I’ve stared at the screen for hours in the last few days, wondering what I was going to say and how to say it.
On my Mom’s 74th birthday this past Wednesday, my Dad passed away at around 3:15 PM Eastern Time. He was 71. She held his hand until his last breath, surrounded by people from church. It’s what he wanted and needed. She gave her permission to let him go to wherever.
While I don’t attend church regularly, I am a believer in a higher power at work. In this instance, he was suffering in his mortal form. The cancerous tumors littering his insides were pushing on his lungs and made it near impossible to breathe. He was on oxygen, but it wasn’t enough. No one should have to suffer the indignity of not being to draw a breath. That’s not a quality of life. The nurses kept him calm and comfortable and told him to simply “stop fighting it.”
All my Mom and I are left with are the memories of a great man who was selfless. As a teenager/young adult, my Dad spent time hanging out at the “Banner” offices in Bristol, Indiana and playing basketball in the then-closed Bristol Opera House. On April 11th, 1965, Michiana was hit by what is now known as the infamous “Palm Sunday Tornado.” A weather event so massive that it cut a swath of destruction miles long across the northern part of Indiana and other parts of the Midwest. People talk about it today. These tornadoes made the “Blizzard of ’78” seem like child’s play.
When my Dad and his friends realized that corn stalks were floating into Bristol and the nearest field was three miles away, they piled into their cars and went to Dunlap, an area that had taken a direct hit. My Dad and his friends helped direct traffic, talked with survivors, and just lent a hand wherever needed at a time before cell phones and social media. They thought nothing of stepping up to aid first responders.
I heard this story for the first time during my father’s eulogy.
His longtime best friend also told the story of how, every Wednesday night, they’d listen to WBZ out of Boston to hear a reading of “The Highwayman.” At some point, my Dad had the whole thing memorized.
This is a man who fought like Ronda Rousey on cocaine for his independence until the very end. He wanted to live in the home he shared with my Mom since 1973 and the place where I was raised. He wanted to listen to music and keep his never-ending list of books he’d read. He wanted to hop in the car and drive himself to the golf course. But, his physical body just gave out. It’s surreal-I just saw and spoke to him a week ago Friday. He was insistent that I pick out his clothes for church. They went to Palm Sunday services. Then, things went bad from Monday of last week to Wednesday afternoon.
I miss him. As I write this, my beloved KEXP is playing the Cowboy Junkies’ cover of “Sweet Jane,” one of the thousands of tracks we listened to together. I wanted to call him and tell him all the people I saw Saturday….only I can’t. The phone is literally disconnected.
People have asked me how I’m doing and it’s hard to describe. There’s this void like someone broke up with me, but I know it’s for the best. But, still don’t really understand it. It really is complicated.