My dad died Friday afternoon. Exactly 27 days after my mom passed, my dad left to be with her.
Just like with my mom, this was not a surprise (it would have been a surprise in 2017, for both of them, but not in 2019). My dad spent seven days at home after my mom's death. The rest of his time was in the hospital or at a hospice home. Caring for his wife of 54 years with ALS took a lot out of him and my dad was masking quite a few illnesses while he looked out for mom, including metastasized cancer and heart issues. Also, it was very clear, my dad didn't want to be on this earth without mom.
I'm doing OK. The shock passed quite a while ago, long before Friday. I was simply pleased we could find an excellent place that would care for him in the most ideal way possible. It was so much more peaceful than a nursing home or hospital bleeding you dry. We are fortunate.
But it's not easy to shake that feeling of being orphaned, even though I'm long past childhood. Losing both parents in a month's time will do that. "OK, I'm in charge now," was the prevailing thought, followed by "I'm not ready."
My dad was an interesting character. He raised three boys and all three of us would say we could not figure him out. He was a good dad and raised us well. We all received our senses of humor from him and I could always bond with him through wry quips and observations. My dad also liked silliness, just like me. But he was also gruff and complained loudly about injustices in the world and was not afraid to bark at anyone and everyone. He loved being in charge, thrived off of it. Many people enjoyed my father's outgoing nature, and as my mom said way back, "your dad is not a stuffed shirt." But he also wanted things handled in specific ways and woe to those who didn't follow the rules, whether it be sales people, employees or his own kids. My dad used his car horn more than everyone I've known in my life combined. His patience was in the negative numbers. And there were moods. Oh, the moods.
That said, I grew up in a loving family with two loving parents who knew how to raise kids who would raise their own loving families as well as hold down jobs and be successful contributors to society. It's the reason I took so many trips home to help care for them. In the last year I have heard so many stories about kids who ignored their ailing parents. I could never do that to my folks.
My dad liked southern gospel and classical music and westerns on TV. The very last thing I did with my dad was watch an episode of "Gunsmoke" in his hospice room ("Muley," 1967). To a lesser extent, my dad liked baseball and football. His favorite teams were the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants. He was never as avid a sports fan as his three boys and he progressively cared less and less through the years.
But my dad would play catch with us out in the backyard when we were young. He was one of our youth baseball coaches for a couple of years. Even when we were older, I remember a couple of times when Dad and all three of us would go to the nearby high school field and my dad would hit fungoes.
I've mentioned several times on this blog that my dad collected baseball cards as a kid (probably in the late 1940s) and that his mom threw them out. His favorite player was Ted Williams. So I won't repeat myself too much, here is a post that sums up his fandom.
This is the last Ted Williams card I pulled prior to my dad's passing. It's from last year's Topps Update. It's kind of an odd photo as Williams is shown shaking hands with a Yankee (the card is about Williams' performance in the 1941 All-Star Game).
Modern cards of Williams are rather weird and especially when I'm thinking of my dad and him collecting cards. That previous post that I linked also mentions that I wanted to find some playing days Williams cards to honor my dad and I am grateful that I was able to land one a year-and-half before he passed.
I have my eyes on a couple more right now because it's the best baseball-card way I know to pay tribute to my father, although it's a bit of a shame that it took his passing to spur me into action.
When I reflect on my parents, I know that I take after my mom more than my dad. My creativity streak comes from my mom. My demeanor and my introverted personality do as well. I look more like my mom, everyone says.
I get my love of music from my dad as well as my sense of humor but maybe not much else. He could build anything. I can't. He fixed cars. He ran the neighborhood. People gravitated toward him sometimes even while he was yelling at them. He commanded respect.
As they say, at the end of your parents' lives, you find out things about them that you never knew. I certainly did with my dad. Not only did I discover much more about his military career (he served in the Air Force) but I gained insight into why he behaved the way he did for so many years.
And that made me accept the way he was instead of recoiling these final months. It was tough for any of us to get close to my dad, but those last couple weeks with him were probably as close as we've ever been, as he lay in his bed and discussed the diners he had been to with mom and the best route to get there. I mentioned that my second article for Beckett was in bookstores and, never one to show his boys how proud he was of them, he smiled and nodded.
Yeah, I won't miss the yelling but I will miss my dad. He did things the way he thought best and the main reason was because he wanted us to have the best.
I will do the same. In my own way. It's my turn. I think I'm ready.