I was adopted as an infant by my father. He was such an infectiously sociable entity. It was always a joke and a half truth that he knew or had a friend wherever we went – errands, going out, vacations… Keep in mind we moved every three years because my dad was a West Point Graduate and an officer in the US ARMY.
The best story about this is when we were stationed in Germany and went on a trip to Italy. We went to Vatican. We had a long trip the day before and my father somehow got us a night to sleep with the nuns. There was a Polish group of people on their way to have a private audience with the Pope (John Paul the 2nd).
We all were having breakfast together. I don’t know what my father said, but by the time breakfast was over, we were now a part of the polish group and were headed to see the pope. When we got there, everyone lined up in small groups in this courtyard somewhere. They had the children kneeling down in the front row.
He made some speech in Polish – we obliviously did not understand his words. When we was done, he walked around to each group. He made his way over to me and placed his hand on my head and said something which I thought was a prayer. Again – it was in Polish. I have the photo of that exchange on a shelf in my house.
That was just one small example of how charming and kind my father was.
I was adopted along with my older sister, who was also adopted, but from different parents. When I was 4, my mother died from cancer. I don’t remember those times – certainly blocked from my memory to spare the pain, but she wrote me 2 letters while she was dying. I did not know this until about 5 years ago. My sister had them and did not know. So now they are digital after a scan and I cannot ruin or lose them.
My father had married his high school sweetheart and adopted 2 kids and had a perfectly happy life. What demolished that happiness hit like a fatal bullet to the heart. Again, I do not remember, but I guess my real memories started when he met my step mother.
All I know of my father was positive actions. He had an attraction of personality that was blatant to anyone who met him. I worked with him at the LHSFNA in DC – a health and safety fund for the Laborer’s Union for 6 years. We spent pretty much every workday driving in and out of DC with an hour ride in and out each. We got into a fight and I took the Metro in for a couple of months. My Father came into my office and asked me to ride with him again. I did.
Those months haunt me now… how horrible could my father have been when I was ignoring him those months. I was angry and now I would do anything for one more ride through the thick, slow DC traffic with my Father. They haunt me.
He died on his 67th Birthday from a massive stroke. It was a shock to all of us – my step family and my older sister. My step sister had twins due in a few months – they would grow up without the blessing of meeting their grandpa. Our family unit started edging it’s way out. My mother is buried in a plot in the cemetery on West Point grounds. My father finally was reunited with his first love.
This video I made was just the smallest tribute I could pay to him. I don’t know why it was this year – years later that I felt I had to do this.
RIP Joseph Fowler