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Jeff Cutler's Bowl of Cheese

Not so gentle ramblings about the inane and insane

Waiting no longer. Thoughts of my father.

*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.

18 Responses to “Waiting no longer. Thoughts of my father.”

  1. Sarah Wallace Says:

    Jeff, my thoughts are with you and your family at this time.

    Lost my grandmother in December. No matter what the circumstance, no one’s ever fully prepared.

    Thanks for sharing and reminding us to all cherish those we love.

  2. Tweets that mention Dad. I miss you already. | Jeff Cutler's Bowl of Cheese -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Meg Fowler and Gradon Tripp, Amy Palmer. Amy Palmer said: RT @megfowler: This is impossibly beautiful and completely devastating. I feel the same about my dad. http://bowlofcheese.com/?p=1872 [...]

  3. Mike Langford Says:

    So sorry to read this news Jeff. I had the honor of meeting your father and as you probably remember my first reaction was to note how similar you two are to each other.

    You are a good man Jeff. A good friend and I am sure a very good son as well. You Dad did a great job. He should be proud.

    Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

    Warmest,

    Mike

  4. Greg Hoffmeister Says:

    This is a beautifully written post. The harsh reality and inevitability of losing our parents is never easy to deal with. Being friendly, accepting, genuine and the idea that finding happiness and freedom should be the true measurement of success are all admirable qualities and ideals. Your Dad sounds like an honorable man. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  5. Leigh Durst Says:

    Jeff,

    I love what you wrote about your dad liking the fact that you are in control of your world — juxtaposed with the reality that you (and none of us) really are. It sounds like your dad was a neat guy — who was squarely in your corner and a good friend. That has to be one of the best things we can hope for from our kids — in addition to the hope that we raise them right. In your Dad’s case it seems like he has left a terrific legacy. God bless you and your family as you cope with your loss.

    Your fellow “Indie,”
    Leigh
    Leigh Durst recently posted..SXSW4Japan ROCKS!

  6. Lois Ardito Says:

    Dear Jeff,

    Thank you for sharing the love you feel for your Dad with all of us. Reading your tribute to him gave me perspective on that which we all face sooner or later, the death of our parents. I’m afraid of that moment.
    The strength that your Dad gave you to face that moment is inspiring. I wish I had had the opportunity to meet him, he obviously loved his children well and unconditionally.

    Please accept my sincere condolences,
    Lois

  7. Meg Says:

    I remember reading this when Gretchen linked to it after you posted it before, and then you took it down (and I took down my link to it in my tweetstream.)

    Like Mike, I remember meeting your dad the few times I did (Gretchen’s birthday, 4th of July, the Labor Day BBQ at the Tiny Bungalow) and thinking, “my goodness, Jeff is a chip off the old block.”

    You’re very much his son — your smiles were similar, your jokes were similar, and even the way you stood in a group of people talking was similar. You have his way about you.

    When I saw your news today, I thought of this post immediately, and how beautiful it was, and how fitting it was. I spoke at both of my grandparents’ funerals because none of the kids or grandkids could manage to do it. The only way I could do it was because I knew I was reading a love letter to who they were, and I wanted it to be heard. I can’t imagine doing it for my dad, though.

    You are a wonderful son, and an honor to his life.

  8. Chel Says:

    Jeff,

    Honor your father by living your life to be happy. You will always carry him with you and trite as it sounds only time will whittle the pain you feel down to a dull point. I’m sorry that you’ve lost him and wish you and your famiy as much peace as possible.

  9. Stephen Dill Says:

    Jeff,

    When a powerful presence disappears from our lives, they leave behind a crater in the middle of our chest. Clearly the heart is still there and operational, but the emotional pain can seem as though our hearts were pulled out of us.

    Here is the truth of this situation: you have been blessed with a catalog of memories, lessons and standards to live with you and live your life by. They were passed to your father, now he has passed them to you. You will add to them and make them your own as he did from his parents. And so the cycle continues.

    I may never have physically met your father, but based on your post and the comments of those who did, I feel sure I have been in his presence every time I have been around you. That exposure alone tells me how much he contributed to this world in his years among us. Thanks for sharing him with us, we are all better for it.
    Stephen Dill recently posted..“The Power Broker” Still Resonates Today

  10. Diane Vautier Says:

    Your words bring back memories of losing my own Dad. Seems like yesterday but was actually 2006. Time hasn’t lessened the emotions but I have learned to find a way to finish my communication with him. Grief is an especially difficult emotion to wrangle. May you find a way to maneuver the muddy waters of grief and find peace.
    Dvautier

    Eva

  11. Amy Greenlaw Says:

    Jeff,
    What a beautiful tribute to your father. He sounds a lot like you, so I am sure he was wonderful. I hope for you a time when the whole that is now in your life won’t seem so big. Having lost my mother to cancer in July, I can tell you that it is a long road but you will get by, somehow. Hugs to you and your family.
    Love,
    Amy

  12. sophie Says:

    Thanks for sharing this Jeff. It is a beautiful piece.

  13. Ari Herzog Says:

    While the circumstances of losing a parent are almost always different, it’s never easy to have someone you loved ripped away from you.

    I’m sorry to read of another son losing another father.

    My dad died in 1995 from a sudden heart attack when he and mom walked around the block. I was 19.

    He is not only the reason I am writing a comment on your blog here, but he is the only reason why I know what a blog is. Head to http://ariherzog.com/in-the-name-of-my-father/ when you feel inspired.

  14. This Just in…Death Still Not Fun for Anyone. | Jeff Cutler's Bowl of Cheese Says:

    [...] quickly closing in on a year since Robbie died and I’m still shocked that he’s gone. It’s not as if I can’t logically [...]

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