*This post was originally published online a few months ago. I put it up in an emotionally charged moment, not thinking what it might mean to my family to see my fears and expectations in print. After re-reading it, I thought it was too powerful and premature – proved by my father’s proclivity to enjoy life and spend some more time with us.
Sadly, my father passed away this morning and I expect this won’t the last piece I write about the lessons he taught or the memories I hold. Comments are welcome…
I’ve waited three years or so to write this. Perhaps I really waited 45 years – but nevertheless, I’m getting these words down in electrons now. Before the end. Before my father dies.
As keys click beneath my fingers, dad’s in a hospital with a drain tube stuck into his liver. He’s got a fever, too. Likely from the cancer tumors spread throughout his body. But he’s still alive.
A couple of days ago he was playing golf, and now some doctors are saying he might only have a week or so to live.
What’s it all mean? And how trite is it that any movie or novel has the main character ask those same words? I actually don’t want to know. I just want my father to be pain-free and my family to be OK after he’s gone.
I want to be OK too. One of the issues that pains me the most is actually writing-related. When it seemed that death was light years away, I asked for the responsibility of writing his obituary. It made sense. I’m a writer. I was named after him. As his first son, I’ve known him longer than any of my sibling. But now I’m stymied.
What can I say about my hero? How can I convey the dimensions he occupied with only these letters and words?
He asked when I remember him to others, that I comment on his fashion sense. But to crack wise about tan chinos and worn Oxfords isn’t quite as funny now as it was when we discussed it a couple years back.
Now, I want him to take shape in people’s minds the way I love him. In technicolor – ironic because of his lifelong colorblindness. As an oversized specimen of a man, also a contradiction to many of my current friends who have only known him post-diagnosis. As the loud voice, familiar laugh and twinkling eyes each of us possesses.
I am my father’s son. I can only hope that as I go forward without him, I carry the traits I so admire. From the laughter to the love, and the empathy to the sarcasm, he has it all.
His personality is such that he admonishes people who aren’t genuine. Luckily, he’s also easy to be around and one of his best skills is allowing people to feel comfortable around him. He’s always been casual and comfortable around them too.
The stories of him putting on his nightshirt and heading up to bed during parties at home are true. He wanted people to continue to have a good time as his guests, but also wanted them to know that it was his bedtime and he was taking his leave of them.
Some people think that’s just quirky, but I connect it to the importance he placed on telling the truth. If you don’t like something or someone, why put up with it or them? While we weren’t taught to be blatantly rude or socially uncouth, we were informed that we could make our own choices about our lives.
Like all parents, he and my mother kept that mindset consistent as we chose our careers and partners. Complete support no matter what we chose.
The primary example of this came to me from my father in 2005, I think. We were playing golf together and we somehow wandered into a serious discussion. I asked if I had made the right decision in being a freelancer.
He asked if I was enjoying my current path and if there were things I couldn’t do because of my occupation. I said that sometimes I wasn’t sure I could afford some of the finer things in life. But on the whole I was happy.
He said that was really all that mattered. As long as I could do most of what I wanted to do in life, I’d probably be happy. He added that I might never be rich, but being able to travel and go biking and work when I wanted to seemed to suit me. And that being in control of my world was something you can’t put a price on.
I agreed then and I agree now. I wish I could control what’s about to happen to my dad. But I know he’s lived a lot and has created a world around him that’s loving and better for having known him.
Thanks dad. I miss you already.