Friday, January 21, 2011

The Year Sped by at a Crawl

One year ago today, this morning, I drove out to Forbes Hospice to spend the day with Dad. MJ had spent the night. Her friend Batia was visiting with her when I arrived. There were no parking spots in the garage parking reserved for the Hospice, so I had parked on the street. Batia was just getting ready to leave as I arrived, she was parked in the garage, so after saying a good morning to Dad, giving him a kiss on the forehead and telling him that I would be right back, I followed Batia out of the hospice to move my car into the garage. I knew, or at least thought I knew, that Dad could not hear my good morning, probably did not recognize my kiss or touch, and certainly was not aware of his surroundings or the fact that I told him I would be right back, and that MJ was sitting out in the hall. I believe I was wrong. With all of the cousins that had come to show their love and respect for day, with Joe, MJ and I, old friends coming to visit, the incredibly wonderful staff at Forbes Hospice, there were so very few times that Dad was ever actually alone in his room. This couple of minutes while I was moving my car and while MJ was sitting in the hall was one of those rare times. I believe that Dad was waiting for this opportunity. I believe that he chose to die while we were all out of the room so that none of us would have to bear witnessing him taking his last breath. I had no sooner stepped outside the door at the hospice, not 5 minutes since I had left Dad’s room, and MJ called to tell me to come back in. Dad had left, as Joe has so eloquently put it, to play for the other team.

That was one year ago today. I can feel the pain as I write this as if it were this morning. How could it possibly have been a year ago. How can the pain still be so acute after 365 days. How can I miss him so much, long to talk to him so much after that much time has gone by. Will this deep chasm ever not feel so empty. I hope so, I hope not. I pray that the pain will pass but the love and the memories will stay. I can’t believe that it has been a year Dad. So often it feels like it has just happened. And yet, as I look back over the year, I think of so many times that I wanted to reach out to you, that I wanted to share something with you, that it sometimes seems like this year has gone by so very slowly.

There are so many things that I have missed this last year. We always talked so much leading up to the Superbowl. I worked so hard to try to get a fair bet from you, which I rarely ever got. I would call you watching the game, after a great play, at halftime, after the game to discuss it. I always looked forward to Alumni game when Sam and I would drive up to State College to attend the dinner and game with you. How I used to love to watch you walk out onto the floor when your name was called (usually miss pronounced), always amazed as you stood next to Lee, so short amongst the gathering of giants, yet remembering how instrumental you were in the successes of those teams. I looked forward to March Madness and the calls and debates, and yes, again trying to get some bets. How we would talk after an upset. I could not get myself to follow it this year. I wanted to talk with you before my Hip Surgery. I wanted your advice, your guidance, your prayers. So many times I wanted to reach out to you through MJ’s cancer battle to help give me the strength that I need to be strong for her, Jonathan, Sm and Zoe. The list goes on and on about the many times I started to pick up the phone to call you. I know that I no longer need the phone to talk to you, that you can hear my words and know my thoughts, but I so miss seeing you and hearing your voice.

But life does go on, and we go on. MJ, Joe and I have learned to better lean on each other to reach you. To guide each other because we know that you are so much in each one of us that by reaching out the each other, we are still able to reach out to you. I think we have all become better because of you, now knowing that we have to try somehow to fill your shoes in each others lives. That is a pretty daunting task that you have left for us Dad. We are calling each other more, so often when one of us would have called you. We reach out to each other more for help and guidance. We are seeing each other more, making greater efforts to let you Grandchildren understand what love in a family truly means, like our family did before us. That is your legacy Dad. A legacy of Love and Devotion to our family. Finally Dad, I want you to know what I have said for years, long before your illness and death, but something that I still say today without any reservation when someone asks me about my father. I simply tell them: He is the greatest man I ever knew!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We Miss You

I just seem to find myself coming back to this blog periodically, I am not sure if anyone else also revisits these entries, but since I do keep coming back, I decided it was time for another posting.

It has now been just over 4 months since Dad has died and there are still times when I miss him just as fiercely as the day he died. Last weekend was memorial day weekend, which was one of his favorite holidays. Even as a devout Catholic who actively worshiped, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving were his favorites. I think that this is because of the memories of the activities of those holidays, both really centered around friends and family gathering together.

There are so many times when something small might happen, some personal or professional milestone reached, some disappointment or some interesting sporting event or national event occurs that I still nearly find myself reaching for the phone, because these are all times that would have prompted a phone call to Dad in the past. (Or if I thought there was any opportunity to get a bet on a game I knew we would both be watching)

I think that part of writing this posting is my way of "calling" him to tell him about the trip we made to Blairsville this weekend. Calling him to tell him all the details of the visit, as I would whenever I got home from visiting Mom after she died.

MJ, her son Sam and I took a trip out to Blairsville on Monday, Memorial Day, to visit with Dad and Mom. The Blairsville Cemetery posts flags on the site where each veteran of any conflict is buried, and it was important to Dad that when he joined that honored gathering that his site should also display a flag for his service. So we were disappointed when we got to the grave site and saw no flag marking his plot. Thinking that perhaps we could rectify the situation for next year, I phoned the cemetery office and left a message on the answering machine about the missing flag. Having forgotten to tell them something in the message I phoned back to leave another, and was surprised when someone answered. Long story short, 10 minutes later Dad had a WWII marker and flag on his plot.

We also took a nostalgic tour around town, reminiscing of the backyard adventures at Gus and Adele's and at Grandma's house. Driving by MJ and John's house, and past the house on Brown street, although neither MJ nor I could remember which house was the one they lived in. We drove past Gus' store and the Asper Building 1928, built the same year Mom was born.

We spent a couple of hours at the grave site, catching them up, with one of the major highlights being Brother Joe wrecking his boat on a rock within hours of having it put into the lake for the season. I believe he was laughing at me as he was told that as we were driving to the cemetery down the main street of town within 30 minutes of the start of the parade, I drove by slowly, waving like the mayor to all the people who were gathering, many of whom laughed and waved back. (Nephew Sam was trying his best to hide in the back seat.)

Some of the parade came all the way into the cemetery and as it approached, we walked out to the entrance to watch the veterans group march by for the ceremony that was being held in the cemetery. We watched very little of the actual ceremony and went back to the grave site before the mayor began his speech.

Of course the ride home had to include lunch at Clems, and the BBQ was as wonderful as always, thank Sis for buying lunch!!!

So Pap Pap, that was the highlight of my Memorial Day that I just wanted to share with you. I Love You and miss you terribly, but we are helping each other get by. We many times call each other during those times when we would have been calling you. I will talk to you again soon.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dad's obituary

Although this obituary doesn't begin to describe dad's life and loves. it's a start. The rest we hope to fill in with your stories. Thanks in advance for your comments and know how much we love reading them. For the technologically challenged, just hit comment below this or any of the posts and write. We will compile all of these into a book that his children and grandchildren will treasure. If you want your comments to appear in the program we are creating for the funeral, please post them before Tuesday night. Otherwise take as much time as you need.

Note that the formal service on the 29th starts at 11:30 contrary to a previous post, but other details re hotels etc are accurate. Another hotel recommendation is the Fairfield Inn & Suites , 2215 N. Atherton St.

Joseph Tocci, 84, of State College, died January 21, 2010 surrounded by friends and family at the Forbes Hospice in Pittsburgh, PA. He was born July 16, 1925 in Ridgewood, Queens, NY; son of the late Joseph Nicholas and Julia Martin Tocci.

On August 16, 1952, he married the love of his life, Dolores Asper, with whom he shared 54 years of marriage. She preceded him in death on May 3, 2007.

Joe graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens, NY in 1943. Upon graduation from High School he enlisted and served in the U. S. Navy from July 15, 1943 to March 12, 1946, and during World War II he served on the Aircraft Carrier USS Card in anti-submarine duty in the North Atlantic. He earned the American, Asiatic, Victory and European Theatre Medals.

Upon his honorable discharge, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Human Development at Penn State University in 1950 on the GI Bill. While studying at Penn State, he co-captained the Penn State basketball team and is listed as one of the 50 greatest basketball players in Penn State History. Also while on the Varsity baseball squad, he was named all Eastern All-Star second baseman in the 1949 and 1950 seasons. In 1958 he earned a Master of Education degree at Penn State University. He went on to complete a thirty credit, sixth year certificate program at Bridgeport University in Bridgeport Conn.

Joe Tocci served as a Physical Education Instructor and freshman basketball coach at Penn State from 1950 – 1951. In 1951 through 1953 coach Tocci taught Phys Ed, Social Studies and coached at Blairsville High School. From 1953 to 1963 he taught Phys Ed and served as a coach at Mansfield High School. Returning to State College in 1963, he taught Phys Ed and served as an assistant basketball coach at Penn State University until 1968. In 1968 he moved his family to Trumbull Ct, where he coached basketball, golf, cross country and tennis, and taught Phys Ed. He led several teams to compete in their respective state championships. In 1986, he and his wife Dolores retired to State College. Coach Tocci’s continued relationships, some spanning over 50 years, with former teammates, players and students is an example of the impact he made on people’s lives.

Joe was a devout Catholic and belonged to Our Lady of Victory Church in State College. He was a most enthusiastic supporter of Penn State athletics, and was an active member of the Penn State Nittany Lion Club.

Surviving are his daughter M. J. Tocci and her husband Jonathan Rest of Pittsburgh, two sons, Joseph Michael Tocci and his wife Susan of Belmont, MA and Timothy John Tocci of Pittsburgh, four grandchildren, Sam, Zoe, Catherine and Joey, and one sister Dorothy Tocci and life long family friend Margaret Wigiser of Hobe Sound. FL.

A memorial mass will be celebrated at 11:30 a.m. on January 29th, 2010 at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, 820 Westerly Parkway, State College with Msgr Lockard as Celebrant. Family and friends will be received one hour prior to the memorial mass. Graveside services and burial will be in Blairsville Cemetery, Blairsville, PA at 1 p.m. on January 30th, where he will be buried alongside his beloved wife Dolores.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to Forbes Hospice, 115 S. Neville Street, Pittsburgh Pa, 15213

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The buzzer finally sounded

Yes, the buzzer finally sounded and dad left this game for good. He died peacefully in his sleep this morning when Tim and I were in the hallway outside his room. He was determined to go when we none of his children were there and he outsmarted us again.

MJ and Jonathan and family will be receiving guests at home on Sunday January 24th from 12-4 followed by a private service on Sunday night. Their address is 1130 North Negley Ave. Pittsburgh

The funeral will be at Our Lady of Victory Church located at 820 Westerly Parkway State College on Friday January 29th at 11:00 am. A lunch reception will follow at the church and all are welcome to attend. The phone number of the church is 814-237-7832. Dad will be buried in Blairsville on Saturday January 30th at 1:00 (specifics to follow). We recommend the Ramada Inn located at 1450 South Atherton St. State College 814-238-3001

In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to Forbes Hospice in memory of Joseph Tocci. The address is 115 South Neville Street,Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213. They took extraordinary care of all of us

As much as we love your cards, we encourage you to contribute your comments to the blog- it's our archive of dad's life and we love to hear all about how you know him and remember him. We invite your stories and thoughts.

More to come.....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We are in overtime and what a game it has been!

The fourth quarter just ended, and the game is going into overtime. The first 3 periods were an amazing ride, with career, family and friends. The last quarter began with the home team controlling the ball, moving home to friends and familiar surroundings in Boalsburg and State College, with good health and active retirement. The team had adequate income to support the modest life they chose. Days were filled with golf, dining and plenty of Penn State sporting activities to attend. Children and grandchildren visited often, but never often enough.

Near the end of the last quarter, the opposing team started to control the ball. One of the critical players on the home team was fouled and as a result began having difficulty getting up and down the court. The point guard was able to keep the team in the game, while at the same time never leaving the side of his injured teammate. It took amazing fortitude and devotion to achieve this, but when the quarter closed he could move ahead knowing he gave all he had to give… becoming a fixture at her side and providing both physical and emotional nourishment day after day, year after year, affording his partner the deserved dignity that was so important to them both.

As we head into overtime, while the opposing team can be compassionate, they are also undefeated. Eventually the brackets require us all to meet them, and we might measure ourselves by how well we embraced, enjoyed and appreciated the competition even knowing the end game. This player was a class act every minute of every period.

Wait! What’s going on here??? That player and life partner he lived with all those years is now playing on the other team! As he guards her, like he always has done, she whispers to him that he has had such a great performance during regulation, at the end of the game he will be drafted by the undefeated squad, where they will be teammates again.

So while many of us will miss you, others are looking forward to playing together with you again where you certainly belong, in that eternal Hall of Fame you so believed in all your life.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

St Peter and the coach

MJ reporting from hospice where dad is comfortable,mostly quiet but still able to deliver the occasional pithy remark. Brother Joe arrived this morning. Cousins are all around us so just picture: dice and card games, arguments over rules, arguments over sports, politics and whatever else might inspire a debate, tons of food including leftovers from our Arabic food feast last night- (delete that, I forgot Joe arrived) and endless stories about the lifetimes of experiences that have made these bonds between us so strong. Dad is in his element as we honor his contribution to who we all became and how connected we are to each other. We stand on the shoulders of giants- Hospice is an amazing place, with just the right mix of medical, spiritual, soothing, straight talk and extraordinary people.

A story from cousin Jackie who claims the privilege of being the cousin who has known dad the longest- ...."I find myself recalling Uncle Joe as our Civics Teacher so long ago... how much everyone in the class admired him and how proud I was that he was "going with" my Aunt Dolores ( alias Trouble maker, aka DoDo)

Just the fact that these little moments are still vivid reminds me of what a quality guy he is and always will be. Uncle Joe is beyond special... I guess I just adore him.
Stay strong and love him as you always do. You have an army of cousins at your side.

As we closed up dad's house I found this yellowed newspaper clipping that has been on his dresser for as long as I can remember:

The coach knocked on the Pearly Gate
His face was scarred and old
He stood before the man of fate
For admission to the fold
"What have you done" St. Peter asked
"To gain admission here?"
"I've been a basketball coach" he said,
"For many and many a year
The Pearly Gate swung open wide
St. Peter touched the bell,
'Come in and choose your harp,' he said
"You've had your share of hell".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Only his wit bounced back this time

Dad was fairly incoherent last night but for a few moments- which, as always, included some humor. Dad tried to get up out of bed and told Tim it was "none of his business" where he was going. He held our hands tight, and we know that he knew we were with him How can you help but want just a few more weeks of good times, one more piece of advice, one more ball game to watch to Pittsburgh and goodbye to Happy Valley for now.