the seniors with a rose. It is the same ceremony Cole participated in when he was in first grade. We will have come full circle, without Joe. Damn it.
Graduation is on June 15th. Father’s Day. Are you laughing with me at the irony? When I told Cole, his first response was, “Well, that will be awkward for my friends.” Cole, however, will be surrounded by proud grandparents, family, friends and a rich community at graduation. In his dad’s honor, the departing senior class and their parents elected to give a donation to the Joe Ruscitti Sports Memorial Fund that was created at the school after he died. Being there in spirit is not the same as being present and accounted for—I won’t pretend differently—but Joe will certainly be a part of Cole’s high school graduation day.
My teen just called from Hawaii and asked me if I remembered what today was. I told him that not only did remember that it was the anniversary of his dad’s death, but I also knew exactly where we both were when his dad died. One of the things I have treasured most about living through Joe’s death with Cole is our ability to grieve and laugh. When I told him I had fixed the garbage disposal, he didn’t miss a beat before responding, “Funny how the garbage disposal outlasted Dad.” Indeed, it did have the last word. I asked Cole his plans for the day, which included some service work and then more time at the beach. He then mentioned that he might take the pill bottle urn of Joe’s remains down to the beach and scatter them with his classmates there. (In the way of a little background, when Cole was a sophomore, he asked if he could take some of his dad’s ashes on his New Orleans school trip. He wanted to scatter some on the ashes on the trip and freak out one of his classmates. Why not? I found a pill bottle, dubbed it an urn, stuck Joe’s name on it and filled it with his remains. Cole slipped the pill bottle into his backpack and away they went. Unfortunately, Cole forgot all about his dad’s remains on the trip and they never made it out of his backpack. I was amused. (Welcome to parenting a teen, Joe.) After the trip, the pill bottle urn became a permanent fixture in Cole’s backpack, with me checking in once in a while to make sure the urn was still accounted for, because it seemed to be the responsible wife thing to do. And that is why Cole has his dad’s ashes with him in Hawaii.) I agreed that spreading the ashes would be a lovely thing to do.
And I wonder if Cole remembers that his eighth grade class, teachers and parents spread some of his dad’s ashes on the beach close to his school on the first anniversary of Joe’s death, the week before Cole graduated that year. Don’t you love full circles?
Joe, we miss you.