When I look at it objectively, the man who was my father had not really been with us for the previous decade, following a massive, debilitating stroke he suffered while recuperating from bypass surgery. That stroke took away most of the man we had all known and loved.
But love is not objective, and so it was still painful to know that even the little of my father that we had left to us was now gone. He would not be here for his beloved granddaughter’s wedding or the birth of her own son and daughter, two great-grandchildren he would have loved so much. As a life-long fan of professional wrestling, I think he would have been ecstatic to see his oldest son finally step into the squared circle and wrestle for a local promotion in Orlando. Missing his youngest son, he would have been so happy to be here when that son moved back to the state of Florida and was close enough to visit more often. He would have loved seeing that son’s children grow up and have children of their own, giving him more great-grandchildren.
My dad taught me: how to bait a hook, catch a fish and then remove it from the hook; how to swim; how to mow the grass with a push mower; how to edge the lawn using a manual edger (pictured); how to build a treehouse; how to get our house ready for a hurricane (we lived in South Florida); how to plant trees and bushes; how to ride a bike; how to paint rooms in our house; how to tighten the chain and adjust the seat on my bike; how to change a flat tire on my bike and later, on a car; how to drive a nail; how to put things back where they belong (”Is that where you found it?”); how to use a power drill; how to pick out a ripe watermelon; how to drive a car; the importance of education; and so many other things.
That’s not to say my dad was perfect. When someone passes away we naturally tend to concentrate on and remember only the good things about them. I have and will continue to do that, but I also can acknowledge that my dad, like myself when I had children, was not the perfect father all the time.
He was a functional alcoholic until I was almost 13, so my early life came with all the attendant baggage and behavior that accompanies that type of problem. But he quit cold turkey and, to the best of my knowledge, never had another drink for the remainder of his life. I greatly admired him for that act of will. He had racial views of people that I could never agree with, but while not understanding them I recognized that they were the result of his growing up in a different time, location and culture. He and I argued as I got older and sometimes had diametrically opposed viewpoints on a variety of subjects; at one point we did not even speak to or see each other for months. But we eventually healed that rift.
I am so glad we did.
Dad, I miss you so very, very much. But I keep all the good and happy memories in my heart and thus keep you alive and with me.