Remembering My Dad, My Hero.
By Mary Elizabeth Beary
You were the first one to teach me to ride a bicycle. Endlessly keeping me safe as I spun circles around you, Jim, Joe and Michael and even our cats in our driveway. I remember the day you 'let go' of the seat. You had found me a boys bicycle with a banana seat that made it safer for me, and safer for you - to let go.
What you missed was the day I tried out Joe's ten speed at nine years old, rode it freehand around the block, like a stunt-biker, thought I heard a car coming behind me and turned my head to look, when "WHAM!" I rode right into a parked car. And hard. That really hurt. For a long time. You should have expected that, though, with three brothers.. I wanted to be just like them, just as much as I wanted to be just like you.
You were the first one to teach me what a "Marigold" was. Suggesting maybe it should be my favorite flower since the 'Mari' part of 'Marigold' is my name. I didn't like the connection since I thought those flowers were ugly, but I was afraid to tell you that, because you loved them. And I have to admit, they did smell really good.
You taught me to stay away from snakes. The real ones when I was little, the 'snakes in the grass' types of people as I started growing up.
You took me to the hospital each time I busted my chin open. Twice in only 18 months.. Thank God you did. At St. Elizabeth's as we waited for the Dr. to come back after an hours long session of stitches on the outside and inside of my chin and mouth, you assured me it was not a hunk of brain I saw on a table, that I thought the Dr. had taken out of my chin. I still have flashbacks of that hunk of something on a steel surgical table being wheeled by that looked like a tiny brain. I was so scared. And freezing. Why is it so cold in hospitals? But you reassured me. You held my hand. You patted my leg. And let me sit on your lap, and you held me really close when I started crying, afraid they had taken that brain looking thing out of my chin. I just wanted to go home and for my chin to stop hurting.
You were the first one to teach me about Heaven. I wanted to know what happened to the baby birds when their eggs fell out of their nests and they died. You told me that all their favorite things are in Heaven.. Like worms and trees and apples and the sky and clouds, and that they would sing even more beautifully than they do here on Earth.
When I asked what 'people' Heaven would be like when I die, you told me that it would be full of horses and flowers and grass and fairies, and Irish Connemara ponies; kittens and turtles and Black Beauty, the Blessed Virgin, all of the Apostles - and the sunshine and four leaf clovers, and that Jesus would be there and even Unicorns.
You told me that all of *my* favorite things would be in Heaven because Heaven is only full of happiness and joy and love and that no one in heaven is ever sad or hurting. That is why all of their favorite things are there.
I still really want a pony for Christmas or my birthday. Actually, now I really want a black-beauty-marked Arabian Stallion. You did tell me when I was about six years old, with a sweet grin, "OK honey, maybe someday you will get a pony." You're in Heaven today where Miracles are made every day, surely you have some pull by now and can help Miracle me down a horse?
I miss you all the time. Sometimes at really weird times. Like at hospitals and church. Almost always when I hear an airplane; and always when I see one cutting through the air like a knife. Just before sunset when the skies are shouting in colors of deep, bright blues, vivid lemon yellow with the clouds bursting through it all in that magnificent orange glow. It's just so dreamy for me, then, when I see that. I am flooded with the childhood moments of awe when I saw it then, and associated it with you - even with God. I am just as struck and enchanted by it today. All of these years later.
And all systems are GO for me when anyone, anyone mentions New York, Florida, flying or airplanes. And when I see a police officer, a police car, (and that time - or two - I was arrested, and it was fun for me to be checking out all of the fingerprinting paraphernalia and riding in the front seat of the police car asking questions about their guns and equipment up there. Who has fun being arrested? I wonder to myself, and should I attribute such a thing to you? I DO, Dad, I'm sorry I cannot help it) an airplane, or a pilot. Why are you sending so many of them my way lately?
Sometimes I don't want to miss you because it ticks me off that I have to miss you at all. It ticks me off that you have to be gone. It's not fair. I want you here and I need you here. Sometimes your being away hits me out of the blue and really hard because I already feel sad about something or someone, or lonely and I just don't want to feel worse. So I push those thoughts and feelings away. Sometimes I just give a quick pound on my kitchen counter if I'm particularly temperamental, and that get's it out of my system. For awhile.
Sometimes I think "I am fine" and in a good place of acceptance and peace with you in Heaven, and I am. But Dad, we are still in human form here. It is the feelings that get us here. The emotion. The loss of love in tangible form which would be you here with me right now. And I could give you a hug and see your blue eyes and hear your deep voice that is so, so reassuring. It still is. I can still hear it. And that's all just too hard. Sometimes.
Other times I think about how many arguments and debates we have had. That rarely either of us ever really 'won.' Though now that I am no longer a feisty idealistic teenager, I am still idealistic, but with age comes wisdom. If you learn the lessons of life well. Today, I now see that most of the time - you were right. Which is good, but also kind of ticks me off. And that is only because I inherited your competitive streak.
This is why you are my Hero still and my life compass. You used to say, 'Mary Elizabeth, a leopard never changes it's spots.' You also told me that Pop Pop, your Dad, always told you - being a war veteran - "Never trust an Arab." How terribly politically incorrect! Though I've had some dealings at sketchy Arab-owned gas stations in New Jersey that have made me wonder... When I came to you having trouble with a friend, or in a sticky situation or realized someone was not the good person I thought they were, you warned me with this metaphorical adage. I argued that point endlessly with you! So sure that, 'of COURSE they can Dad! People change all the time. It's not 'fair' not to give people chances. Leopards can change their spots.'
But you, spending years as a deputy marshal, police officer and investigator involved in many an FBI case - you knew better. You saw what I couldn't see and you warned me. And you taught me.
At every turn you always taught lessons. Most of them drove me crazy and I still sometimes roll my eyes when I think about the bazillion times you have said to me, "Mary Elizabeth, how do you eat an elephant?" You would get mad if I didn't remember the answer since I blew you off most of the time during those years. But, it's "One bite at a time." That's the answer. Then, "How does a weight lifter get stronger?" "By lifting more weights, Dad."
- take it easy. Don't eat an elephant all at once. Eat it one bite at a time. "steady as she goes."
- quit complaining, buck up and use the brain, the arms, the legs and the life the good Lord gave you. You will be stronger when it's over. Like the weight lifter.
- people really do have 'track records,' 'histories,' and 'spots,' like a leopard. And I am still learning to see patterns of people, and to better use discernment and establish boundaries. So many, Dad, have 'spots' that sometimes hide in plain sight.
You knew I was like you. That my heart just really always wanted everything and everybody to be good. And happy. And never hurting. And believed everything and everybody really 'are' good. And that made me want to help. Help people, animals, underdogs.. just help. Can you even remember, how many times I brought home baby birds, or a nest full of them or their eggs, or a turtle, or cat, or dog - even a half-dead snake once? Because I was afraid they would simply not survive without my help.
I had your sense of compassion and understanding. Mom gave me a lot of that, too. But in my youth (sometimes still today) my heart started working and acting before my head did. And that got me into trouble. And it got me hurt. Not so much with animals, unless I had to see them in pain, but a great deal with people. You knew this about me. You warned me so much during my free-spirited, edgy teen years. But you had so little control being in New York while I was stuck in the "Armpit of America" in the Midwest as you sometimes referred to it. You knew my level of curiosity took me places that unwittingly had me walking into the equivalent of land mines. I had no idea. But you knew. One of those land mines has a name, it's Tony. Something incredible came out of that land mine, though. The most incredible gift I will ever be given. Taylor Alexandra.
I later learned - again - that you were right. I still 're-learn' this, even today. I learned that no, not everybody and everything is good. That I always should, and I do, 'err on the side of caution.' And no, sometimes I can't save every last person, or moth, or animal, or caterpillar, or baby bird found in a broken egg fallen from its nest. But I still do try a lot, anyway. Because you also taught me that we have to. That we are obligated to care for things and people that are less able to care for themselves, speak up for themselves, or survive in our world with peace and health and everything they need. This may just be the most valuable lesson I gained from you. Because this is also a lesson from God, Creator, Source - of which we are ALL a part. Man, beast, blade of grass. We are all a part of the whole that is the Creator. God.
You drilled these things into my head with force. Unbending. Sometimes very critically. And always consistently. So much force that I rejected it, then. It was years before I saw it all. And started to understand. When I started to, pregnant with your first grandchild, Taylor, at just 18 years old - it took us years to rebuild our differences and some broken pieces we had left with each other. But we did it. I love those years. I remember hours-long phone calls with you just talking. The surprise I sometimes had at your candor and honesty when you admitted to making a mistake within the context of the divorce and us kids still startles me. In a very good way. You so rarely admitted a mistake. And weren't afraid to tell a tall tale and bend it in your favor. A true Irishman you are.. It was heartwarming. And a revelation for me that I needed to hear from you, to resolve my own hurts and resentments.
What would we have done without those years of rebuilding and long talks? Easy ones that were not lectures. The ones that guided me, the ones that gave me confidence in myself again, and what I was learning and where I was headed in life and why. We forgave and did our best to be good to each other as Father and Daughter. I still have notes you wrote to me during those years. I particularly favor the one that simply says in fast-scribbled Tom Beary writing, "Honey, one step at a time. Just breathe. You will get there. Relax." Knowing I LEAP and don't walk. Walking is too slow for me. It was for you too. Why did I get all of these traits and Michael is so different? Michael is a fast walker and a sometimes leaper. Your Beary genes just dominated everything. Poor Mom's sweet, vulnerable genes hardly stood a chance when I was created. I guess Michael got more of the balance of each of your DNA.
We had so much missed time together, Dad. So much there is that I wish I could take back and re-do. So much I know you wish you could take back, too.
I am still learning to eat an elephant correctly. And I get really tired of weight lifting. I still do believe a leopard can change its spots, but until I have seen and experienced enough of those spots.. I don't get too close to the leopard anymore. "Walk the talk" is my philosophy. And I set an internal stopwatch when I am watching the walk. They only have so much time. These leopards, and elephants and weight lifters.
Now the snakes.. well, I like snakes. I am a little scared of them, and I was bit by one I wound up bludgeoning to death because your granddaughter, Taylor, was nearby and barely three years old. My Mother Lioness came out like a crazed woman and I killed it. It was a wretched scene, Dad! Not knowing.. it wasn't even poisonous at the time. Since then, I am not quite as scared of them. They're not so bad I've learned.
The snakes roaming the earth as humans, however - now those are the ones I have down. With a definitive distaste for them. Those are the ones I can spot miles away. And Dad, you were right - there are a lot of snakes in the grass. Just lying in wait.
Today, I believe snakes, like many animals and other gifts of Mother Nature, are omens, oracles and signs - among other incredible things. Snakes are symbolic of transformation. The shedding of the skin for life anew. Representative of the birth, life, death, transformation, rebirth, life cycles. Symbolic of fertility - in birth and rebirth, and opportunity to change and transform. And symbolic of survival.
When you died, Dad - as much of a deep, ugly, painful black hole your passing left for us who love you, and left for the world I wish you were still in.. you just transformed. You had 'shed your skin.' And now you are reborn, transformed into the light, love, healing, peace, happiness and joy that only God can bring. And your heaven is full of happy things - your favorite things just like you told me about when I was little.
Surely you are flying airplanes of some kind, fighting crime out in the ethers, studying, flying some more, teaching. I know you are making such huge magic here and *there* that knowing this is one of a only a handful of things that bring me solace and peace for you. Knowing you are even more powerful, wise and magic-making in Heaven, than you ever could be here. And I know this must make you so, so very happy. Having no limits! Boundless in your pursuit of that which you love and value most.
I miss you and I want you back. I can't really have that I know, but it doesn't change that I still want it. What I know now, thanks to you, is that you're in Heaven. And all of your favorite things are there. Maybe you are teaching children how to ride bicycles in heaven. Or reassuring them if they are scared. Or helping them put baby birds back into their nests.
I more than just 'remember' you, Dad. I am you. Sometimes I feel closer to you now than I did when you were here. That is only because there is less blocking us. You're no longer 918 miles away. You're right next to me. Anytime I want. And for Michael, Moses, Taylor and even Mom, too. And we are not the only ones.
Thank you Dad. For every last little thing you did for me in life as my Father who doted on me like a princess. Who purposely with your 6'9" frame and long legs - wouldn't always slow down for me when you held my hand as we walked into the grocery store, the theater or the police station together. Already, you were teaching me at a very young age to NOT be helpless and dependent. You were teaching me to have will power and having the confidence to know I CAN keep up.
Thank you for every last little thing you are still doing for me, even today.
I always know when it's you, you know. Well, most of the time I do. Please tell God that I said; "Thank you, for giving you to me, as my Dad. Thank you so much for giving him to me." Because you are a gift. Given to me as my Dad. You always taught me to have good manners. I still have them. Only until, well, that will just be another letter.. So, for now, just tell God, "Thank you, from my daughter, Mary Elizabeth."
Thank you, Dad. Don't stay away too long. I will see you soon. I love you so much, and wish you could have known in life - and maybe you did - that you are my Hero. You always were. Even when it didn't seem that way at all. I won't let anything bad happen to anything or anyone you love. I am, and have steadfastly been committed to that from the moment I knew you had pancreatic cancer.
You probably already know this, but I've pissed off a lot of people along the way including more than one 'estate attorney,' since you passed. Aunt Maggie who has completely gone off of the deep end, even Michael, too. But all is settled now. And I will keep it that way. I miss you so. Please do what you can for us here, while you are there. Just as we are doing what we can for you here, while you are there.
And I will always remember the elephant, the weight lifter, the 'pick your battles,' 'steady as she goes,' and 'Be NOT afraid!' Because, you remind me, always, when I need it most. Even from Heaven, you do this.