His Last Thanksgiving

by POPSIE 1956


I’m 13 years old, and the family decides to take a trip for Thanksgiving down to New Jersey, to see my mother’s sister Aunt Helen, her husband Uncle Chic, and their (4 or 5, I actually forget) kids.

Heading down is me, Mom and Dad, my sister Judy and her husband, nicknamed “Smokey.”

It was the first (and only) time I visited the New Jersey relatives, so it was very exciting for me.

I also remember my cousin Michael having tickets that night to see The Rolling Stones in concert at Madison Square Garden (where they recorded the classic in concert album “Get Your Ya Ya’s Out.”)

I didn’t know it then, but my father had only two days to live.

That Saturday, sometime early afternoon, I’m in my bedroom and hear my father yelling and screaming from the living room.

I run out and my mother is in a panic, Dad is clutching his chest in pain with one hand, slamming his chair with the other.

Clearly, he was having a heart attack.

My father was “sickly” most of his life; he was thin as a rail, but could eat anything, including all of the “bad” food, smoked like a chimney (Camels-unfiltered), and three years earlier, had been diagnosed as diabetic.

In 1969, my father was 56 years old.

The ambulance arrives and he’s taken to the hospital.

And we wait.

And wait.

For some reason, I went to leave the hospital with Smokey to get something, leaving Mom and Judy behind, the doctors say Dad is status quo.

We lose our way trying to get out of the hospital, and go through a door we think is an exit.

It isn’t, it’s the entrance to the morgue.

Read into that anything you like.

We finally find the exit and do whatever it was we were going to do, we come back and we wait.

And wait.

Somewhere around 5:30 or 6 the doctor comes out, and tells us my father seems stable, and we should go home for now, they’ll have a better idea in the morning.

One by one we go in to see him and tell him to get better, we’ll see him in the morning.

How could I know this would be the last time with my father?

I walk into the room and, through very weak, he smiles and says “Hi pal.”

I was always his “pal,” I call my oldest grandson Chris “Pally,” didn’t do so on purpose, it just happened.

I get a big hug and a kiss and wave goodbye.

We all head back to our home in Loudonville (Dad is in a hospital in Albany about 20-30 minutes away), Mom makes something to eat, and at about 8:30, in the middle of the meal, the phone rings.

It’s the hospital, Dad has taken a turn for the worse, get there…now!

We pile in the car, and with Smokey behind the wheel, we make it in record time.

But we were too late.

Shortly before the phone call, my father had multiple heart attacks, too many in a row to stop, each one weakening him more until he could stand it no longer.

Sam Marchinuke passed away.

Since then, I have had more than my share of Thanksgivings, most of them enjoyable, and thankfully, none as devastating as Thanksgiving Weekend 1969.

As you celebrate this year, be thankful for those at your table.

Be thankful for those unable to be at your table.

Be thankful for the time you had with those no longer with you.