Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fathers and Sons

Joey and his dad were bound by many shared interests, but nothing so connected them as music. In this picture, they were leading the band at a 50's/60's night at our church a decade or so ago. Joey wore his tye-dye shirt and somehow managed to turn his golden locks into a lion-mane of an afro. I imagine he achieved this look with the aid of several pints of hairspray and gel. No matter how, the picture bears testament to my vibrant kid's flair for the dramatic and zest for life. He was never too cool to have fun.

He learned that from his Dad. Joe filled his kids lives with laughter and adventure. I worried about homework and dentist appointments, but Dad was the good time guy. What a gift he gave us all. He taught us all to Carpe Diem. In hindsight, nothing could have been better. Now we have layers and layers of great memories of a life lived fully. Joey's short life was rich and exciting because of his dad's example.

Here they are at about the same time, without the costumes or the audience. I love the way Joey watched his dad fingering the strings, always learning from him. Joe and Joey both learned to play guitar at 16, and how many nights they spent together doing just this, I cannot count.  Despite the generation gap, they shared a love for the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole,  all artists who transcend time and place.

This love of music started early. Here they are on a chilly beach vacation, when Joey was still in elementary school. Pre-ipod days, they've got their walkman headphones on and are singing for all they are worth! They made me laugh at times like this, with their exuberant and expressive personalities. But what a great bond it gave them.

Their best nights would be spent jamming with other musicians. Here they are with Dave and Tawny from Maui singing worship music, on one of Joey's college breaks.  Oh, how I miss those sweet days of listening to my two special men  play together, watching their faces change into that slack expression musicians have, as that musical part of their brains take over. I know Joe misses it even more. I know it hurts him. Yet, we have hope and do not despair. The world to come promises more of these same sweet moments with those we love best, and we are counting on that with all our hearts and souls.

What a gift Joe gave his son. Music was an ever-present companion for Joey. His guitar went where he went. He made many friends with it, but he could also be alone with it. This picture was taken by Rachel somewhere in Latin America, on their year long road trip. 

He was in at least two bands, and some of his closest friends were also musicians. He had a career in the music industry, and he loved what he did. He had a lot of poise on stage, and it was a comfortable thing for him to sing for others. He was also hilariously funny at a karaoke club!   Here he sang a Hawaiian song with his ukulele at his uncle's wedding. It was the same song he sang with his dad at my 50th birthday party: "In This Life" by Bruddah Iz.

The words hold even more meaning now.

"Let the world stop turning.
Let the sun stop burning.
Let them tell me love's not worth the going through.
If it all falls apart, I will know deep in my heart.
The only dream that mattered has come true.
In this life, I was loved by you."

We all felt that way about Joey. We were loved by him. Deeply loved. He loved each one of us and always went to great lengths to spend time with us. He wasn't one of those kids who didn't want to be with his parents. Quite the contrary. It was as if he knew his time was short and he savored every opportunity to be with those he loved.

What do you do when a boy like that is gone? You find a way to stay connected, till you meet again. Joe's way is to listen to Joey's music every day. He takes care of his guitars and ukuleles. He also takes care of Joey's VW van for him. He drives it to keep it charged. He parks it on the grass under the trees on anniversary days. That's some of what a father does while waiting for his reunion with his son.

 He remembers the great times they had. They loved being together.

The separation is hard, but because they really lived while they could, it's a relief  to have few regrets.

Though we all miss Joey, we are thankful for the sons we do have. These two incredible son-in-laws are brave men, and men of integrity. They have really been there for us.  In Joey, they lost a brother themselves.  We are so proud of these two men, our daughters' husbands, and wonderful fathers to our grandchildren. Sons who are lent to us by God, they fill some of the space left open by Joey.

They miss their brother-in-law, too.

Their sons miss their Uncle JJ.

Joey was a phenomenal uncle. He loved every moment being with his nephews and nieces.

His cousins, Jeff and Brian, were like big brothers to Joey. They picked on him as he grew up across the street from them, and taught him how to be tough. His Uncle Don, the college prof,  was one of his favorite friends, and could always  be relied upon for a good conversation. All of these men have also walked through the valley of the shadow of death with Joe. I know how much that means to him.

I love this rare picture of my husband, my father, and my son.  Each one a unique man, but all of them intelligent, talented, strong, kind men. They love one another, and draw inspiration from one another. My dad is now 83, and he was the last of the grandparents to see Joey alive. Joey went to visit him on his birthday, one month before Joey went to Heaven, and they had a great day together drinking Joey's homemade brew. My dad had the same red hair as Joey when he was young.  I wish I could have found a picture of Joe's dad, too. He is already in Heaven with Joey, and we picture them together in our mind's eye.

Dodger stadium is a place with a lifetime of father-son memories.  Joe almost raised Joey at this place--so many games through the years. Plus it provided good two hour round trip drives in the car. Plenty of time to discuss the pertinent issues. Joe spent TIME with his son. He was never too busy for Joey. Never too busy to process life with him. On this Father's Day, near or far, I know Joey would have made some special time for his dad. At the least, they would have talked on the phone, discussing stocks and investments, politics, and music. Perhaps they would have reminisced about the time they won $2400 at the black jack table on the cruise ship and screamed off the back of the ship into the wind. They probably would promise a trip to Vegas together soon--just for the thrill of it. They would have commiserated about the Dodgers, and had a hundred solutions for the owners' marital problems. They would have discussed Joey's business and beautiful Rachel, and JR and Kevin and all his friends, and talked about when he was coming home again. Probably, Joe would have bribed him by offering to pay his fare home, and Joey would have said, "You don't need to do that, Dad".

 I know Joe would do anything in his power to have Joey home again.  Unfortunately, no amount of money or charm can bring him back. As King David said when his son died, "You can't come to me, but I will go to you". Our only consolation is that Joey is in his true home and he is waiting for us to join him. Who knows when that day will be, but it is indeed coming. We will all go away someday, and then we'll be together. It's just a wait, now, and God encourages us to persevere.

  Joey would have ended that imaginary Father's Day conversation with Joe, the same way he always did,  "I love you, Dad". I hope Joe can hear those words in his heart today. Despite the wall between heaven and earth, I hope he knows his son loved him, enjoyed him, was always eager to see him, and that he was a success as a father.  Joey lived out many of the dreams his father gave him. He lived with passion and zest and valued people over everything else, because his dad did. He was smart and charming and talented, because his dad was. He knew he was loved, because his dad took the time to make it clear to him. By any measurement, Joe was an amazing father to his son.

He makes his wife and family proud and we want to say we love him, too.
Happy Father's Day, dear Joe.
You have built a legacy of faith, love and hope in your sons and daughters and grandchildren.

Proverbs 13:22
A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children...


Robin said...

What a beautiful and compelling tribute, from the mother who would know.

Beckypdj said...

This is a great post.

I can only imagine what it will be like when they are playing music together in Heaven.

I wish your husband the best Father's Day possible.

karen gerstenberger said...

I can't imagine a better gift to your wonderful man than this Father's Day "card." It's a treasure. Well said, dear friend. Happy Father's Day to Joe and your sons-in-law.

Jeri said...

That was so beautiful Karen.
Happy Father's Day Joe.
We love you two!
Cliff & Jeri

Anonymous said...

This was rule a beautiful tribute to your son and wonderful Joe. love when you open your heart and share with us all the moments and treasured pictures. Love you Sharon

Maisha Bonnie said...

This made me cry...I love it when you write, Karen...I love you guys. Joe, you are an amazing father.
much love,

Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

Ya'll are the bestest parents ever.

Perhaps we would not yearn so much for heaven if only God were there. I am ashamed that I think that but it will be such a happy reunion thinking about all the healing that will take place. I'm so glad to know that God desires that for us.

I love the Lord and when I think of my loved ones and your son there keeping God company---it makes me glad that life doesn't just end. I've got something to look forward to---and I'll be happy to see you hug Joey. I hope we get to go to heaven soon. I'm ready.