Life Without a Father

Life Without a Father


shutterstock_152701655Hockey equipment spills off the side porch of the stately but welcoming brick house in Pelham Manor, N.Y. There are a football by the kitchen door, soccer cleats in the hallway and a basketball migrating about. In the mudroom, near the perpetually running washer and dryer, a meticulous carpenter has built cubicles to control the chaos. Danny’s cleats. Casey’s shin guards. Peter’s gloves and pads. Patrick’s hard hat — the bright yellow kind grieving families are given when they visit ground zero.

On the wall across from the cubbies is a wooden cabinet filled with shelves. This carpenter was not so meticulous. The shelves are slightly crooked, the cabinet itself is somewhat lopsided and the paint job is less than perfect. ”Joe built that,” Nancy Shea says as she plucks clothes from the floor and plunks them in the wash. Joe. Husband to Nancy and father to Danny, Casey, Peter and Patrick. Joe, who called home that hellish morning to say he was O.K. and then died on the 105th floor. ”I always told him it was a good thing he didn’t make his living as a carpenter,” Nancy says with a watery smile. ”Can you imagine?” she says, running her hands along the shelves her husband built. ”My whole life would have looked like this.”

At the moment, her whole life does. Since Joseph Shea died, his family’s world has been crooked and unfinished, still standing but on the brink of falling down. Their choice, they know, is stark and simple — crumble or move on. So after the first dark weeks when the future seemed unreachable, they decided to rally and rebuild. Starting with the blueprint Joe left them, their days are part reconstruction, part demolition. ”This is our life,” Nancy says. ”We have to live it. Joe would expect me to handle it, so I will give 100 percent. It just won’t be as much fun. It will never be as much fun.” READ MORE