January 31st, 2010
“I have waited so long for my ship to come in, finally now that it has, I hope my pier doesn’t collapse!”
My childhood was noisy. There were four of us kids first of all, and secondly, my dad was a loud, boisterous, emotional man. When he was home, which wasn’t all that often because he was a traveling video game salesmen, he was bigger than life. With his deep voice, penchant for joke telling, and love for football (a vociferous love), you could hear him a mile away.
I most remember him laughing. Our house was usually full of people coming around for an impromptu party and so I grew comfortable with the cacaphony of glasses clinking and story telling. My dad included everyone in his big love of life. He was a back clapper, hand holder and eye looker inner. His personal mission was to draw out the quiet one and get them to talk.
My dad made everyone better, more sparkly and more interesting.
I’m speaking about him as if he were no longer around, but he is alive and wellish, living about three hours from me. It’s just that he’s getting older and as I see him wind down, I found myself contrasting his younger self with the aging man he’s becoming.
I know this happens. It’s particularly difficult when the aging one is someone you love, someone you remember in younger days when it seemed they’d be around forever. The day you realize that that thought is folly is a hard day indeed. At my brother’s wedding last year, my dad woke up two nights in a row unable to move his legs. The paralysis lasted about 40 minutes and he was terrified. I’ve never seen my dad terrified. He has any number of ailments – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – and continues to live life like he were 25. When we ask him about the doctor, he brushes it off and makes some kind of joke.
Not so this time.
He was worried.
Each of us kids suddenly understood my dad wasn’t going to be around forever.
Each of us in our way imagined our lives without hearing him yell at the Cowboys, tell an inappropriate dirty joke, or issue his trademark line, “Don’t fuck with a falcon or you’ll get a fistful of feathers.”
Turns out that his temporary leg paralysis was provoked by a pinched nerve, which is turn was induced by a deteriorating disc, which had been caused by an old neck injury my dad sustained in a horrible car crash when he was in the Navy.
Pretty sure I can imagine why the car full of partying Navy corpsmen crashed.
That’s right. My dad’s not perfect. In fact, he’s really, really imperfect. He does a little too much of everything that’s bad for you, but Lord he has fun doing it. We often speculate that my dad is still alive because he simply refuses to be laid low. His positive mindset keeps him going. I’m sure of it.
That mindset extends to people. He trusts, almost blindly, and gives the shirt off his back. Sometimes literally. A lifetime of trust hasn’t always worked out for him. He’s the hardest-working man I know, and at nearly 73, he still works 8-hour days. Many people took advantage of my dad’s trust over the years. In fact, about 8 years ago, my dad lost his entire 401K savings and almost every asset he’d ever accumulated.
But now, that area of his life may be turning around. I hope he’s learned to get agreements in writing, to proceed carefully, to trust responsibly. But I don’t think that’s my dad. Still, he deserves some reward for a life where he put others first so much of the time. He’s always lived life to the fullest and perhaps selfishly, I want him to be able to do that for a little while longer.