Ok Pop, this is for you.
We miss you so much…
We love you so much.
Albert Vincent Candela, Jr.
He was our anchor…
The immovable force that centered us in the calmest of days…
In the most violent of storms.
He was our anchor.
The force that kept us all united, centered & grounded.
The duty of being a “Single-Parent” had fallen on him.
Raising three young children, from six to nine years of age, wasn’t what he had signed up for when he and our mother had married 17 years earlier.
Over the last year of his life, we spent hours talking during his chemotherapy treatment sessions.
He told me that he didn’t feel he had always rose to the challenge of being a father…
That he felt he was
without our mother in his life to balance him out.
He thought he should have handled things differently.
He was regretting and reflecting I realized, and if he was telling me about it…then when he was alone it was gutting him.
The idea of our father not sleeping at night, laying in his bed torturing himself over the past destroyed me.
Made me want to tear the demons called “Regret” to pieces.
Together, he and I were delving deeper into the past…
Than we had ever done previously.
While he and my brother and sister, Derek had Fawn, had always been close…
This was uncharted territory for him and I.
And to picture him in pain made me want to rage.
I told him he was
“Younger than I am now when you lost your wife 2 months after learning she had cancer.
You fought for your love, you created a family tougher…and then she passed suddenly.
That would have destroyed other men.
I’ll never know how you pulled through that…but you did.
You’re the strongest man I know Pop.”
He said to me:
“I’m actually a wuss Wes.”
“If you’re a wuss, then we’re all gigantic pussies Pop…”
You’re the strongest man I know.”
His eyes would tear uncontrollably at times with the cancer…so I wasn’t sure if that was why he had tears in his eyes when I looked up at him.
I can’t speak for Derek or Fawn, but I had only seen him cry once and that was the morning he told us Mom had died.
From then on, all of us always seemed to point towards our father…from wherever we were on the globe.
He was always the constant between us.
Like the lighthouse we all steered towards.
The common link that we all shared, despite any “Brothers & Sisters” issues that we may have had going on between us personally at the time.
He was the patriarch of our family.
The commander of our unit.
He was our father and the three of us grew from children to adults under his guidance and protection.
The four of us grew up to be members of a family unit, United and made stronger by the shared bond and tragedy which was losing our Mom and his Wife…Christina Candela.
Referred to affectionately as”Chris” by her husband, her brother, her many friends and family.
“Aunt Chris” by her godchildren, nieces and nephews.
We three children had to grow up a little faster than the other kids in ways,
And slower in others.
We had to adapt, as our Pop did, and fill in a lot of the blanks ourselves.
And in those conditions there were behavioral traits we weren’t being taught, which we would have to teach ourselves.
Just like our Pop, there was no one definitive book on how to go about raising three children alone while grieving the sudden loss of your wife.
He had to improvise day by day and do the best he could.
But our Pop was determined to do it on his own, almost flat out refusing to accept any help.
And then there was the family.
Proof of the Angels.
Proof to me, of God.
There’s was always our amazing family.
With their strict values, these are great people who provided an example for us that I see as Devine Intervention.
We could never step over that cliff. Not with the army behind us. Not with the greatest godparents a person could ask for in this life.
Our Aunt Linda and Uncle Rob…
Our family was never far.
When the holidays came…
When we grew and looked for work…
When I was kicked out of high school and my godmother stood up and raised hell for me…
I knew we were being watched over…
I knew my Mom smiled from heaven, happy the right people stayed in our lives.
We all grew as individuals, and we had a very loud sense of humor.
When the four of us laughed, we laughed hard and loud…no matter who was around.
Like big kids…Pop included.
Now, for myself, the route to becoming “father and son” with my Pop was a bit of a bumpy one.
…So I used to call him “Dad”.
But that was when he I was growing up, angry at him for not being there, scared when he was.
To use a metaphor:
He was my sworn enemy.
We took to the battlefield often when I had started ny teenage rebellion and challenged his rule.
I began my teenage rebellion when I was eight years old.
Later, in hindsight, I realized I wasn’t rebelling against him…
I was grieving the loss of the same woman he was.
His wife. My mother.
I started a war…
Because nothing takes your mind off sadness like good war.
And our war was a glorious one.
Many soldiers died on the battlefield.
After years, the pain began to fade for all of us.
We adapted. We accepted.
I called off my rebellion.
My father and both laid down our arms against each other and signed a peace treaty.
He was my father, but we were also brothers in arms.
Two soldiers on the opposite sides of a decade long conflict.
And then, I began to see him.
I was growing older, loving and losing, and beginning to identify with him as a man.
I could see he had also loved and lost, but on a grander scale then I would ever know hopefully.
Had suffered silently over a loss that would have broken most people into pieces.
He was a man who stood for his morals, lived with his heart and truly believed in doing the right thing.
No matter the cost.
He always instilled this code in us, the importance of being honorable and true.
A man who was color-blind with all people, which is why when he met my mother, he saw her beauty, her soul and her spirit…and fell in love.
They married in the mid 1960’s, not the easiest time for a dark skinned woman from Central America and an Italian American to unite.
But they fought for their love…
And they fucking won.
They created a family, started a life together.
And then, in an instant, she became sick, and then was gone.
But he moved forward, he always did.
He shared his wisdom, provided for our family…
And he NEVER licked his wounds in public.
Now when I saw those traits and the burden he had been carrying, a deep respect for him grew within me.
I vowed to always show him that respect from then on.
I consciously set out to breakdown every barrier between us.
They say your best friend is your worst enemy.
I found it to be the other way around.
What we overcame together, to become friends, to where I could feel his pain through his eyes…was miraculous.
And once the truce was made between us, we never spoke a harsh word to each other again.
I showed him respect, which shocked him at first…but which began the healing.
Next, we would need to learn to embrace.
Now the big one.
I wanted him to know I loved him. I wanted to tell him that.
So I did.
Every chance I could.
And slowly, it wasn’t me initiating it. It was him.
I would go to shake his hand…he would say:
“What’s this bull shit…give me a hug.”
And we would hug.
Two sworn enemies, now…not only father and son, but great friends.
That’s when he went from being “Dad”…
He never asked me why. It made sense to him.
I would say:
“I love you Pop.”
He would say:
“I love you too.”
I would say:
“I love you Pop, very much.”
He would say:
“I love you very much too.”
Our eyes became really tender when looking at each other.
This was the greatest accomplishment of my life.
The relationship I forged with my father.
And I can see that clearly now.
That the closer he and I became, the stronger the family as a whole became.
There was never a time I saw him or spoke to him without asking about my brother or sister.
Because he was our anchor.
The extraction point.
He was our father.
If we hadn’t spoken to each other, we had spoken to him.
It was because of our shared love for this great man.
Now, he has crossed over also…to that same place Mom went 32 years ago.
And, speaking for myself, there is a massive fucking hole in my heart right now.
He was the most important person in our lives…
Our love for him knew no bounds.
He was the most influential man in my life.
..and he fought till his last breath to move forward and live.
It’s crucial to recognize his place in our lives and hearts.
To recognize this event honestly and truly.
For what it is…
Because to heal from any tragedy, we must first truly recognize that a tragedy has occurred.
That whether we saw it or not throughout our lives…
Up to this moment…
It’s up to us.
We need to maintain that bond ourselves now.
I imagine and hope that the reunion between my Mom and my Pop was a euphoria for them both that is so wonderful it’s incomprehensible to mortal man.
That they are illuminating and emanating pure love for my brother, my sister and I from a vantage point that allows them to see everything and be everywhere at once.
That is the only peace I can find right now.
I love you Pop.