My father died tonight. It wasn’t sudden. He’d been sick for years. After he retired, as I fear most seniors do, he became bored and stopped taking care of himself. He ate poorly and drank too much. Inevitably, it cost him his legs and his sanity. He spent his final years in a diaper. That sucks. Don’t think I could live like that. Why is it HUMANe to free an animal from misery while we have homes full of suffering HUMANs?
Memories of Pop are all that’s left. I’ll do my best to purge the ones of him lying in a hospital bed next to a pad to break his fall. His two stumps rising and falling. His coke bottle glasses, spotted with debris. His confused glances. Those same eyes—they didn’t change much with his condition. I saw pride and disappointment in his hazel eyes without a single word spoken.
When anyone asked my father how he was, he always said “Fan-tastic. Yourself?” Always. It didn’t matter what financial or health issues he had. He was always fantastic. Why? Because he never wanted to burden anyone with his problems. It wasn’t his way. Now, it isn’t my way and that’s OK.
Pop was the most generous person his friends ever met. So many took advantage of his generosity and he let them think he was unaware of it. What could be more generous than that? “Take the last thing I have. Go ahead. Squander it. If it makes you happy, I don’t care if you feel you pulled a fast one on me. I gave you happiness. You’re welcome.”
He almost made it to eighty. That’s barely thirty years from now for me. Is that all I have left? Is half of the life I’ve lived left for me to live? That’s not enough. I need to live more within each second. If we can’t delay life's end, maybe we should grow the middle.
My fondest memory of Pop? Tough one. I remember he said, “That’s my boy!” around twenty years ago. I was playing in a recreational softball league and I had one of those zoned-in moments that come around so infrequently. I hit my third homerun of the game (something very atypical for a runt like me) and shrugged as I rounded the bases. I knew it was “just baseball.” I met Pop’s glance as I rounded third. He pointed and said, “That’s my boy!” I wish I could have been the star athlete he hoped for. I didn’t have it in me. But, for one night I got lucky, exceeded my own abilities, and came close. It served me more than him as at that point I knew he was proud of me—his son.
Pop, I love you and miss you already.
It was cool that you let my cousins and me finish that last sip of Shaefer beer from the can. It was funny when you set us up by telling us the hottest pepper was mild. It was smart, bribing me to get good grades with five dollars for every A. It was awesome to have you with my teammates and me as we played in baseball tournaments across the states. Most of all, it was inspiring how you gave all you had to give to people who deserved it and some who didn’t.
I’m proud to say, “That was my pop.”