Saturday, March 26, 2011

in memoriam: a tribute to my dad



after a very sudden onset of illness that landed him in the ICU, which resulted in us finding out that he had lung cancer, my father, henry gagolewski, passed away on the afternoon of march 25, 2011. he was 73 years old.





dad was a character, to say the least. he led the most colorful life but acted as though he was a regular guy from down the street. my father was a cab driver, a bouncer, a retired NYC police officer, an exterminator, and a business owner. he was the father of 4 -- two children from his first marriage, and myself and my brother from his second (and longest, and last). he would tell random stories of stabbings, of drug dealers, of NYC in the 70's, of people he knew and met along the way, as though he were talking about buying a bottle of milk. he was my little girl's best friend, my mother's husband of almost 39 years, my brother's travel partner for weekend boys' trips, and everyone's favorite talker.







i am the first to say that my dad and i did not always have a good relationship. my dad was a flawed man, like so many of us, but as his young daughter it made me angry and resentful. we fought constantly through my young days about anything and everything -- his addiction, religion, the world. when my father got sober i was 20 years old, and we started to heal. the last few years have been good ones for us -- we could chat, we could laugh, we never argued anymore. i was older and understood more, and he was past his real demons. and while dad could still drive anyone crazy -- he never listened the first time you said something, he would interrupt constantly, he was still a very religious person that didn't understand my lack of faith -- he became more of a fixture in my daily life, and i was all the happier for it.





my dad had the best relationship with our daughter, anna jae. from the day she was born, there was just something about the two of them together. he could make her giggle, then laugh out loud. he would talk to her, and read to her, and joke around with her, and play with her as best he could. she would run to him the minute she walked into their home. she would do impressions of him. they just adored each other's company, and i can't imagine him not being with her anymore.





dad had a neuropathy in his legs, something that he had for about 10 years, was diagnosed with about 7 years ago, and something that he started to get treatment for about 4 years ago. for the past few years he had to walk with canes and a walker, and had a motorized wheelchair for certain trips. he was terribly stubborn about doing things for himself though, and insisted on still going food shopping, making himself dinner, and going up and down the many stairs at my parents' house. 

this neuropathy may have caused his first illness that sent him to the ICU -- a brain illness that came on so suddenly and that they could not find a cause for. but while looking for that cause, they found the cancer in his lungs. this was not a big shock -- the man smoked for over 60 years, we knew it was bound to happen. but the brain illness hurt his chances at treatment, and he spent the longest 3.5 weeks of his life (and ours) in the hospital. after bucking all odds, his body finally succumbed to the illness on thursday night. he was put on a ventilator friday morning, but we knew that there was no hope. and so we let him go friday afternoon, with his children, his wife, and two of his three grandchildren next to him.

i leave you with some photos of my dad from my wedding, and several of him with our daughter. i will always wish i had taken even more.




24 comments:

nole said...

Oh Nicole, I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine.

Jeff Fisher LogoMotives said...

What a beautiful tribute. Sending my heartfelt condolences - and a big hug - your way.

Gina said...

Lovely tribute Nic. My thoughts are with you.

ICU said...

Wonderful words about your dad, and great photos of him with Anna-Jae.

Wendy Carmona-Florencio said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. I pray that your heart as well as your family's heart may be consoled in this time of mourning.
Big Hug!

Wendy

Jeope said...

Love this, so much. You've done great.

ksavage said...

wonderful, wonderful tribute to your father nic.

Catherine said...

Oh, no. Nicole, I'm so sorry to hear that your dad did not make it. Thank you for sharing his story. My condolences and prayers go out to you and your family.

cat

whitney said...

Nicole, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. You're in our thoughts during this very tough time. This is such a beautiful post - I especially love the photo of he and Anna Jae staring at each other :)

{{Hugs}}

Danita Reynolds said...

Nic, thank you for sharing this tribute of your father. You mention that you wish you had taken more photos and this makes me think that I need to take more of my mother.

My sincerest condolences to you and your family.

tracy said...

Oh nic. My deepest condolences. This is a lovely tribute to him. I'll be thinking of you.

Danielle Bobish said...

Nicole, this is such a beautiful tribute to your father. You are in my thoughts. Sending love to you and your family.

Janet said...

Nicole, I cried reading this. It's been nearly 20 years since I lost my father, and it gets easier, but you never stop missing them or loving them. Thank you for sharing this. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

Andrea said...

Mi dispiace molto per tuo papa'.
I'm so sorry for your dad.

Laura Macchia said...

I am so sorry for your loss....these pictures are beautiful. My thoughts are with you.

patricia said...

Beautiful tribute Nicole. I'm so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Kitty Sheehan said...

Nicole, this is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing these photos. I'm very sorry for your loss, I've been down this road -- you must now be good to yourself. You'll be in my thoughts.

Lilibeth said...

This was a beautiful tribute to your father, Nicole. We're so sorry for your loss. Please accept our deepest sympathies to you and your family.

QTinNYC said...

That is a beautiful tribute, all the more so for its honesty.
Love you

Robyn said...

This is beautiful, Nic. Your dad was blessed to have such a caring daughter.

Mary said...

My condolences for your loss, Nic. Thanks for sharing your tribute to him.

Maggie said...

Oh, Nicole, I'm so sorry for your loss. Your tribute to your father is a beautiful one and your pride in him and love for him is palpable. Take good care of yourself. My thoughts are with you.

devon spec said...

nic, this is so beautiful, i'm so teary right now. again, so sorry for your loss... you are a beautiful soul your daddy could be very proud of.

Dagmar said...

Nic, thank you for sharing such a tender, personal tribute. Your dad would (continue) to be so very proud of you. My heart is overflowing with so much sadness over your loss right now, but at the same time, I am comforted by the fact that you and your family have an abundance of fond memories to share and keep close to your heart forever. Take Care.