Covid-19 life or death: 31 days at my dad’s virtual bedside

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He had been on a ventilator for 11 days. The attending physician at the intensive care unit had called that morning and asked whether they should include a Do Not Resuscitate order in my dad’s chart. They had asked before. I had been indecisive. A successful resuscitation would extend his life. But it might also lead to brain damage.

Now multiple organ systems were failing. They needed an answer.

“What are the odds he survives?” It was the first time I allowed myself that question.

“If it continues in this direction,” he told me, “we’re talking about a single-digit chance of survival.”

Louis Foglia

I was in the backyard of my mother’s house in the Bronx, New York. She had rushed him to the hospital after his mild Covid-19 symptoms quickly developed into breathing problems. Since then she was in quarantine with her own mild symptoms; she couldn’t smell or taste. My brother, uncle and I sat on her back porch every day and kept her company through the window. We avoided contact, wore masks, and went through bottles of hand sanitizer. No one had entered the house since her quarantine began.

I suspected that my father had a will and a health care directive inside the house. I put on my mask but couldn’t find a clean pair of latex gloves in my duffel bag. It was cold in the backyard. I had a pair of leather gloves. I put those on and entered my childhood home for the first time in weeks. My mother barely registered my presence. She was crying on the couch.

I entered my father’s home office and opened his filing cabinet. It was alphabetized. I found a file labeled “Will.” There were several documents inside. I learned that my father was planning to bequeath me his law school ring. I had steeled myself for this grim search — for this whole weekslong nightmare — but that revelation blew away my composure. I kept searching. I found the health care directive. It was clear. Do Not Resuscitate.

I was relieved — we wouldn’t have to make what felt like an impossible decision — but then I kept reading. My father had noted that he did not want to be supported by a ventilator or hooked up to a feeding tube for any length of time. He had been connected to both for nearly two weeks. I had been the point of contact with the hospital and approved each element of his medical care. I was overcome with guilt. I started sobbing.

My outburst drew my mother into the home office. There was grief on her face, but also curiosity. What had finally gotten to her younger son, the one who so rarely showed emotion during his father’s hospitalization? I couldn’t form the words. She began crying. We couldn’t touch each other. We couldn’t embrace.

I took a deep breath and continued flipping through the file. There was a copy of my dad’s resume and a five-page summary of his career. I laughed. Just like my dad. He wanted me to have the correct materials to write his obituary.

I called the hospital and approved the DNR. They told me his status was still dire. I called my dad’s closest friends and started preparing them for the worst. It was like reliving the most difficult phone call of my life ten times over. I drove the hour and 10 minutes home to be with my wife. I went upstairs and started writing.

—-

I had been calling the hospital at least twice a day — at half past noon and again at 8:30 at night. On occasion the hospital would call me, never with good news. We have to add a central line for the drips, do you approve? He needs a blood transfusion, do you consent? We want to put him on vasopressors. OK, whatever you think.

The possibility of these calls turned my cell phone into a kind of improvised explosive device. My phone rang, my stomach dropped. I knew, too, that my family and friends dreaded incoming calls from me. What horror was I going to pass along now?

I got in the habit of texting my brother before calling him: “About to call. Not bad news.”

Four days after my father was admitted to NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, New York, I received a call from the attending physician. It was the early evening. I was home with my wife.

My father’s lungs showed no signs of progress. The double pneumonia they diagnosed days before was worsening. His kidneys were failing. Dialysis was required but would put a strain on his blood pressure, which was already dangerously low. There was a special form of dialysis designed for delicate situations like this — continuous veno-venous hemofiltration — but it wasn’t available at Lawrence. A sister hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia in Manhattan, had a CVVH. Did we want him transferred?

“Let’s do it.”

How was I going to explain all this to my mother?

I called her. “Good news, they’re transferring him to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. They have more resources there and a special machine that will help with his kidneys.”

“What’s wrong with his kidneys?”

I searched for a euphemism for renal failure. What’s a non-scary way to say dialysis?

I could only think of the truth. I told her.

“They’re just going to drive him there? It’s safe?”

“They think so.”

A nurse called back a half hour later. “We can transfer your father tonight,” she said. “But you should know this comes with considerable risk.”

“As in, it’s possible he dies during transport?”

“I don’t think he will, but that’s a possibility.” She explained that my father’s ventilator would have to travel with him. It was a precarious situation.

“I understand. When will he get to Columbia?”

The Foglia family in 2016 -- from left, Lou Foglia, Aimeé deSimone, Philip F. Foglia, Jacqueline Foglia, Philip L. Foglia, and Shana Foglia.

She told me it would take an hour and a half. I told my family it would take two hours.

I watched the clock. I called NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia at around 9 p.m.

“Yup, he’s here,” a nurse told me. “Vitals are stable. Give us some time to get to know your dad and I’ll give you a call back.”

The news was like a shot of adrenaline. I picked up the phone. I made my calls.

—-

The morning after I searched for my father’s health directive and drafted his obituary, I woke up and tried to turn on my laptop. It wouldn’t start. When it eventually booted up, it asked if I wanted to restore an unsaved document. No, I thought, let’s see what happens today.

I drove from my house in the Hudson River Valley to my mom’s. I usually arrived early and would leave in the mid-afternoon. My brother would stay into the evening. On that day we both arrived early.

“When are you going to call?” he asked.

“Normal time, 12:30.”

My phone rang at 11. My mother pressed her face against the window screen. My brother took a deep breath. I opened my laptop and picked up the phone.

It was the same doctor as yesterday, the one who asked about the DNR. “Look, your dad is on a ventilator. That’s a form of life support. He’s experiencing kidney failure and requires dialysis. His situation is still very acute. He was in good health before the Covid, but his kidney, heart, and lungs are 69 years old. It’s tough for them to recover. But the numbers from today are undeniably better than yesterday. There’s been an improvement at almost every level. Your dad is a tough guy.”

I lowered the phone and whispered to my brother, “It’s great news.”

The doctor updated me on the salient changes in my father’s condition. I transcribed as much of the conversation as possible. My notes from that day read, “baseline bad, trendlines good. Life or death still possible.”

I became the designated communicator with the hospital because of my journalism background. I was comfortable interviewing people about complicated topics, asking appropriate follow-up questions, and taking careful notes. For my father’s hospital stay, I had to learn a whole new vocabulary — FiO2, creatinine, mean arterial pressure. My brother started teasing me when I slipped into the shorthand of medical workers — fent instead of fentanyl, levo instead of levophed.

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One of my close friends, a nurse practitioner, would help me understand all the terminology and its implications. He was treating Covid patients at an ICU upstate. At the end of our calls I’d ask him how he was doing. “We ran out of gowns,” he told me one day. “My ICU is out of ventilators — we’re diverting people to Albany,” he said another time.

I sent a daily email to a group of 20-some people with the latest details on my father’s status. These were the people closest to him; they deserved to be kept in the loop. My intention was also to preempt any questions that might be directed to my mother. “At this point, all communication should go through me,” I emailed the group on March 21. “I’ll let you know when it is okay to reach out to her.”

My parents’ closest friends understood why I was keeping my mother out of reach. So did she. “Tell people they could text me,” she said a few days into my dad’s illness. She flinched anytime the phone rang.

Her house phone rang frequently. Stuck outside in the backyard, I had no way of intercepting the calls or combating my mother’s polite instinct to pick them up. “Everyone has good intentions,” my mother insisted when I urged her, through the window, to let the answering machine pick up.

“There’s a difference between good intentions and good outcomes,” I explained to her. She would wave me away and pick up. Inevitably the call would bring her tears. I stewed on the porch. My brother, uncle and I would spend hours trying to ease her mind and pacify her anxiety. Any inquiry or outreach was like sticking a finger in the open wound of her anguish.

“The tyranny of good intentions,” I muttered to my uncle one morning.

“Be nice,” he told me. “People care. They want to reach out.”

Several people asked when we would be able to visit my father in the hospital. Were these people not watching the news? One family friend told my mom that we should inquire about a kidney transplant. Another quizzed her on the type of dialysis being used. My mother called me, flustered, asking for the specifics.

We were asked over and over again if the hospital had tried hydroxychloroquine. Or rather, “that malaria drug”; no one was able to pronounce it properly. Yes, they tried it. It seems not to have worked. What about remdesivir? The doctors don’t think it will be helpful this late in the hospitalization, and besides it’s not available right now. What about huge doses of Vitamin C? What about this YouTube video from South Korea? What about this thing I read on Facebook? Did you see the newspaper this morning?

I did not handle these inquires well. I lost my temper more than once. My brother would cool me down.

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Covid-19 was new and largely unstudied. Maybe one of these seemingly odd treatments would work. If that YouTube video from South Korea did contain what turned out to be helpful advice, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself for dismissing it. So I’d ask the medical staff potentially dumb questions. Sometimes I asked them more than once.

The nurses and doctors who took care of my father — first for four days at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, then for nearly a month at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia — were always empathetic, straightforward and willing to trust me with complicated details. The Presbyterian hospital network designated their resident physicians as the points of contact with patients’ family members. These are doctors at the beginning of their careers, thrust into a dangerous pandemic without a roadmap. They told me more than once, “We’re still studying that,” or “we’re developing a protocol.” I always felt confident in my father’s care after speaking with them.

About a week after writing — then refusing to recover — my father’s obituary, his condition was continuing to improve. My guilt had not. Are we keeping him alive on a ventilator and a feeding tube against his wishes? He was still fully sedated. There was no way he could answer that question.

I got a call from the emergency room doctor who first treated my father on March 20. I hadn’t spoken to her before. “I was the one who intubated your father,” she told me. “He’s since left my hospital. I want to see how he’s doing.”

“Did he consent to the intubation?” I asked.

“Well, I told him that he needed to be intubated in order to stay alive. I asked if I could go ahead with the procedure and he nodded yes.”

“He consented?”

“Well, intubation is an unusual word. Maybe he didn’t know what it meant. But I think he did.”

So did I. When he first got an email account, my father would email me his “word of the day.” We’d try to stump each other with increasing ridiculous words. I remember the first: “defenestrate.” And I knew my father was reading about Covid-19 treatment in the days before his hospitalization. He read three newspapers every day. Of course he knew what intubation meant.

“Thanks for calling, doctor.”

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” she replied.

—-

My father was hospitalized for 31 days. I developed a friendly rapport with his caretakers. When I called at night, one specific nurse would often pick up.

“Your father is doing so much better today,” she told me on April 9, three full weeks into his hospitalization. “If things keep improving, maybe we can get him off the ventilator pretty soon.”

“He’s only improving,” I told her, “because of the life-saving care you guys have given him. The whole city is in awe of you. They should have a parade for you down the Canyon of Heroes.”

She laughed. “Oh yeah, and who is going to cover my shift when I’m at the parade? Come on, I’m doing my job here. This is what I signed up for. This is what we do. This is what I’ve been doing for 40 years.” We talked about her grandchildren. She was helping homeschool them. We complained that we couldn’t get haircuts.

I called my friend, the nurse practitioner, and gave him the latest update. He seemed upset. “You OK, dude?”

“A nurse from my hospital died,” he explained.

On April 12, Easter Sunday, my dad developed a fever. He had an elevated heart rate. His breathing — even with the benefit of the ventilator — was growing increasingly labored. Tests revealed that it was a respiratory infection. “His lungs are already wrecked by the Covid,” I said to the resident physician. “Can he withstand another infection in the respiratory system?”

She explained that they caught the infection early and were confident that they were treating it correctly. They were right. Two days later the fever was gone, his heart rate was normal, and his breathing had improved.

“Yesterday was a stumble, but we’re getting back on course,” I emailed the group. “We always knew this recovery wasn’t going to be a straight line. It’s important to remain resilient and optimistic even when there are temporary setbacks.”

“Ok, Louis. Thanks for the update. Your dad is tough. All our love,” replied one of his friends.

“Lou, we are all ‘resilient and optimistic’ and with DAD all the way!” added a friend who had known him for 60 years.

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I made my normal 8:30 phone call that night. The familiar nurse picked up. “Oh Lou, I’ve been waiting for your call. I have such good news. They are planning to extubate him tomorrow. They are going to take your father off the ventilator!” She was practically screaming with excitement. I was speechless.

I had been waiting for this development for more than three weeks. Now I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t want to tell my family, get their hopes up, and then have to backtrack if the hospital decided to delay the extubation, which the nurse explained was a possibility.

I had been withholding certain information from my family and friends during this whole ordeal. My dad had developed a blood clot two weeks into his hospitalization. Clots are extremely dangerous, of course, but it was small and in a relatively manageable location. The doctors were treating it with blood thinners. The clot would likely linger for weeks or months. I didn’t see the benefit of telling anyone about the clot. It would just be another useless turn of the screw. I kept what felt like a terrible secret. I eventually told my wife and the nurse practitioner.

I called my brother and told him about the plan to get my father off the ventilator. Since there were a number of contingencies, we debated telling my mother. She was living and dying with every update. She told me on the phone one night that the time between 8:30 and when I called her to pass along the latest news was “pure torture” for her. We decided to tell her about the extubation only when it was complete.

It proved to be the right decision. My father’s breathing was labored on the morning they were planning to extubate. They delayed the procedure a day. That next morning, April 16, a doctor called. I was in the shower and rushed out to answer my cell. He said they were doing the extubation within the hour. What do we want to do if the extubation fails?

“What do you mean?”

“Should we re-intubate him?”

“Is the alternative death?”

He hesitated. While he searched for the right words, I asked, “Will he be conscious after you extubate him? Can you ask him?”

The doctor explained that while my father was awake, he was still extremely groggy from weeks of powerful sedation. He might not be fully capable of making a life and death decision.

I called my brother. The two of us conferenced with the doctor. We agreed that we wanted to re-intubate if necessary. I wished the doctor luck. He said he’d call when they finished the extubation, probably within the hour.

It was another false start. My father’s heart rate was too high, they’d try again tomorrow.

—-

I got up early the next day and drove to my mother’s house. I didn’t want to be in transit when the phone call came. My phone rang as I was on the highway. It was a female doctor. They were planning to extubate within the hour.

I got to my mom’s house. By then my mother’s quarantine was over and we were maintaining social distance in her house. My brother had just arrived when my cell rang.

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“It went as well as we could have hoped for,” the doctor said. “His vitals are stable and he’s breathing well. He’s resting now.” She explained that my father was disoriented and it probably wasn’t a great idea to speak with him that day. Whatever, I thought, I’ll speak with him when he gets home. He had been on a ventilator for 28 days.

I had taken the call in my parents’ living room. My brother walked in as I hung up. I was sobbing, and couldn’t communicate with him. I could see the desperate question on his face — was I crying out of relief or sadness? Did it go well or go poorly?

I gave him a thumbs up and sunk into a crouch. He put his gloved hand on my shoulder. There was nothing to say to each other. We hugged.

My mother was in the family room. I can’t remember how we told her. I remember thinking that’s what “burst into tears” looks like. “Happy tears, right mom?” She nodded her head.

I started calling all my dad’s friends and telling them the news. I had been the messenger of doom. Now I had a different type of message.

“Oh Louis, you made my year,” his childhood friend told me.

I called the doctor later in the day. She told me my dad seemed distressed. He was trying to speak, but his vocal cords were too swollen. “It’s so frustrating,” she told me. “I don’t know what he wants to tell me.”

“Tell him that my mother is safe. She doesn’t have Covid symptoms anymore. Tell him my brother and I are with her. And tell him that all his family and friends are healthy and that we all love him.”

The doctor and I spoke later in the day. She had passed along the message. “It immediately put him at ease,” she told me.

“When are we out of the woods?” I asked my friend the nurse practitioner.

“Generally, two to three days after extubation.” It was Friday April 17. I counted to three on my fingers. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. “Remember, he’s still in the ICU. There’s still a long way to go.”

He was transferred out of intensive care that night.

—-

On Monday morning, a social worker from NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia called and said we should start thinking about where we’d want to send my father for in-patient rehabilitation when the hospital released him.

The conversation felt like a milestone. It also inflamed my guilt. He’d need intense rehabilitation and occupational therapy. My notes from that call read, “learn to buckle belt…button shirt…open door. Chew. Walk again.” The rehab facility would have to offer dialysis and keep him overnight for weeks or months.

“Would we be able to visit him?” I asked.

“Each facility has their own Covid rules,” she explained. “I’ll send you over a list.” On the list was the nursing home where my grandfather had died several years before. My father had visited him every day.

I started calling rehab facilities.

I recalled a conversation I recently had with my dad. “I’m not afraid of death,” he told me. “But the dying part is the drag. The appointments. The tests. The strain it puts on the family.”

Years ago, when he was being treated for prostate cancer, I took a day off from work to drive my father to a doctor’s appointment. He sent me a thank you note. I thought it was absurd. My dad picked me up from baseball practices, train stations, and airports for 30-some years. Did I ever send a note?

At 12:30, I called the hospital. A physician assistant explained that my father might have another infection. His vitals were no longer stable. “We were just talking about his release from the hospital,” I said pathetically.

“I don’t think that will happen anytime this week,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

We had Facetimed with my father once during the hospitalization. He was on the ventilator at the time and heavily sedated. He recognized our voices, but he couldn’t respond.

He had been disoriented since extubation. We didn’t want to risk exacerbating that confusion with another video chat. His vocal cords were still injured.

“Can you put us on speakerphone?” I asked the physician assistant.

My mother, brother and I spoke to him later in the day.

The physician assistant called about two hours later, “To be clear, he is a yes to re-intubation but a no to resuscitation, correct?”

I was sitting next to my mother. “Yes, that’s correct. Are we there yet?”

“His blood pressure is dropping. We’re going to give him a vasopressor and transfer him back to the ICU.”

I updated my mother and brother.

I called the ICU a few hours later. The familiar nurse picked up. “They’ve sent him back?” she asked with horror in her voice. She started crying. She put me on hold to see what was going on. “He’s not here, Lou.”

I called the step-down unit where he had been the past three days. They transferred me to his nurse. “He’s doing better, love. We took him off the pressor and his blood pressure is in a good range. His heart rate is good. He’s breathing fine. The doctors decided he didn’t need to go back to the ICU. He’s ok.”

It was almost midnight. I was sleeping at my mother’s that night. I called my brother but realized a late phone call from me would terrify him — especially on a day like this. I hung up after one ring. “It’s good news,” I texted him.

The physician assistant called me early the next morning and explained why they decided against transferring him back to the ICU. My father, she said, continued to improve overnight.

I wrote my daily email. It ended, “I’ve repeatedly said that recovery isn’t a straight line. … Yesterday we managed the roller coaster ride as a family. My brother, uncle and I were with my mother the entire day. We never lost hope or confidence in my dad’s medical care and ultimate recovery. If there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a blinking one. Right now, it shines again.”

“Go home,” my mother implored me. “Be with your wife.”

I packed my duffel bag and called my brother. He was on his way to the Bronx. My uncle was with my mom. I left the house.

I turned on a podcast about European history and started driving home. Ten minutes into the ride the podcast cut out. My phone — via my car’s Bluetooth — rang.

It was my dad’s doctor.

“Sounds like he’s doing better today,” I said.

“Lou, I’m so sorry. Your dad passed away about 10 minutes ago.”

“Ok,” I remember saying. “What happened?”

“He flatlined.”

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I remember telling him not to contact anyone else in the family for at least another two hours.

I remember pulling off the highway and stopping at a red light. I was frustrated that I didn’t have it in me to drive through the red light. I remembering honking at the red light. No one was around.

I drove back to my mom’s house. I scanned the block for my brother’s car. He had not arrived. I parked. I have to wait for him and then tell my mother, brother and uncle all at once, right? Should I call my wife first? Should I call my dad’s best friend?

My brother’s car turned the corner. I reached for my cell phone and pretended to be in the middle of a conversation. My brother and I made eye contact. He pulled up alongside me and lowered his window. I gestured to the phone. He waved. I watched him park and enter the house through the rearview mirror.

I gave him exactly two minutes before following him inside. I timed it on my phone’s stopwatch. He was washing his hands at the kitchen sink when I came in. My mother and uncle were sitting in the family room.

“Why did you come back?” he asked.

“Come inside,” I said.

“What is it?” my mom said. “Why are you back so soon?”

“I just spoke to the doctor,” I said. “Pop is…..he’s gone. He died.” I broke down. So did everyone else.

The rest of the scene played out how you’d expect it to.

I called my wife. I called my dad’s best friend. I called the guys he grew up with. I called his former colleagues. I began every conversation the same way, “This is that call.” I listened to each of them yell and cry and ask if I was serious. Then I said I had to make another call.

I went upstairs to my childhood bedroom and started writing my father’s obituary again. It was April 21, 2020.

I wrote about my father’s career. How he got his law degree at night school and became a prosecutor at the city, state, and federal level. How he convicted mobsters, drug dealers, and those who abused power. How he led a nonprofit and became a partner at a private law firm. He won record settlements for people in great need.

In my father’s diary, which he instructed us to read after his death, he described moments in his career when he faced ethical dilemmas. He ran for Bronx District Attorney in the 1980s and was offered a key endorsement if he dropped a corruption investigation. He refused and narrowly lost the election. He moved on to another prosecutor’s office. He fell out of favor with the boss after drafting a letter clearing someone from a politically-motivated investigation.

I wrote that my father was a community lawyer. That he spent countless hours at our kitchen table giving free advice to neighbors — reading over contracts or advising them through some dispute. He got so many kids in the neighborhood out of trouble. Many of them reached out after he passed. “I’d be in jail,” one wrote. “I wouldn’t have my family,” another told my brother. “He’s the reason I’m a lawyer.”

I wrote about my dad’s volunteer work — at the Special Olympics, at an organization he founded that helps police families with special needs, and at just about any Italian-American group that needed a lawyer. He was so proud of his Italian-American heritage. He loathed the mafioso caricatures and stereotypes found on TV — he wrote countless op-eds attacking those — but he revered the old-school virtues he associated with his Italian-American upbringing: loyalty, humility, hard work, dedication to family. He would always highlight famous Italian-Americans. Madonna? Italian. Lady Gaga? Italian. Sean Penn? Italian.

“I don’t think Sean Penn is Italian, pop.”

“Look it up,” he’d say with satisfaction.

My father was proud of his friends, too. After he died, I discovered files in his cabinet labeled with their names. He collected press clippings about them. One of the files contained an article from a trade publication that I knew was behind a paywall. Had he subscribed just to read this and print it out?

I wrote that my father loved “the old neighborhood” where he grew up — Belmont Avenue in the Bronx. He loved the lore of the place. The bread from Madonia’s. The cheese from Casa Della Mozzarella.

“Why don’t you move to Westchester?” I’d ask him.

“Too far from Borgati’s ravioli.” My mother made pasta every Sunday. My father would get a headache if we didn’t eat supper by 2 p.m. He drank egg creams a few times a week.

“What’s an egg cream?” my wife once asked. He happily made one for her. He delighted in pouring the seltzer from a foot or more above the glass. “It helps with the carbonation.”

I wrote that my dad loved the New York Yankees and the Founding Fathers. George Washington was his hero. He could have been king, my father pointed out again and again, but he walked away for the sake of the country.

I’m confident that no non-academic has referenced The Federalist Papers in conversation more than my dad. He was always reading a book on the Revolution and the founding of the country. “Eventually you’ll get to the War of 1812,” I teased him.

“I doubt it,” he responded.

I wrote that my dad loved being our Little League coach and loved working in law enforcement; my grandfather was a detective. My father relished telling stories about his dad’s time on the force or fighting in WWII. A good chunk of his diary is devoted to that.

My father had a deep commitment to fairness. He always followed the rules. If a sign said, “wait to be seated,” he’d wait a comically long time. On Saturdays, when my brother was away at college, my father would take me to the movies. We called it the “Foglia Film Club.” We’d pull “double headers” — two movies in a day. We’d always exit the theater and buy tickets for the second showing. We never snuck in.

Philip F. Foglia, flanked by his sons, Philip L. Foglia (left) and Lou Foglia at Lou's wedding in 2014.

I wrote that my father had many friendships that lasted more than 50 years. Even in his 60s, his closest friends remained his childhood friends. He made a list of his friends’ nicknames in his diary. He didn’t need to. I knew them all. He kept in touch with everyone.

I wrote that my father was a profoundly decent, patient, and even-tempered man — always measured, thoughtful, and generous.

“You know,” my mother told me after he passed away, “I can’t remember you ever fighting with your father.”

“We never fought,” I told her.

“But you fight with everybody.”

“He was the saucer that cools the tea,” I explained, adapting a line attributed to Washington.

I wrote that my father was a family man. That he never left us wanting for attention.

One summer we took a vacation on the Jersey Shore. My father gave my brother a quarter and told him to buy a newspaper from the vending machine down the block. I tagged along. A man had the door of the vending machine already open. “Save yourself the money, just grab one,” the man said.

“It’s all right,” my brother responded. “I got to set a good example for my little brother.” When we got back to the hotel I told my father what happened. He teared up.

My father said it didn’t matter what he accomplished in his career, if my brother and I didn’t get along, he’d consider himself a failure. Every Christmas he’d buy us shared gifts — usually tickets to the Rangers or Yankees.

I wrote that my family was heartbroken by my father’s death, but consoled by his legacy.

And every day since then, I’ve thought of things I should have written. Many of them seem mundane — that he’d drop off bagels at my house every Saturday morning when my wife and I lived in the Bronx, but that he never rang the doorbell. He wanted to give us space.

Or, when my brother was 14, my father said he could rent “Terminator 2” only if he also rented “Hamlet.” Frustrated when my brother refused, he turned to me, “Same deal,” he said. I took it. I was 7. I’ve been a movie snob ever since.

Small memories like this materialize constantly, small gifts from the ether.

Philip Foglia

In high school, I struck out four times in a baseball game. I was dejected during the car ride home. “That was a good take in the third at bat,” he said. “And you just missed that curveball in the last inning.” He was being sincere. I laughed.

These stories help me understand who he was. Who I am. Who I could be.

We left nothing unsaid. I know his values, his priorities, his favorite pieces of advice. I have his diary. I have his files. I have dozens and dozens of people sending me memories.

Philip Foglia was a husband for 44 years, a father for 40, a loyal friend his entire life. He was a skilled and compassionate attorney for four decades.

He was a Covid patient for 31 days. It was a painful experience, but ultimately unimportant. It doesn’t matter how a man dies. It matters how he lives.




2020-05-27 13:44:20

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