This time of year….

This time of year is odd for me…

Today marks the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. I still miss him every day. I talk to him all the time, sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud. Mostly if I’m trying to figure something out, or if something happens that he would’ve loved. Once in a while I’ll see someone on the street or in a store who reminds me of him and my breath catches for just a second – that usually takes the rest of the day to recover from. He was a a great guy, caring, smart, funny, imperfect like the rest of us, and I always knew I was loved. I wear the 25th Anniversary ring that he got from Ford Motor company, just to keep him close. (Well, he got a tie tack. Since my dad wore a tie about 3 times in his 68 years, he turned it into a ring when he got it!) Here’s what I wrote the day after he passed away, if you’d like to read more about Frank Caselli.

The other reason this time of year is weird is that 8 years ago today I was in the St. Joe’s Chelsea Hospital, after having collapsed at home, starting my long “meningitis adventure”. I remember very little of what happened, especially the beginning 6 weeks or so. The occasional flash of a hospital room or my wife or sister. I have clearer memories of the last few weeks, as I was waking from the coma and going in and out of consciousness. Some visitors, struggling to breathe, my parents being there non-stop. I remember a LOT of very vivid, long, coma dreams – what felt like other lifetimes and other realities. Here’s what I wrote about that experience, if you’d like to read more about that.

Also, my birthday is this coming Monday! It’s so close to these two things that have changed my life forever that it feels weird to be thankful and excited for my birthday, but I am. I know a lot of folks don’t like birthdays – “Another year older, ugh!” and all that, but I love it. Especially the last 8 years or so. “Another year older” isn’t “Ugh!” for me, it’s “I MADE IT!” – I got another year with my family, friends, enjoying the world around me. Especially with the pandemic and the world being what it is right now. This one will be 53! Who knows if I’ll make it to 68 like my dad – heck, who knows if I’ll make it to 54 – but I know I’m going to try and enjoy being here now, and celebrate the wonderfulness around me.

So, today, I encourage you all to celebrate. Celebrate your lives, celebrate the life of my dad, hug your loved ones and your friends – tell them how awesome they are, and put hang-out days on your calendar right now! This is the life we have – time is being spent right now. Enjoy it. Savor it all.

Every time…..

Every time this shows up in the mail, I think of my Dad.

I think back to when I was in high school, and told him I wanted to go to college for theatre. I was ready to be told I should find something more stable, I was ready to be lectured about responsibility and the future.

Instead, all he asked was “Do you think you can make a living at it?” When I said I thought I could, he just nodded, and said “Okay. Great. Your mom and I will help any way we can.” And that was it.

So when my membership card from SDC arrives I, naturally, get a sense of pride that I’m following my dream and making it work, and I’m thrilled that I’m contributing to the world the way I’d hoped to… but I also feel like I’m keeping a promise to my Dad. I know he was proud of me, of all his kids, but putting this card in my wallet every year makes me feel worthy of the trust and faith he had in me on that afternoon, sitting together in our kitchen, over 30 years ago.

On Tuesday I start rehearsal for Doublewide, a play about a guy who spends his life working in a factory and doing everything he can to provide a good future for his family.

Thanks, Dad. This one’s for you.

Frank Caselli

When I was about 13 or so, the year before I could Officially go bow-hunting with my dad, he took me up to hunting camp with him, to learn the ropes. I sat in the hunting blind with him, in the woods, no one around for what seemed to be miles. My instructions from Dad: “If you see a deer, quietly and slowly tap my hand, and just point.” We sat there for what seemed like forever, breathing quietly together and, suddenly, I saw gently coming around a nearby tree… A deer. With my father’s instructions firmly in my head, I leapt to my feet and pointed and shouted at the top of my voice “LOOK! A DEER! DAD!! A DEER!! GET IT! GET IT! THERE IT GOES!! GET IT!!”

When my dad managed to catch his breath, with tears streaming down his cheeks from laughing so hard, he got up from the ground and hugged me tight. “Okay. We’ll work on that later. Right now, though, there are no more deer around for a couple miles, so let’s head back to camp and see if your Grandpa has lunch ready.”

When I was in High School, almost ready to finish my junior year, my dad asked me “So. Any thoughts on college?” I looked at him, and hesitated. Here was my dad. A pipefitter for Ford Motor. He worked a hard, dirty job. A man’s job. He had started working at 16, to provide for his family when his dad died, and he hadn’t stopped. I took a deep breath and, prepared to be talked to about life choices and responsibility, said “I think I want to go to college for theatre.” He blinked, looked at me for a beat, and said “Do you think you can make a living at it?” I said “I really think I can.” He nodded, and said “Ok. Then your mother and I will help in any way we can.”

And that was that.

Last year, I got sick. I went into the hospital, into a coma. The week that happened, my mom and dad basically moved into the hospital room with me. No one knew if I would live. The whole hospital stay was almost 3 months long, I was unconscious for most of it.

Partway through, they told my Dad “You can go for a night, get a good night’s sleep somewhere and come back tomorrow. We’ll be here.” He said back to them “I leave when he does.”

And he did.

My dad, Frank Caselli, passed away yesterday. He was my friend, my hero, and my role model. I pray that I can be for my kids even a fraction of what he was for me. I will miss him more than I can say. I love you Dad.