Today my dad would have turned 75. That sounds old. But he didn’t look old to me. Not until I saw him, sitting at the edge of his bed, weak, frail, drooling water down his chin did I see him as even possibly old. Never mind even capable of dying. It wasn’t until he lay in that bed, his laboured breathing gurgling digested blood from a stomach eating away at itself, that I thought, he may actually die. I was so dense, some health care provider I was or am to not even see how close he was. How I sat literally, on deaths door step with him those last hours. I had no clue. At least consciously.
He wore a suit everyday. He built a company from scratch with my mother and a friend. He grew a garden I saw as more trouble than worth, but I never turned down a bouquet of Brown Eyed Susan’s or tulips. I listened to him antagonize my mother about how much butter she put on her bread, or how much syrup she put on her pancakes. And I watched him worry when she went through chemo and surgery for her cancers.
We all dealt with his antagonism to some degree, he would press me about my swearing when I went to Bible College, asking me what my profs would think. He would get frustrated with my second oldest, when he’d cry or whine. He pushed our buttons, and sometimes…that was just the right thing to do.
“Why don’t we just let the president be the president forever?” I asked him as an 8 year old child. “What is pragmatism dad?” I asked him as an 18 year old. “What happens to the words, to inspiration if you don’t have a place to express it dad?” I asked him as a 40 year old woman.
He may have pushed buttons, but he always made me ask questions, and then helped me to explore some of those answers.
He sat through piano lessons with my oldest, took his grandkids for walks through the same woods as he took me as a child. He even took them to McDonalds despite an enormous amount of complaining about how crappy the food was.
He was a failure in a 100 ways and a success in another 100 more. But he was never old. Just a pain in the ass. And I think I may take after him. This worries me a little to be honest. Except for the part that he was good with words, knew how to speak with people (that weren’t family members anyways) and mediated some very difficult problems through his work in public relations. I hope I take after him in some of those ways anyways. And not just the antagonist parts.
No matter what though, I will never remember my dad as being old. He was a bunch of things but never that. At least not until the day he died.