Feeling Fit – October 24, 2015

It’s official. I am now over the age of 60 and racing toward the last and best (I hope) years of my life. Yoko and I spent a very special birthday weekend at my sister’s new home outside of Philadelphia. I want to share with you some of what we did.

We left from Ft. Myers on Wednesday evening and arrived in Philadelphia around mid-night. My daughter June, who lives in Hawaii, was waiting at the airport hotel when we arrived! June’s joining the festivities was supposed to be a surprise, but my sister, Jane, let the cat out of the bag when she texted me asking when June would be arriving! Up to that point I had no idea that my daughter would be coming to spend the weekend! She had been in Seattle on business and decided to fly to Philly to join the celebration. God bless! What a nice thing to do!

On Thursday morning we drove to the gravesite of my mother and father, who are interned at Whitemarsh Memorial Cemetery, in Horsham. It was the first time for me to visit both my Mom and Dad at the cemetery, so it was a tearful reunion. Dad died at the age of 76 in 2002 and Mom passed away at 90 years of age in 2014. I think about my parents every day and the sacrifices they made to raise five children. If they were still alive, I would thank them for everything they did and let them know how much I loved them. They will always be with me in my heart.

After an emotional visit to the cemetery, we drove a nostalgic tour of the area where I grew up. I made arrangements to see my other set of parents, Victor and Eileen Friscia, who are now in their 80’s and in failing health. I have been a close friend with their daughter since high school. I was so close to Vic and Eileen that I considered them to be my alternate parents. I always addressed them as Mom and Dad Friscia. Their bodies are now failing, but thankfully, their minds are as sharp as ever, so we had an enjoyable visit. They were in their 40s when I first knew them and they are still in the same house 40 years later! I hope I am doing as well just 20 years from now.

I dropped Yoko and June off at Starbucks, so I could attend a meeting with NCCN (The National Comprehensive Cancer Network) based in Ft. Washington, PA. It turns out the NCCN’s headquarters is just down the street from where my Dad worked! I consider it a God wink that, here I am, 40 years later, meeting with an important cancer advocacy organization about promoting lung cancer screening and early detection after having just left Mom and Dad Friscia who warned me about the dangers of smoking when I was in high school! Talk about full circle!

I woke up at 5 AM Friday morning to a vibrating phone and Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday! The messages came pouring in from all over the world literally all day long, from people I have not seen or heard from in a very long time. It made me realize of how many friends I have made in the many places I have lived over the years. It was nice to know so many people bothered to send a “1” for Happy Birthday, or took time to send a short personal message.

The highlight of the trip, however, was dinner Friday night, hosted by my two sisters and their husbands and including myself, Yoko and June. We ate at R2L, a high-end restaurant on the 37th floor of a Philadelphia skyscraper overlooking the city. We ate and laughed and toasted throughout the night and at the end of the evening, after desert was served, I was surprised by my daughter June who presented me with a bag full of small gifts numbered one thru nine. These were accompanied by a letter from all three of my daughters who had written nine paragraphs about things they learned from me over their collective 90 years. I was instructed to read the letter one paragraph at a time and then open the accompanying gift.

It was the most thoughtful gift I have ever received from my children. I was choked with emotion and practically speechless as I read their touching letter. It is every father’s dream to have children who appreciate them. To know they do while I am lucky enough to still be alive is extra special and very poignant.

Thomas E Cappiello is an eight year lung-cancer survivor and founder and president of The Lung Cancer Research Council, Inc., a non-profit charity dedicated to promoting lung cancer awareness, screening and early detection. Write to him at tcappiello@np.zypha.com or visit www.lungcancerresearchcouncil.org