My dad passed away 34 years ago. We had only begun relating to each other as adults when he suddenly died of a heart attack. I still miss him, though I’ve lived more years without him than with him. I hunger for his laugh, stories and companionship.
Last week, I received an email that Joe Azar was in town on vacation and wanted to know if I could have lunch with him. Joe Azar was my dad’s closest childhood, his best friend. We agreed to meet at Dharma Blue.
I got there early, a little apprehensive, not knowing what to say. I hadn’t spoken to him in over three decades.
Dad is frozen in time for me because he died so young. Other than my 83-year-old mother, there aren’t that many people whom I can talk with about my dad, people who knew him when he was young, people who can share stories about his life.
Joe Azar knew, really knew, my dad. He knew his strengths and faults, his triumphs and disappointments. He could tell me what kind of student he was at St. Rosa of Lima School, what they did for fun and how they settled on their careers.
My dad loved Ole Miss football. Was Joe with him when he watched LSU’s Billy Cannon run back the punt that upset his beloved Rebels? I knew Joe graduated from Notre Dame. Did they bet on the Ole Miss-Notre Dame game in 1977?
Dad was a master storyteller and sought-after public speaker. One of my prized possessions is a folder filled with scraps of papers that he used to jog his memory of his jokes and tall tales. Did Joe have a favorite joke, one that still made him laugh?
My dad grew up in the Great Depression, was a teenager during World War II and served in Air Force during the Korean War. I knew that his family didn’t have a lot of money when he was young. I wanted to ask Joe, ‘Did dad ever have any doubts? Was he ever scared? Did he worry any about the future and how he would provide for his five sons and a daughter?’
So I waited on Joe. My mind and heart filled with questions. Excited and nervous.
When he got there, I didn’t get all my questions answered. Most of them never came up.
However, I did get to visit with Joe Azar, who knew and loved my dad, and that was enough.