When I was a few days old, my dad got a tip that Frank Sinatra was going to be eating at Patsy’s restaurant in New York City. Since my mom couldn’t go with him, he brought his sister. Frank was there, and he signed a postcard for me. It’s been a treasure of mine ever since.
Frank Sinatra has always been a major presence in my life. My dad is a huge fan (to put it mildly) and he shared his love for Ol’ Blue Eyes with my brother and me. From the time I was a born (and probably in utero) my dad had me listening to all of the great standards. When he tucked me into bed at night, I begged him to tell me one of his Sinatra tales. My favorites were the time he met Sinatra at the Fontainbleau when he was a kid in Miami, and the time he snuck into the back door of Carnegie Hall (wearing a powder blue tuxedo) and pretended he worked there. He watched Sinatra sing from the wings. Every single time he told those stories, I hung on each word.
In the 90s, whenever Frank toured Florida, my parents loaded us up into our Dodge Caravan, with the wood paneling, and drove to wherever he was performing. It didn’t matter if it was a school night or not. They wanted us to experience the magic. I remember those times fondly. I brought flowers to the stage once, and Frank took them. I stared into his bright blue eyes and watched as he reached for a handkerchief in his pocket to give me. He didn’t have one, so he turned to his son, Frank Jr. (who was conducting the orchestra) and asked for his. Frank took it, patted his face with it, and handed it to me. I floated back to my seat and gave it to my dad to hold.
As I got older, my love for Frank never wavered. I listened to him in the car, in the house, and watched old videos of his television appearances with my dad late at night. When I went away to college, I remained a fan. I even had a poster of a concert I had been to on my wall.
When Frank died in 1998, I was home from college, and my friends called to check in on me. I spent that day with my dad, watching Frank movies and TV shows.
When my kids were born, I wanted them to love Frank like I did. My dad made them mixed CDs to listen to. The first song my son Joey ever sang was “Fly Me to the Moon.”
In 2015, Frank Sinatra would have turned 100 years old. My dad (who is a jazz pianist) performed a celebratory concert for the local jazz society. It was an absolutely dynamite performance—standing room only—that I will remember forever.
Sinatra’s son, Frank Jr., was also celebrating his dad’s centennial by touring in a show called “Sinatra sings Sinatra.” We bought tickets to see him in Daytona Beach seven months ago. I literally could not wait. It was going to be the four of us again, along with my brother’s fiancée, this time piled into my minivan. I couldn’t wait to relive the magic.
Yesterday, my mom and dad and I piled into my van and left to meet up with my brother. About 20 minutes into our drive we got an email that Frank Jr. had fallen ill and the concert was cancelled. I was so disappointed. We grabbed a bite to eat and drove back home. I came home just in time to clean up dinner and help my kids get showered and tucked in. It was then that I got an alert on my phone—Frank Jr. had suffered a heart attack and had passed away in the Daytona Beach hospital.
I called my dad right away. We couldn’t believe it. He was 72 years old and had just performed two nights earlier. This seemed to come with no warning. My heart broke for his family. I sat down on the couch and talked with my husband about the concerts I remembered going to as a kid. I remember vividly each one. I remember driving through McDonald’s at midnight on our way home. I also remember falling asleep in the car and my Dad carrying me into my bed.
I realized that these moments are the most important. 20 years from now, I hope my kids remember that time we let them skip school on their birthday to go to Disney, or stay up late to see “Star Wars” when it came out on a school night. I treasure my Sinatra family adventures, and while we may not have gotten to relive them one more time, it doesn’t matter. I know that I have a lot more of these special moments with my kids to come.
My thoughts are with the Sinatra family, especially Frank Jr.’s mom, Nancy.