August 13th, I said a final goodbye to my father...
handful of years of battling prostate cancer, in May of 2009 a tumor was also found in the frontal lobe of my father's brain. Over the next year-and-a-half there was a period of decline which continued until the inevitable end.
During the last week of January, in relation to
the continued loss of motor skills, my father also lost his ability to walk. So I traveled to Hendersonville, North Carolina (where he had moved from Chicago less than a year before), and spent time helping my father begin making his transition.
I don't know if it's better
to know when you're going to die, or if not when, how
you're going to die. But, as his son, I was thankful to have some idea of how much time I left had with him.
My birthday is also in February and, though bitter sweet, I
was glad to have one more chance to celebrate the date that I came into the world while contending with the reality of my father leaving it someday soon.
Starting this post, I told myself that I wasn't
going to eulogize my father. But, since I'm writing this (and you're readin' it) I think that it would be appropriate to tell you a little more about him.
First of all, it would be inadequate to say that
my father "loved" music. Though not a musician of any kind (he did have decent singing voice), my father inhaled and exhaled music.
fact, if it is oxygen that gives us life, and bread and water that sustains our life, then music is what made life worth all the trouble of living for my father; though I may exaggerate a little now in his absence, anyone who knows him knows that my hyperbole is only a few centimeters from the truth.
Nat King Cole, Cannonball Adderly,
Johnny Mathis, The Manhattans, the Whispers, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Dinah Washington, were only a few of his favorite singers and musicians. And if you mentioned the doo wop music of the 1950s, a smile would burst from the dimples in his cheeks as he basked in the memories of the beloved sounds of his youth.
In addition to music, friends
and family meant the world to my father. If not exactly a "family man" in the traditional sense, his connections to people were the blood in his veins.
He was extremely close with my grandmother when she
was alive, his aunt Maude, his two younger brothers Ty and Reg and god-brother James. Both I and my sister (Lisa) were as close to my father as any offspring could be. I was his firstborn and my father told me that he loved me as often as he could. But my father completely adored
his baby daughter -- as a father should.
At seventy-years old, "Pops" had friendships that
dated all the way back to elementary school in the 1940s, high school in the 1950s, the U.S. Marines in the 1960s, the Chicago Police department in the 70s and 80s, and U.S. Customs, from which he retired around the year 2000.
My father also loved history books, movies and
photography; many years ago, he even had a darkroom in the basement. Over the years he also developed a love of golf which he inherited from my grandfather. He also loved to fish. But chief among all my father's beloved hobbies was playing around with hi-fi equipment: turntables, amplifiers, tuners, tape decks and the like.
He was a "techie" in
every sense of the word.
Okay, this is really more than I've
wanted to say, but I don't want to close this writing without saying what I'll remember most about my father, and the time spent with him this past February.
More than anything, what I'll remember most
is holding my father's hands.
Y' know, when we're children,
holding the hand of the adults in our lives is a constant; a constant reminder of the bond that exists between the parental figure and ourselves. The hands of our parents lift us up, guide us, reassure us, tickle us and -- when necessary -- discipline us.
That said, the
sense of touch between the hands of a parent and a child is an invaluable form of communication.
When my father lost the ability
to lift himself out of bed, my hands would again hold of his. But this time around I was doing the lifting and then lowering him into the wheelchair, or onto the toilet, or back into the hospital bed that was moved into his bedroom.
After my first day spent with him, I
immediately realized that it's what I would take away from that
experience, and what I would treasure most. Just holding my father's hands again. Those same hands which so many years ago held me up, guided me, protected me.
It meant the world to me to be able to pull
him up and -- with my own hands -- offer my father the reassurance that if he was unsteady, his son would hold him up and not allow him fall. It was never spoken, but the trust that I felt in those moments defy words.
As I draw this to a close, I want to point out how it is
often said that one of best things that a person might ever do is bring a child into the world. While I believe this saying to be true, I don't have any children of my own to allow me to attest to this first hand.
the absence of the other, though, I find this to be just as true: There has been no greater reward than in knowing that one of the best things that I have ever done was to help my father as best I could during the time when he needed me most. If I never accomplish anything else worth writing about, I know that I accomplished that.
Pops, it's taken
me a while to get around to writing this, but I wanted to share with others those words shared with you this past February: I love you. I miss you. I'm happy to have known you. And there has been no greater honor in my entire life than having the chance to be of service to someone who I have loved as much as I loved you.