Friday, 19 August 2011

our quiet hero, now rest

My Dad died a few weeks ago on 27 July.  He had a rough few years with his health, battling (and winning) lung cancer and heart surgery, with long, hard won recoveries. He recovered enough to enjoy a bit of this summer, taking a coach trip with the Korean War veterans to Washington DC, seeing a few local baseball games with my Mom, riding his bike, eating McDonald's ice cream cones.  But it was an infection from his surgery that got him in the end. He died in no pain, with no mental anguish, with my Mom, 2 of my siblings and the nicest nurse with him.

I am fresh back from my visit home to say my final good bye to my Dad at his funeral. It was a hard, loving, emotional visit that had flashes of normalcy and many sweet laughs as Lewis entertained and provided a tender elixir to the heaviness of the days.

Along with my Uncle Dave and a fellow Gray Beard, Korean War veteran friend, all of my brothers and sisters and I spoke at my Dad's service. The service was fitting to the man, simple, lovely with a military respect of the 21 gun salute and buried in his favourite green fleece.  It was an honour to speak of my Dad and I share my words here.

We have heard so many themes today about Frank, solid, loyal, kind, dependable and fun.

Until now I haven’t realised what a quiet force my Dad was. He was often in the background but he was always there ... steady, strong, available.

In my job, I often ask people what they want people to remember them for.
I can’t help but think Dad would be so happy and proud to hear that his small and large kindnesses, his friendly and warm company and his steadfast presence made us all of feel loved, safe and taken care of.

And I don’t think I ever got to thank him for that.

So now I take my moment to say thank you, Dad.

  • -     For being the man that drove me to endless tumbling and random events all my childhood, with Sports Talk on the radio
  • -      For being the best looking Dad in the pack
  • -      For always smelling like clean aftershave
  • -      Magically changing all my crumpled singles and big pile of change waitress tips into nice, clean 20s
  • -      For wearing his kid’s logo wear with pride, or at least making us feel like he was proud.
  • -      Playing with my fingers in church when I was little
  • -      For being the man who documented things like the date we got a new toilet seat
  • -      And taking pictures of things on TV
  • -      For showing me that being a dad often means eating burnt toast and the black jellybeans
  • -      Having the perfect architectural penmanship
  • -      Hiding $50 bills at my house, for me to find later
  • -      With limited success, trying to teaching me and Gary to bowl – shake hands with the ball
  • -      Showing me that arguing bitterly with you spouse over Christmas tree lights is an annual event that your marriage will survive
  • -      For forever cementing that lunchboxes should always smell of bananas
  • -      For walking me down the aisle at my wedding
  • -      For making me feel safe
  • -      Driving us home from the lake and feeling so utterly secure that we always fell asleep that 45 minutes
  • -      Insisting on filling up gas in  your car
  • -      Hearing Mom and Dad’s low murmur voices in bed talking at night
  • -      Warming up the car and scraping off the snow for you on cold mornings
  • -      For being there when Lewis was born … 16 days late, and being the first person to call Lewis “sweetheart”
  • -      For the example of hard work  -- like the rings he made for all his kids and for Mom, taking silver dollar coins and painstakingly pounding them into simple, string silver rings… much like Dad himself.
I know Dad was always so happy when he and Mom were on their annual vacations in Florida. He would go for long solo walks on the beach, in search of sharks teeth, sand dollars, and maybe a bit of chat with other folks he’d meet along the way, collecting scraps of information to report back to Mom.  He was tanned, happy, relaxed and utterly in his element...

I like to imagine he is on one of those adventures now – enjoying the view, collecting unexpected treasures, and forever basking in a beautiful sunny day.

So now we are all back at our respective homes. Back in the business of living. People have been heart-breakingly kind. Death does that. It shows our underbelly and our collective circles of friends and even acquaintances rally to hold our net. Makes us feel very very human and very alive in our pain. Now we are all sorting this through and feeling the soft spot where my Dad lived in each of us. Feeling lucky to have had him in a way we never acknowledged before.  Feeling just that much closer to each other than before. Feeling what's missing and holding on to what's not.

Our quiet hero, my Mom's rock ... now rest. 

1 comment:

Jim Decker said...

First, I am sorry for your loss. Your words ring true for me because I lost my dad recently as well. He was taken at the end of November 2010 after dealing with a Lung Cancer that was detected only in the latter stages.

From your recollections and sentiment I can tell that our dads were alike in many ways. He too was a veteran (WW II) and generally a quiet, supportive, sturdy and gentle soul.

A dad is a treasure you are aware of, often assume will be there forever and are shocked and amazed when they are actually gone.

How can a rock no longer be? I am realizing that as long as I am alive and kicking he still is.

Thanks for your beautiful words.