For My Father—Father’s Day

He died on a Sunday morning.

My father was a good man. A good, kind, decent man. It might be said that he did nothing extraordinary, but that might be just a matter of perspective.

When asked about what kind of man my dad was I have always struggled with trying to describe him adequately and accurately. For example, it could be said of my father that he was a pacifist. Yet I vividly recall his anger when he spanked me for coming home very late, as a small child. I say vividly because it’s the only time I recall my father spanking me. Visible anger was not my father. He was calm as a tranquil mountain lake, yet quick to smile and share his inner joy. He showed me happiness.

If you were in the kitchen preparing food—of any kind—and my dad walked in on you, it was almost a guarantee that he would begin to sing, “He-ey good lookin’! Wa-atcha’ got cookin’? How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me-e?” And then he would wrap his arm around you, give you a hug, and then leave you to your business. He was always doing things like that, singing snippets of songs as he wandered about the house. He taught me the love of music.

When I was five years old I was playing in the corner of the family room—as was my custom. It was out of the way, I could spend time with the family, and my action figures could climb the ‘mountain’ that was our stone fireplace. Anyway, my dad asked me to clean up so he could vacuum. “Sure dad.” So I picked up my toys and headed to my room.

Once there I double-checked to make sure I didn’t leave anything behind. Now, for those that have never experienced the joys of 1970s shag carpet, you can easily lose things. Oh no! Zorro’s pistol is not here! Oh no! I must have missed it! “Dad, don’t vacuum yet!” Too late, he had already vacuumed it up. But he promised that when the vacuum bag was full, he would cut open the bag, rummage through the filth, and find it. And, good to his word, he did just that. I learned how much my dad loved me, and that he would keep his promises.

While doing my chores around the house I would find books that my dad had left out and I would put them away. He left them everywhere. I would, however, leave out the one book I thought he was currently reading. Inevitably my dad would call out, “Where’s my book?” I would hurry into the room to explain what I had done and give him the book I thought he wanted. He would then explain that what I had given him wasn’t the book he wanted. After this occurred a few times my dad explained that he left books laying about the house so that no matter where he sat down he could pick up one and read. That is how I came to know the importance of reading.

During a family gathering, my father was content to just sit and ‘be’. He didn’t need to say anything. He didn’t need anything. He didn’t need to be noticed. He found sincere contentment in just being there with those he loved and watching them enjoy themselves. Oh, he did like being involved, don’t get me wrong. He just didn’t need it. The example of quiet leadership was given to me. I never learned it. But, my father gave nevertheless.

Years would pass and my father developed poor health due to combinations of bad diet, diabetes, and some minor injuries sustained over the years. Complications arose with a stroke not fully understood.

The official report says that my dad passed away due to kidney failure. Which is technically true. The weeks before the stroke he had developed a bad tooth infection and a large mass of infection moved through his bloodstream, snuck past his heart’s natural filter defenses, moved to his brain, fragmented, and caused 13 simultaneous strokes. Not one big one, as previously supposed. Divine providence would have one of the country’s top heart specialists visiting the hospital where my father was admitted. This doctor was kind enough to sit in and advise on the situation—even provide his surgical skills.

Ultimately, the infected blood caused the kidney damage that allowed my father to move from this life to the next.

On April 21, 2014, as I was walking out the door to take my family to church I got the call. Dad was gone. Unfortunately, I still had to get to church, there were things that I had to be part of.

Once again divine providence played a part in this narrative. A boyhood friend, not seen for ages, happened to be visiting town and found himself in our church house. When he heard my name called, he found me after services to verify that it truly was me, and not just someone else with the same name. We hugged and wept over the loss of my father. God works in mysterious ways indeed.

On my oldest daughter’s 16th birthday my father was buried. It was an interesting day, to say the least. Due to his work as a corrections officer, there was a traditional 21-gun salute at the graveside services. In that rifle detail divine providence once again manifested itself. Two members of that detail were extra special, the first was a cousin that worked as a corrections officer with my dad—this mountain of a man in uniform also stood vigil over my father’s body during the viewing. The second, a friend and former member of my Marine Corps unit—who also worked with my father at the correctional facility—said he had to help with the funeral rifle detail, that it was an honor, simply because of how much he admired, respected, and loved my dad.

As the saying goes, you don’t know what you had until it’s gone. And oh, how it is true. It’s been a few years now… But the pain of his loss still haunts me. I no longer have a sage guide to assist me as my life changes. I have to figure this out on my own now. So, I look back at what he taught me a man, a father, should be, and to try my best. Thank you, Dad, for everything.

My father was a good man. A good, kind, decent man. It might be said that he did nothing extraordinary, but that might be just a matter of perspective.

He died on a Sunday morning.

The last known photo taken of my father. Out with his golfing buddies. Due to his health, my father didn’t golf. He didn’t even get out of the cart. True to his nature, he just rode along in the cart, listening to the conversations and happy to be with the people he cared about.

2 thoughts on “For My Father—Father’s Day

  1. I loved youre dad, not just because he added in bringing into this world one of my greatest friends, but because he was always so kind to me. I thought for sure you and I were dead when I threw you through that window and he walked around to corner of you home to see what the noise was all about. Instead, I saw a man concerned for our safety and full of patience. He expected us to clean it up, but he wasnt berating or unkind. I never wanted to disappoint him, not because I was afraid of him, but because I loved him. My own father was never around, so I kind of adopted your dad. I miss him.

    Liked by 1 person

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