Continuing from where I last left off…
Early August 1984.
This was going to be my last month in Maryland.
After living there for about four years, my parents decided to move back to Rhode Island. We moved out of the trailer and stayed in an old, run-down hotel, for about four or five days (maybe a week). The hotel was located a few miles between the Navy base and my maternal grandparent’s house.
Although I don’t remember the exact day we moved out of the trailer and into that hotel, I absolutely remember staying there.
It was run down and dismal. We stayed in a second-floor, studio-style room that was dark and dingy. It had a small ‘living room’ with a sofa, and a small kitchenette, which was connected to a small bedroom.
The main ‘living room’ smelled like a stale cocktail of cigarettes, mildew, and vomit. The carpet was a dark shade of blueish green and both the walls and ceiling were stained by years of cigarette smoke and bad plumbing.
Towards the end of our stay there; my dad decided to go on ahead of us to Rhode Island. From what I’ve been told (years later), he was probably having us move to Rhode Island to see about getting a job working with his folks, set my mom and me with a place to live and then, start a new life.
He left about a day before my mom and me. Not long after, my mom and I got on a long-distance bus headed to New York City, where my dad was supposed to meet us.
We got to the bus station in the Big Apple. That place was absolutely huge! My mom told me to keep an eye out for my dad; she said that he’d be wearing some light grey or white pants.
After a few minutes, I saw my him come down the escalator and into the bus terminal. He greeted my mom and me, then the three of us headed to the next terminal so we could catch the bus to Rhode Island.
I don’t remember too much about that bus ride; besides the fact that it was hot, cramped and there wasn’t much to eat. Oh, and the bathroom at the back of the bus smelled horrible.
After about a half day’s bus ride from New York City, New York to Providence Rhode, Island; my dad, mom and I caught a local state transit bus to Nanny and Papa’s (my dad’s parents) house, which was down in North Kingstown.
When we first got to their house, Nanny offered to make me something to eat. I didn’t have a decent meal in a couple of days, so I was ready to eat them out of house and home.
While Nanny went into the kitchen to put some food together for us, Papa and dad talked. I’m not sure what they were discussing, but at some point, my dad walked up and told me that after we ate, we were going to the store.
Papa walked up behind my dad and sat down next to me. He took a look at my dirty clothes and worn out shoes.
You could tell he felt bad for me.
I’d been wearing the same outfit for a couple of days, hadn’t had a bath and the odor coming from my shoes was horrid. I had no socks and was wearing a second-hand pair of baseball cleats, passed down from a neighborhood kid, back when I was still living in Maryland.
It was summer, so school hadn’t started yet. During those first several days, at Nanny and Papa’s house, I spent a lot of time either hanging out with my cousins (who lived across the street) or just watching the big TV in my grandparent’s living room. They had cable TV…I had never seen so many channels before.
One particular day that really stands out in my mind, is when my dad took me to the Wickford Town Beach, about a week or so after arriving in Rhode Island. It was within walking distance, maybe about two miles away.
It was our last bit of time together; just him and I…father and son.
As we walked to the beach, something about my dad seemed different; he seemed far away. I’ll never forget one particular moment, while we were waiting to cross the street.
I looked up at him to ask a question. As he looked down and we made eye contact, I had this feeling that he wasn’t really there. It seemed like he was somewhere else and not in the moment.
Thinking back now, I wonder if he was already pondering the idea of giving up on life. Something about the look in his eyes…he seemed far away. It was as if he had allowed the spark of life and hope inside his soul, to slowly extinguish and disappear.
It was a look that I would see again about 30 years later, in the eyes of someone else that I love so dearly.
My dad and I spent a few hours at the beach. I had a good time playing in the sand and water, while my dad sat on a bench and watched; he was relaxed and calm, smiling back at his little boy. For a brief moment, everything seemed like it was going to be ok.
My home state of Rhode Island is known as ‘The Ocean State’. This means, that in the summertime, beaches and sunshine are paramount.
So, a couple of days after my dad and I went to the Wickford Town Beach, one of my uncles took me to the Narragansett Town Beach. Narragansett Town Beach is known as one of the popular beaches in the area. It’s only about 10 miles away from Wickford, (heck it’s Rhode Island…everything is about 10 minutes away) and it’s much larger. There’s a lot to do there; it’s a huge tourist attraction for folks in and around the southern New England area.
After spending the day at the beach with my uncle and a few of my cousins, we all headed back to Nanny and Papa’s house for dinner.
My dad asked me how my day was; I’ll never forget that conversation. I told him I had a great time and that the beach was even bigger than the one he took me to a couple of days prior.
After I said that, I was worried that I hurt his feelings. He quietly nodded and said, “I’m glad you had a good time.”
It was a conversation that I played over in my mind, during the days and weeks after my dad’s passing. I remember wondering if the reason that he hurt himself was because of what I said. The days which followed that conversation would be the last moments I’d have with my dad.
Monologue: A few days later, in the early hours of Monday, August 27th, 1984, he would leave this world, and my life would be changed forever…