BJ I'll pay for to go college anywhere you want. OK dad, I was thinking USC or Miami. That's great, I'll pay for anywhere within a three-hour drive of Port Jefferson. Dad, I'd really like to get a Jeep Wrangler as my first car, big suspension, custom stereo, snorkel for all the off-roading I'd do in Port Jeff. That's great I'll go to BMW today. Hey dad, we're all going out... I'll see you around 3 or 4 a.m.. That's great, I'll see you at 10:30 (luckily Chet had the same curfew). So many conversations went this way. At the time I would get so frustrated feeling like he was controlling every aspect of my life, but he was always just doing what he believed to be best for me.
People would always give him shit for spoiling me to no end. And, to be honest, he did. He threw me 21st birthday parties for my 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays. He bought me 2 BMWs, a Corvette and a Wrangler. He paid for BU and law school. And pretty much my whole life longer than I'd like to admit. He'd take me golfing to places like The Heritage and TPC Sawgrass, where he was so out of his element, usually finishing the round just driving the cart while I played. But he knew I loved it and never wanted me to feel as uncomfortable as he did walking into a clubhouse. His focus was always to give me and mom all of the things he never had. He did everything for us, never splurging or buying anything for himself.
That was his way of making me feel secure and teaching me the importance of family. It was never his intention to flaunt his success. He simply never wanted me (or mom) to experience any of the hardships he did. Wearing shoes with holes in them. Having grandpa drive him to pick up his first date with a couch cover laid over the dirty carpets and upholstery in the back seat of the family car. Not being able to hang out with friends, not being able to experience things because he was working in the fields. Being seen as "just the landscaper". Driving a dirty red broken down pedophile van to work at the school so he could keep the lawnmowers and grass clippings in the back after work.
It was important for him to teach me how to be a man and how to make decisions. He firmly believed that any decision was better than no decision. And with that he also taught me Accountability, respect, a strong work ethic, and good morals. He instilled in me a drive to provide for future generations, as he did for me and the importance of family legacy. He was my best friend, my trusted business advisor and an incredible father. He taught me how to love unconditionally, but while still reminding a son, the fear he should have for his father when he gets pulled over going in excess of 100 mph on sunrise highway.
The man was an absolute beast. He was admirably unapologetic about his drive and determination for his family. From selling Rhododendrons as a child to make ends meet for the family when grandpa was being operated on in a hospital in NYC. To bartending, teaching, cutting lawns (while mom walked alongside him feeding him dinner), getting his masters, and never taking a trip to save money for investment properties. To his so-called "retirement" in which he continued to work, met up with Jimmy in the yard every morning, cooked up his next business venture or investment, and still managed to visit grandma and grandpa each day on the way to the job before they passed. He never stopped, and never wanted to.
Working that hard beat him up. His thumbs didn't work from digging holes as a young man. He had two ankle surgeries (and would still try to take me skiing until he'd start bleeding in his boot just to make me happy). 7 surgeries on his stomach. Lost sight in his eyes for a period of time. Had blood clots on his vocal chords and couldn't talk for months. And, as most of you know just had his knee replaced a week and a half ago. Nothing could keep him down. Just Sunday he took us out to breakfast at his favorite bakery, shared his favorite oysters with Joy, and walked up the stairs to the house in Westhampton with just a cane. We were talking about finally getting him on a trip and all the things he still wanted to do now that he was feeling great.
Anyone here who's ever spent time with him knows nothing he did was for himself. He got so much joy in giving to people. Simply being around them. Truly living life with an open-door to all. From helping those in need to ensuring the liquor cabinet was appropriately stocked with tequila and vodka, and the pool was a solid 93 degrees.
His selflessness and determination was equally matched by outrageousness. After his last ankle surgery he joked that the cadaver bones he received must have been from a Black man because his dancing skills were markedly improved. He'd watch marathons of Ancient Aliens and went full prepper shortly after 9/11, buying executive gas masks and hazmat suits. There were countless days in Connecticut taking trips to White House Black Market with red solo cups in hand. Effectively taking over the store going on a shopping spree and offering advice and critiques to all women in the store, whether they wanted it or not. He left a lasting impression everywhere he went.
There are so many ridiculous stories. Like when he walked the beach in Ft. Lauderdale in his speedo, only to return to the house and comment to my mom and I about how friendly people were, not realizing he was waving back to all the guys on a gay section of the beach. The years he wanted to get "TH" pins made to hand out to women who "qualified" for his Tiny Heinie club. He would tell the nurses in the hospital during a few of his surgeries to try not to get too excited. Even telling one he thought they were engaged after she touched his testicles as part of a physical. The next moment he'd be having a serious conversation with his grand-dog about how Huey's got the world by the balls. He decided the perfect time to renovate the kitchen and all the bathrooms in the house would be while recovering from his knee replacement. Just last week, he decided Joy and I should get our pilots license so we could fly from New Haven to Westhampton on the weekends. And, Sunday, mere hours before he was taken from us he was telling us about his research into baby peacocks for the yard to mess with mom cause she hates birds.
He did nothing in moderation. Always making a "new best friend" wherever he would go. Always having random thoughts or ideas. Always thinking of the next move to build for the future. Like buying art galleries, selling honey, developing an app to meet a gym buddy, and most recently looking into dual US-Polish citizenship – only slightly deterred when he found out he'd actually have to travel to Poland to get it. There was never a dull moment. That's who he was. What he loved to do. And what we all loved about him.
This year was setting up to be such a great one. I can't remember him ever being so content. He had a nice little routine of having coffee and watching the deer in the yard every morning. He was always surrounded by great friends from just across the street to all the way down in Florida. He was excited to be spending more time with his brother, Jeff, and working on a few projects together. He loved spending time with my common-law father-in-law and was looking forward to the next family vacation. He was so pumped to be down to 208 pounds, with a new knee, ready to concede and go on a few trips with us to Europe, shark diving and even just paddle boarding around Moriches Bay. He started using the "R" word. Relaxing, something he's never said before. Was so excited for grandkids. Literally telling Joy and I to shit or get off the pot and offering to get us some instructional videos in case the hold-up was we weren't sure what to do. He even already bought them their first "Mercedes," and started saving for private school and college. Surprised he didn't start planning their 21st birthday parties yet too.
But with all the things he did for the family, all the things he taught me, the traditions he established – big ones like the Westhampton house and little things like buying scratch-offs for everyone to kick-off family gatherings and annual coin mints to look forward to each Christmas – we still didn't have enough time. I didn't learn all I needed to learn. Didn't get to tell him how much I appreciate him. How much I love him.
We'll miss the Hershey bar wrappers scattered all over. We'll miss the unpredictable Thanksgiving dinners where he'd always make sure people ate well and felt loved – from new friends, to adopted families, to kids from BU who couldn't travel home for the holidays, and even the occasional homeless person he met outside 7-Eleven. We'll miss the random days he just "stopped by" New Haven to drop off flowers. Going to Uncle G's for sauce and leaving with 4 carts full of food a family of 20 couldn't eat in a month. The continuous deliveries of Omaha Steaks randomly showing up on the front step, which we told him we wouldn't eat, but which we still have a freezer full of. We'll miss his generosity and the family vacations. We'll miss him talking real estate and business with us. But most of all we'll miss his presence that seemed to fill the entire room, his guidance, his support, and his enduring love for his family.
We're lucky to have had the chance to spend a final amazing day with him. To laugh with him and have him tell us stories. To have been there with him as he became our guardian angel at the very moment the priest touched his head. If only we'd known just 24 hours later he'd be gone. If only we had the opportunity to hug him a bit tighter and tell him we love him. If only we could have asked him how the hell to deal with something like this. He was always our rock and our ringleader.
Love you dad.