Today, my dad would have turned 58. Since he’s no longer with us, I wanted to do something to mark the day (pun actually not intended) and yesterday had a stroke of slightly selfish genius. Whenever I would come up to Massachusetts to visit Ryan, Dad would always – without fail – ask if we went to Pizzeria Regina. We never did during the long distance days, but have split pies on several occasions since I moved.
He had probably visited Regina about three times in the preceding 15 years. I’d assume he first encountered the North End’s finest pizza (in my not-so-humble opinion) while visiting Aunt Celeste. He dragged a big group of us there to eat in 2004 during the DNC pretty late at night after a then-14-year-old AJ got us turned away from a 21-plus party. When a satellite opened in Paramus, he drove many miles out of his way to get it. This I don’t really understand, because everyone knows Regina’s just regular pizza outside the North End. You need the original oven to get the good stuff. And, besides, in New Jersey, Reservoir is just as good.
But I digress.
It would have felt wrong to let the day pass without acknowledging it and yet I’m entirely sure how I’ve spent it the past two years in Boston. Maybe I went home? I don’t know.
I remember the first time we had to spend his birthday without him. We planned a very Dad-themed weekday, since it was a Thursday, and lunched at his regular diner on Main Street. I fell on the sword for the fam and ordered a Diet Sprite, his beverage of choice. Diet Sprite, if you’re not in the know, is horrible. We went to the cross country trail at my brothers’ high school and walked around, like he usually did.
For the last birthday he spent on this earth, the stars aligned somewhat and Syracuse (my alma mater) played Seton Hall (his – twice over) in the Big East tournament and we joined the North Jersey Syracuse alumni club to watch the game. Dad owned more ‘Cuse shirts than anyone – even more than actually matriculated students. (I would know; a third of them, roughly five, are in my dresser and I never wear them so I don’t have to wash them because three years later, they still have a Dad smell.) Seemingly a big fan of the institution that received his tuition dollars, he could never bring himself to root against his own school as the game wound down.
At dinner that night, the menu featured fried pickles (long before the frickle trend we’re experiencing) and he was intrigued but Mom and I were grossed out so we didn’t order them. It’s silly, but this has always bothered me. Did he ever get to try fried pickles? Compounding this guilt is the fact that I actually love fried pickles. I mean, really, what was I thinking on March 11, 2009? Have I ever met a fried snack I didn’t like? Unequivocally, the answer to that is no.
If he never tried fried pickles, what other things would my dad wished he had done? Fortunately, he had done a lot of stuff – skiing, boating, fishing, diving, jogging, surfing, jetskiing, hunting, Boy Scout-leading, school dance-chaperoning – so the chance for regret is smaller than it would be for a boring person (like me).
For this reason, I really want to become less boring. My list will have to be different, because I have done most of those things with him and don’t want to hunt. Maybe sailing? Stand up paddleboarding? Ziplining? OK, all of these are lame, but I’m kind of a wimp. It’s going to take some time, some money and some guts, but, for Dad, I think I can do it.