On the day my Father died: August 10, 2018


My father died on this day last year. August 10, 2018. Matthew Labriola (1924 – 2018). He was a full-blooded Italian. His parents were from Italy — Sicilians — and they immigrated to America around 1920. Good wops. Paisanos. Guineas.

On the day my father died last year on this day I happened to find these two to-go dishes of leftover Italian food from an Italian restaurant sitting on a street corner. Like an offering.

Some of my more strictly rational-minded friends would consider stuff like that a “coincidence.” . . .  I don’t.

Daddy Dearest

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My father’s widow — his second wife — sent me a photo of my father in the mail today. And a copy of the program from his memorial service. I didn’t feel much of anything when I looked at it. Aside from these slight pangs of melancholy. And this sense of incompleteness. So much of my life is dogged by this sense of incompleteness. Like things never developed fully. Everything always ends up short of the mark some how. A half-assed try. Never reaching fruition. Always something missing. Like it should have added up to something more than it was.

And it all happened so quickly. He was 86 and pretty much like he’d always been. I had gotten a letter from him just the month before. “Nothing new to report here. Same old blah blah blah.” Then I get an email from my brother. “The doctors say he has cancer. And at his age there’s nothing they can do about it. They say he could live for another two years.” And then in two weeks he was dead.

I never had any kind of relationship with him as an adult. In the 45 years since I left his home at age 17 he was mostly just a blank spot in my life. There were long periods where I actively disliked him. And long periods were I was mostly just indifferent towards him. And brief periods where I felt something akin to affection, admiration, and respect towards him. But mostly I didn’t think about him at all.

And now I’m mostly just left with with this feeling of incompleteness. Like something is missing. Something lacking. Something that slipped through my fingers. That you can never get back.


Weird “coincidences”



These kind of “coincidences” always happen to me right after a person I know dies. These weird little omens. These weird little gifts and/or curses, depending on my relationship with the deceased.

Case in point. My Dad died this morning.  And I was just headed to my favorite evening hang-out spot to drink a 12-pack or two in honor of my dearly departed Dad. And right nearby I found these three plates of fresh to-go food from a nearby Italian restaurant. Pasta, ravioli, and a calzone.

I’d consider them “coincidences” except that things like that happen one after another during the first two weeks after the death. And then they start to taper off after that.

The Hindus maintain that after a person dies their spirit lingers very strongly around the earth for a couple of weeks. And the spirit has the power to bless it’s friends and curse it’s enemies to varying degrees. And then the spirit leaves this mortal coil and merges back with the Cosmos.

My father was Italian. And he loved Italian food. And one of my childhood nicknames was Peter Ravioli.


I’ll give you another example of a weird “coincidence.” Right after my friend Duncan died we planted his ashes in Peoples Park. And I posted the obituary from the Oakland Tribune on the Peoples Park bulletin board, with a big photo of Duncan’s face as part of the article.

Then it starts raining. Highly unusual in June in Berkeley. Even more unusual, after it stops raining a big rainbow appears across the Berkeley sky. And the rainbow is perfectly centered with the bulletin board right square in the middle of it. With Duncan’s face from the photo seemingly staring right up at the rainbow

It was a very weird moment.


The last time I talked to my Father







Talked to my Dad on the phone today. It’s the first time I’ve talked to him since 1999. It was a pretty wrenching experience. I kept telling myself: “Don’t start crying. Don’t start crying.” Of course I started crying. I couldn’t help it.

The good news is, he says he’s not in any pain (they must have good morphine back east). And his wife is watching out for him 24 hours a day. The bad news is, his wife says “He gets a little weaker every day.”

His voice sounded different. It was a higher pitch than usual. But it was the same familiar Dad speech patterns. Though without his usual mindless enthusiasm. He was strangely matter-of-fact and unemotional. Probably didn’t have the energy to get excited or emotional. When I alluded in a roundabout way to his impending demise, asking him how he was “dealing with his situation” he simply said “That’s just a part of life.” I think all his years as a minister — where he made countless visits to hospitals to talk with people on their death beds — prepared him for this moment. It’s familiar terrain.




He’s having trouble eating and sleeping. Spends most of his time sitting comfortably in a chair in his bedroom.

I figured I better say it. “I love you. I’m gonna mi– ” But that’s as far as I got. The words got choked in my throat.

We made a little  more small talk about this and that. I didn’t want to drain his energy so I cut the conversation short. Told him I’d call him back tomorrow.

What a life.