my dad passed away fifteen years ago today...he was just sixty-five, but the damage done to his lungs from the smoking habit he picked up as a boy in wwll had him tethered to an oxygen generating machine and he was unable to leave his house for the last year of his life, even though he kicked the habit cold-turkey years before.
he was divorced and lived alone, so his five children took turns in that final year spending the night with him, preparing his middle of the night breathing treatment, trying to make him comfortable, and getting to know him better than they had during all those years he worked so hard to raise us and teach us.
he wasn't a perfect man, or a perfect father, and he would spend some of his talks with us as we took our nightly turns, apologizing for what he thought were his failings...i'm glad i was able to tell him this: there was never a day in my life, and believe me when i say i was an imperfect son, that i had any inkling of doubt of his love and devotion to me, or that he would give up his life for me in an instant. that to me is the very definition of success as a father, and i told him that if i could just leave my own three children with that knowledge, and the love and peace and security that it imbues, then i will consider myself a success.
it was my turn to take care of him the night that he died, and i was on the way from my sebring home to his by lake okeechobee, about a two hour drive, when a spell of difficult breathing caused his heart to overwork and give out...that was before everyone had cell phones, so my brothers and sisters waited for me at his house to give me the news, and even though we knew it would happen eventually, when it did it felt like being slammed in the chest by a truck; i know it would have been hard to watch, but i wish i could have been there when he left us.
i love you, Dad...i think of you, feel you in my heart, and hear you in my mind nearly every day; i can't believe you've been gone fifteen years...but i know i will see you again someday. God bless you and keep you until then.