Father’s Day is tough for me. My own father passed away when I was two. I have no memories of him at all. I am lucky that I can hear his musical talents on CD and see him in the one motion picture in which he appeared (as a member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra).
I was on my way to being a father myself back in 1976. While it never came to pass, even the anticipation of fatherhood changed me in ways I am still discovering today.
Her name was Carol, she became my heart, my soul and my life. It was 1975 and I was an angry young undergraduate student totally smitten with her. She had a PhD in Music History, A Performer’s Certificate in voice (the performance equivalent of a PhD) and was taking some music classes before returning to the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria for advanced vocal study. She had a beautiful lyric soprano voice.
Although I have always hated choral singing, as music major I had to be part of the College “honors” chorus, so called because you had to know how to sight read vocal music to get in. Sometimes being a showoff will bite you in the rear. However, it is where I met Carol.
It took me a couple of weeks but I finally asked her out. She was at the school, singing in an ensemble offshoot of the chorus. I was on the fencing team (yeah, go figure) and was in full fencing regalia, mask and all, when I caught up to her in the hall. “Sorry Don Diego,” she said when she saw me. “Sergeant Garcia left a while ago.” She was a classic TV geek. It was love at first sight. I asked her to go to a movie with me and she said yes.
It didn’t take us long to figure out we were soul mates. She completed me. I met her in September and we were married that January in a little country church near the South Jersey Shore. We wrote our own vows and it was a wonderful ceremony.
The plan was for me to finish college (I was also working part-time in radio) and then we’d start a family. About a month after we were married, she was expecting our first child. Okay, it might delay our final career plans, but we were thrilled. We would call the baby Carol (I insisted) if it were a girl, David Douglas (after my best friend’s name and my middle name) if it were a boy.
I had been doing a lot of writing and was getting published on a regular basis. A college in the mid-Atlantic contacted me and offered me a chance to get my PhD while working as an adjunct professor of music theory. They would give us a place to live and pay me a stipend. It was a dream gig. The campus was on the water and I figured that I would be a professor of music theory, writing about music theory and composing, maybe even do some film scores.
It was a Saturday morning in late July, 1976. I was off to do my radio show and she was headed to her part-time job. It was a perfectly clear day. About a half hour later, I received the phone call. It was a local chief of police who told me that Carol had been killed in an automobile accident. My world ended.
Seems that a bus full of people from a private group had been partying in Atlantic City all night. They ran a red light and T-boned her car at over 55 miles per hour. She died at the scene and our child, an almost 7 month-old male fetus, was also killed.
For the next few weeks, I was in shock. The court cases were overwhelming as all the people on the bus were suing me, until the fact that they ran the red light came out. I went back to school, since Carol had always been so happy about my dream of being a college professor. After a year, I left school, wandered around for a bit and wound up as a Creative Director of a little ad agency in Philadelphia. The company split and I went with the half that went to Atlanta, where I lived for 8 years before auditioning for QVC, where I would remain for 15 years.
There still aren’t too many days that go by where I don’t think things would have been so dramatically different if I had hugged her for a few more seconds. I also think about everything I have done since she was killed. I never became a college professor, but I realize I was able to help and “teach” a lot of people in my life.
While in advertising, I helped literally hundreds of companies grow and employ more people. At QVC, I also helped a lot of businesses to grow and prosper. I helped a lot of viewers as well. There is a case of a young man who was developmentally disabled and rarely spoke until he heard me “filling time” on QVC one day by talking about how little gold there was in the world. He went into the kitchen and repeated everything I said to his mother. Seems something in the timbre of my voice triggered a response in him. He now has a job, friends and is living a very full life. Nothing I did, really, but an accident of fate where something in my voice gave him “permission” to speak and interact again.
I have so many letters and emails from QVC viewers thanking me for making technology easy for them. I received one from a graduate student who got his first computer from me on QVC when his mother was watching a presentation. She was totally opposed to computers before that and had refused to get him one. He graduated with an advanced degree in graphic design.
In my talk radio career, I heard from so many fellow cancer patients who have told me they are less afraid since they heard me laughing about my own disease and treatment (I am now cancer-free). Other listeners shared that laughing with (and at) me on the radio and on television really helped them to cope with the personal, professional and health problems they were having.
I miss Carol every day. She saw the value in this goofy college student before anyone else did. I met Rosanne back in 2001 and fell madly in love with her, the first time I had felt that depth of emotion since 1975. She is now my heart, my soul and my life. Rosanne is brilliant, beautiful and makes the world a better place everyday she’s in it. I thank the Lord daily for bringing her into my life along with all my wonderful friends, peers and acquaintances. I am loved, I am blessed and I am an extremely lucky man.
While I’ve never been a father to a human child, I have been able to raise three wonderful dogs and an interesting cat. Mandy, my first dog, joined my life in 1996 and was my little girl and best friend for 11 wonderful years. Today, I am “raising” Marty, Melody and Miles who are my current “4-legged children.” Like Mandy, they are truly wonderful “kids.” They are friendly and loving to all people and animals and add a great deal of love (and sometimes excitement) to my daily life.
Because of the deaths of my father and my unborn son, I’ll never have a first hand understanding of the complexities that exist in a father/child relationship. Some people laugh when I say the animals are our children. Most understand that loving and caring for a living creature every day is the true definition of parenthood. As I am often heard saying, “It works for me.”
Love and cherish your father on this special day. Happy Father’s Day! May it be filled with great memories, happiness and much love! The link is a YouTube video of a song I wrote about my father. The link is for a simple YouTube video demo of the song. I hope it will be meaningful to anyone who lost their father or had to be separated from them.
Happy Father’s Day!
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