March 8th, 1940 – March 11th, 2008
How do you sum up your Dad in a blog? I loved my dad fiercely. When my mother was found unfit to raise me and my two sisters, Dad became mother and father. To say he did the best he could is a gross understatement and too trite. He ran his own business and still found time to teach us right from wrong and good from bad. And he made it fun. I remember the games we used to play – they were sold as fun, but they were actually educational. We never knew.
Dad taught me guitar. He never forced me to play. All he did was sit on the porch with his guitar. All the neighborhood kids would come around to listen and sing along. On more than one occasion, a friend of mine would say, “Why can’t you be cool like your dad?” Did I really have a choice but to learn to play?
Dad was a poker player – a lifetime winner, in fact. He didn’t teach me to play, but he taught me that winning spirit. He taught me to look beyond the game – something I’m still struggling with.
Dad rode motorcycles. In fact, both he and his dad were accomplished poker players and motorcycle riders. I am simply a continuation.
Dad was amazing at reinventing himself. After 26 years of running his own business, he set out for Florida and worked his way up with Home Depot. Two heart attacks and the loss of his vision would have crippled most mortals. Not Dad. He returned to an old passion – writing. After the first novel was completed, A Matter of Privacy, he combined his writing with another old talent – public speaking. He quickly found an agent and was soon booked all over the world – mostly on cruise ships. In the middle of all of this, he completed his second novel, The Coffee Bug, and was working on the screenplay for his first novel. I’m sure I made him proud with all my accomplishments in medicine and the Army, but he made me just as proud.
Dad died suddenly on the day I was supposed to leave Iraq. Of course, my family was first in my thoughts when I dreamed of the day I came home, but right behind were thoughts of hugging Dad. I’ll never get that opportunity, and frankly I’m a little angry about it. It’s not fair.
Dad’s memorial service was bigger than I could have imagined. With only 3 days notice, people came from everywhere. I think there were over 100 people in the small hall. There were even more calls and emails. Everyone who knew Dad loved him.
I was first to speak. My emotions were all over the place as I told the crowd about this great man who I had the incredible fortune to know for my entire life. I had the impression people were actually jealous that I had an all-access pass.
I started by briefly talking about the end. I told them that all endings are brutal. Being a physician and having just come from Iraq, I spoke with authority on this subject. I implored them not to think of the end, but instead to think of the great life he lived. They all agreed.
I left them with my signature quote, which has never applied more than now. I said, “Throughout your life, may you know how good you’ve got it while you’re getting it.”
Dad, I know how good I had it. I told you (and everyone else) all the time. I hope you found peace.
Edit: After reading this over, it sounds a little morbid. That wasn’t Dad. Dad had the best sense of humor you ever saw. If you believe in the afterlife, let me leave you with this. His love Judy, along with his daughters and his sister Pearl went to throw Dad’s ashes into the Atlantic Ocean. I guess they waded in just a little too far - a rogue wave came and knocked his sister right down! As soon as they realized Pearl wasn’t going to drown, they all were laughing uncontrollably. I’m certain of it – that was no rogue wave. Thanks for getting the last laugh, Dad. That’s how I want to remember you.