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 we 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 in Belle Glade 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. My sister and brother in law lived close and made it there in time so he didn't die alone, and I know it would have been hard, 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 all of the time when I need your help and am asking myself, WWDD (What Would Dad Do?); I can't believe you've been gone nearly 30 years...but i know I will see you again someday. God bless you and keep you until then.