He raised me from the time I was five years old. He said I want you to call me Dad and I will treat you like my own.
And he did.
He was a New York City Police officer who worked in undercover narcotics and was one of the toughest guys you'll ever meet.
He received the Combat Cross for his bravery and met Governors and Mayors because of his heroics.
The only thing greater than his toughness was his love for his family.
Both were on display in the hospital the last month of his life. Three times he should have died and three times he rebounded.
We, his family, marveled that he just wouldn't give up. He wasn't ready to say goodbye to those he loved. He loved life and his family too much to quit. Once a fighter always a fighter.
But today his will succumbed to God's greater will. His fight gave way to God's love. No more suffering, no more pain. God said, "You did your best Joe but it's time to come home to me. It's time to be free."
We are who are because someone loved us and I know that I am who I am because he loved me.
He wasn't perfect. But who is. As a cop he often saw the worst of humanity that gave him a negative slant on the world. When I was young and said, "Good morning Dad," he would often say "What's so good about it?" He was Al Bundy before Al Bundy was Al Bundy.
But when it came to his kids and grandkids he was the eternal optimist who never stopped cheering for you and believing in you.
If you were struggling, he was there. In your darkest moments he was there. If you needed someone to talk to he was there. If you were celebrating something he was there.
He never gave up on you which meant you never gave up on him.
Which makes his death seem so impossible, so unreal, so hard.
He died the same week as Muhammad Ali. Like Ali he was 74 years old. Like Ali his lungs gave out. For me it was fitting. Ali was the world's greatest and my Dad was our greatest.
He had a zest for life, loved happy hours and regardless of what time it was would often say it's 5 o'clock somewhere.
Well Dad, right now it's 5 o'clock somewhere and I want to celebrate the life you lived, the love you shared and thank you for helping me become the man I am. RIP Dad.