Posted: Aug 17, 2009 4:17pm ET
My father died on July 28. He was ill for a short time, went through a tough operation, gave us hope that he would soon be back on his feet, but died very quickly of a heart attack on a Tuesday morning. One day he was there, the next he was gone.
His sudden passing was a dignified and painless way to go, but it was hard on those he left behind. Dad was 77, and he lived a great life. Everyone who knew him wished for more, of course, but he lived life to the fullest, saw his children have children of their own, and enjoyed his days. Dad was a great guy, and like any good father he was a teacher, passing on life’s lessons to help his sons grow into men.
Dad taught me how to make a proper fire, how to hammer a nail, the right time to flip a hamburger, and how to shuck oysters and clams. He taught me never to start a plumbing job on a Sunday night, because if you mess it up you’ll have a long wait until help arrives (or have to pay dearly for overtime.) He taught me how to pack a car, tie a solid knot, and cook breakfast for a dozen people. He was a man of great humor, and always had a joke. When he was on a breathing tube, only hours after his surgery, he asked for pen and paper and sketched out jokes by hand, bringing smiles to our faces. Taking care of us when we were trying to take care of him.
Dad taught me how to respect my neighbors and elders, how to love my country and how to have compassion for my fellow man. He showed me how to welcome guests with a cold drink and a warm smile, and how good friends can be as close to you as a member of the family. He patched up my cuts when I fell off my bike and drove me to the hospital when I broke my finger playing football in the front yard. When someone hit me, he held up his palms and taught me how to hit back, thumb outside my fists to protect them from harm. He taught me to take responsibility for my mistakes, to never be afraid to fail, and empowered me with the belief that I could overcome any obstacle set in my path.
My father was never a big cigar smoker (sadly, he smoked cigarettes when he was a younger man) but he knew how much I enjoyed cigars, and he smoked them with me on occasion. He enjoyed larger cigars, milder ones, and spoke of old comedians and actors who used cigars as props on the rare occasion when he indulged in one.
I wish I had more time to spend with him—one more dinner together, one more conversation, one more hug—but I’m glad for the time I had. I’m happy that I went with my five-year-old son and brother to visit him the weekend before his death. He spent some time with his grandson that beautiful day, sitting outside amongst the blooming flowers and green trees, enjoying the sweet air on a warm but not hot day, and posed for what would become his final photograph. My mother was at his side every day in the hospital, and my brother and I also saw him the night before he died. He was tired, but in good spirits, making jokes and making us feel happy, as always. We talked about what we would do when he got out of the hospital—see another ballgame, go fishing, have a steak dinner.
Those of you who have lost your fathers understand my sadness. My heart is heavy, but I know I’m lucky—some of my friends had far less time with their dads. For those of you who still have your fathers, treasure the time. Have him over for dinner. Ask him about his childhood. Listen to that old story one more time.
Dad, thanks for all the lessons. I miss you.
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