Every year around this time the same thing happens. My brain replays every moment of the few weeks leading up to my dad’s death on February 8, 2010. It replays everything I did, everything I felt, everything I thought about. I relive it all like a vicious movie that is on constant replay from the beginning of January through February of every single year. This year, though, seems a bit harder to handle because of the Olympics.
My dad loved watching the Olympics. He would cheer for the most obscure person who is probably really famous is his/her home country, but someone we have never heard of…like the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics and Tomba. Alberto Tomba was a cocky Italian Alpine skiing champion. He competed in the giant slalom and slalom in 1992, winning the gold and silver respectively, and the slalom in 1994 winning the silver. My dad became playfully obsessed with him. During each run Tomba would finish, the chant of “Tomba! Tomba! Tomba!” could be heard throughout the house. At the end of each run my dad would incredulously ask, “Why isn't someone getting Tomba some water or a warm towel? This is not the service Tomba is used to!” At the time it was both funny and got on my nerves a bit. Looking back on it though, I can’t help but smile from ear to ear. It was the perfect example of the silly side of my dad that only a special few got to see.
In 2010, the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics fell on the day of my dad’s memorial service. My mom and I came home, got into pajamas, sat in her bed having a few drinks and eating cake and Girl Scout cookies and watched. It was part something to keep us distracted from having to think about what had just happened and it was part trying to keep the tradition of watching the Opening Ceremonies together alive. My dad loved the pomp and circumstance of it all. He loved the competition of the games. He loved how, for about two weeks every four years, the countries of the world put politics aside and joined together in peace and sportsmanship. It was a beautiful thing.
I miss my dad so much. I miss the sound of his voice. I miss how his hugs were able to heal all manner of injury. I wish I could go back to that moment 4 years ago on February 3rd when I got to sit with him and hear him say “I love you” just one last time. I would give anything for one more hug, one more moment of silliness, like him whispering to me when I told him I was turning 30 that day, “Wow! You’re old!” and then giving me his signature mischievously silly smile. I think about all of these things and I am keenly aware of just how truly blessed and lucky I am. For 26 years of my life, I had the greatest dad in the world. For 26 years I had a dad who never missed an opportunity to make sure we knew how much he loved each of us and how truly special we were to him. I am fortunate that I got to spend those last few weeks, and especially those last few days, by his side. I got to help care for him the way he cared for me throughout my entire life. As heartbreaking as it has all been, I wouldn't trade any single second of that time with him for anything in the world.
Papa, thank you for giving me the most beautiful and precious birthday gift of my life 4 years ago. I will never forget that moment and I will carry it in my heart forever. This coming week, as I watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics with mom, I know without a doubt that you will be there with us, wondering why Tomba isn't there with the Team Italy.