|10-17-2010, 02:18 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2010
My Dad died exactly 4 years ago, tomorrow. He had been sick for a long time with various illnesses of age - heart disease, bad knees, a degenerative spinal disease that left him wheelchair bound about 2 years before he died. He smoked like a chimney. They gave him 3 months to live, but he lived for 14. My mom took care of him at home. I was blessed to have that time with him. We would sit and watch the history channel and talk for hours about philosophy, history, religion, ethics. All those liberal arts classes that the scientifically minded will look down their noses at, but those were the most important to him. Because they contributed to what he considered "the well made man." The renaissance man.
He was born on a woodpile in rural Kentucky, his mother had gone out to get wood and ended up delivering the baby herself. His father died of mustard gas poisoning in a VA hospital after waiting 7 years for his lungs to liquify. He roamed the Appalachian mountains, hunting for his food, attending a one room schoolhouse. He ran everywhere and had a hound dog named "old baldy" that got run over by a coal truck. That was the first time he ever wanted to kill a man, he said.
He lied about his age and got into the Army at 16 at the tail end of WWII. He lived in Japan for a while during the occupation, went back home for a bit, and then shipped out to Korea. He was the only man in his platoon to survive. The US wouldn't drop winter rations across the 38th parallel. So many of his friends simply froze to death. He said you knew when they were done, they would stop marching and just sit down and stare off into space, and you could kick them, scream at them, beg them, plead, carry them - they had given up and would die soon after they made that choice to sit down and not move again. That was the war he had his flashbacks from. Crawling through fields of death bodies, hiding in piles of frozen corpses, face to face with a grotesque grinning rictus of death.
He was lost after that. He got out of the Army. Wandered around the US, working with migrant farm workers picking fruit on the west coast, worked at a meat packing plant in chicago. He had several lovers, 2 brief marriages that lasted less than 3 months each. He built a house for his mother. He adopted and helped to raise his younger brother's children. Ended up back in the military, this time in the Navy as an officer headed over to Vietnam.
He met my mother in Vietnam, she was 16, just getting out of the hospital after a stay in a Vietnamese prison for protesting the war. He fell in love with her at first sight, and her uncle pulled strings to get her a job as a translator and she ended up being my Dad's translator for 3 years before he finally asked her to marry him.
He lived a long life with her. Lots of ups and downs. Three daughters. In the end, he was as happy as he could allow himself to be. His joy wasn't all that jovial, but a quiet, solid kind of contentment.
I miss him. I don't wish he were still here. I just miss the times that he could soothe my weary soul with his wisely chosen words or just his presence. I miss that there are no men like him in the world anymore - burnished into clarity by trial from fire. I find the softness of modern men to be disappointing. I grew up with a father who had big, strong, rough hands. He could tell you what was edible in the forest, he knew how to say a prayer to an animal you hunted right before you slit its throat. He knew how to live in harmony with the natural world, and how to shoot a man in cold blood. He was dark, full of rage and fire, and light - full of tender love, a gentle father with the benefit of age and wisdom to calm him.
I love you, Dad. I feel you.
|10-17-2010, 05:03 PM||#4 (permalink)|
Join Date: Mar 2010
What a great post. And what an amazing relationship it sounds like you had with him. It's inspired me to share some of my story too.
My grandfather was in the Navy during WWII (actually both of them were), and he died back in '96. Before he died I let him know that to me he was like my dad, friend, and grandfather. Most of my experience with him was during the summers when we visited to work in the fields in Illinois (weeding soybean fields, working w horses, detassling corn, etc). He taught me how to work with horses, gardening, building and demo-ing houses, painting, driving, the basics on how to fight, and so much more. He was the first semi-healthy male role model I had. And he made a damn good peach brandy. He enjoyed hunting, baseball, horse racing, and going to estate sales, antique shops and auctions. Since he and my grandmother grew up during the Depression, they had 3 refigerators and 2 deep freezers full of food, and they always had a spread big enough for an army - no one was going to be hungry.
He didn't have an education beyond high school because he had to work, but he had an aptitude for figuring things out mechanically which helped him advance and be a leader. He could be mean and stubborn and was definitely a fighter at times, but he also could be caring and humorous. He chewed tobacco and spit it out of the window when he was driving, so no one ever wanted to sit behind him. ha! One time he spit out the window but forgot to unroll it so it just oozed down. Too funny. I was laughing so hard.
A few years before he died he had a conscious OBE while in the hospital, but because he lived in rural Illinois there was no one he could talk with about it who didn't think he was crazy (his wife), or that the experience was demonic (his minister). He not only accurately described the sensations of going in/out of body, but he saw the messages in the snow outside the hospital that family members had written for the loved ones to see out their window - he was bed-ridden. When I confirmed that it sounded just like a real experience, he was so relieved and happy because he said he knew I would understand - and I was glad that finally there was someone in my family that I could finally talk with about things like that. The last few years we shared an interest in the metaphysical/spiritual.
On the day he died, he decided to just have fun and do all things he loved - including eat whatever he liked. He had diabetes, bronchitis, and a slew of other health concerns. He went hunting for antiques, watched a live baseball game, ate foods he loved, worked in his garden - he had a heart attack that night and apparently was dead before he hit the floor. I think it was about quality of life - he didn't want to keep going like that, so might as well have some fun and say goodbye.
What I really enjoyed about his funeral was that person after person would come up to me and tell me about how my grandad had helped them or changed their life - "he helped me through high school", "I got into college because of him", "he lent me money", "helped me build my house", "helped me at the factory" - I could see all these other facets of him through all of these people. He wasn't perfect, in fact he was flawed in a number of ways, but there was a simplicity, honesty and directness that it seems that generation had which I really enjoyed about him. He was the guy you would want on your side in a fight. We didn't always agree with each other, but I knew I could talk with him about anything.
When he first died I had regular dreams about him, and now I rarely have dreams about him, but when I do it feels so real that I have to remind myself when I wake up that he's dead. In fact, even while I'm dreaming I remind myself of that fact, but it doesn't seem to matter. Thanks for all your wisdom, playfulness, honesty and love.
|10-17-2010, 06:48 PM||#6 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2010
This was his favorite poem. He had a copy taped to his rolltop desk at home, where he would sit and look over the stock pages. He had a broker, but he didn't trust him and basically paid an exorbitant fee to buy and sell because he was unable to comprehend computers.
He worked on those big DOD vacuum tube punch card room sized monstrosities when he was in the Navy. He vaguely said he dealt with inventory but I never really knew exactly what he did.
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