Dad Memorial: July 8, 2023

Having done this before, not quite a year ago, you would think this would get easier.  It does not.  Writing about my dad has been much more challenging than I anticipated and in putting these thoughts together, I sadly realized that I really didn't know all that much about my father.  This is my fault; this is his fault. He wasn't a big talker, at least not when it came to life stories. I wish I could change that, but I can't, so...

In digging around the house this past week, I did find my father's senior yearbook and what was written under his senior photos proves my above point:  Steve's main interests are his two dogs which he often exhibits.  (How ironic that he married a woman who was allergic and had a daughter who just as allergic.) He likes all outdoor sports; especially hunting and fishing.  (I never saw him do either; although I do think there are photos of him fishing in the 1960s when we vacationed on Cape Cod.)  He has participated in various school athletics and activities.  (But what?)  Steve was a member of the varsity golf,  football and basketball teams.  (Of those three, I can only say I saw my dad do one.  When I was very young, he and a neighbor would play one on one in the neighbors driveway.  Although I know he golfed, I never saw him do that.  What "athletics" we did do were tennis and skiing...neither of which I was very good with.)  He plans to attend college next year where we expect he will be a success.  (He did go to college.  He spent a year at Gettysburg College which I know he enjoyed very much before transferring to Wesleyan University which is supposedly where ALL the Foster men went. )  His yearbook also notes, and I think this holds true, that he was the class pessimist.

In the early 1960s, my parents met and married on an extremely hot day in May.  It was so hot, that the sweat from my father's nose transferred to my mother when they finally kissed as man and wife.  They went to Bermuda on their honeymoon and returned there several times over the years.  Among many other things, they shared a love of surf and sand, which is should be no surprise that they spent their last years of their lives on Lake Court in Mantoloking, NJ, just three blocks from the ocean, a block from Barnegat Bay and a lagoon as part of their backyard.  (And I started to write this sitting by the bay window overlooking said lagoon.)

My dad was a great supporter of my brother and I.  Both of us were in the Verona High School Marching Band and my father became "the voice" of the Marching Maroon and White at football games and competitions. My brother continued his marching band experience at Bucknell University and I think if they live closer, my father would have been the "voice" there as well.  My parents visited Bucknell many times when my brother was a student and plenty of times after as they had established friendships with so many people at the University.

As many of you may know, my dad was also a great gardener.  When he was younger, he had a huge tract of land in the backyard, which he would manually dig and turn the soil.  My mother used to call him the grave digger because he really did dig what looked like graves.  He would spend hours outside in the hot sun and my mother would bring him a "transfusion" which is actually a cocktail of vodka, grape juice, ginger ale and lime, however her version was just half grape juice and ginger ale and he drank A LOT of those.  He started his plants inside under a grow lamp in the basement of the house on Montclair Avenue or later on the porch of the house on Lake Court.  He grew many things over the years:  beautiful flowers, pumpkins, strawberries, corn for popping, and zuccini.  But what he was best known for were his cucumber and tomato plants.  He always started more plants than he would need and then once they were ready to be transplanted outside, he would share them with friends.  I think friends actually came to expect an annual tomato plant delivery.  There once was and there may still be a NJ Big tomato contest and one year my father was the Essex County champ.  Sadly, he never made it any farther than that, but he did get a t-shirt which I know I still have somewhere, if I just dig around, I WILL find it.  Although there were starter pots on the back porch this year, no seeds were planted and tomatoes will never be quite so good again for me.

Since my dad was so in tune with the land, it is fitting that when he first "met" his grandson, he was mowing the front lawn.  He saw us pull up, covered in dirt and sweat.  He wouldn't touch his grandson, the grandson that he helped "fund" and came through at the land minute when we needed several thousand dollars more to expedite the adoption process, but he did help carry in the "stuff" we had in the car.  And there was a LOT of stuff?  I mean just imagine living in a motel room for a week with a newborn!

He was very hesitant to hold a newborn, but quickly got the hold of it and by the time James was 7 months old and the Bucknell men's basketball team made March madness, James would sit up next to my dad and "watch."  During the spring of James' first year, my dad would come over and watch tv with James.  The two of them would take a nap together; dad sitting on the love seat with James rested against this chest.

My dad was at his best with toddlers and the elementary school set.  I know he wished he had been younger when James was born so that he could have done more with him.  As it was, it was my dad who found the New Logic marine science camp for James.  For a week or two in the summer James would stay with my parents, going to camp from 9-2.  Back on Lake court my dad would show him how to catch crabs and identify males from females.  They would release the crabs they caught, having "crab races".  The losing crab being the one that was the last to find his way off the dock and back into the lagoon. 

In the last years of his life, my dad was much less mobile, spending much of his time in his "sleep chair" in the "back room" (aka the den) of the house.  He had a very specific routine that he followed every day and you could pretty much set your watch by it.  His world may have shrunk a bit, but he had a bay window which allowed him to keep tabs on what was happening on Lake Court.  He would frequently send text or emails to friends and neighbors about things that were going on.  Those messages might have said, "the newspaper is delayed today,"  "they are delivering lumber to your house this morning" or "we've had some flooding here this week, it might be a good idea to come down and check on your house," but the subtext was "I care about you."  In his own limited way, he was still was showing how much he loved you.

My dad left me a message about a month ago.  He was not well or very coherent.  It was June and he was calling to tell me that he was not doing very well.  He was having difficulty with words and getting what he wanted to tell me across.  He ended the message by telling me that he wanted me to have a very, very, very, VERY nice Thanksgiving.  He didn't say he loved me, but he didn't have to.  I knew it.  I know it.  His message was very clear.  I love you dad.  Happy Thanksgiving.


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