On April 3rd it’ll be twenty-one years since my dad passed away. I still think about him often, especially when I wonder whether I’m living the life he wanted for me. I suspect I’m not. He’d want me happily married with kids. Not so much because that’s what people “ought to do” but because family was so central to who he was that I don’t think he could imagine a life without a spouse and kids. I also suspect he’d be sad that I never found religion the way he did. He was a deeply devout man despite the many trials life threw at him. I’m not religious although I’ve known and respected too many religious people to just dismiss it out of hand.
Despite all that I think he’d be incredibly proud of me and supportive of me, because he always was. He was one of those fathers who loved his children unconditionally. He wanted things for us–like a college degree–but he would’ve loved and supported us no matter what choices we made. Even bad ones. He wasn’t immune to poor choices himself and, when younger, had been through his share of bad moments.
I miss him to this day. That’s the power of a good parent. They stay with you and mold your life forever no matter how far away they are. (I suspect maybe that’s the power of any parent, actually. Good or bad. Thankfully, I had a good one.)
A few years back my brother gave me a picture book he’d put together about our dad called “The Greatest Man I Ever Knew”. And it’s true. He is the greatest man I ever knew. I’ve mentioned it before, but no harm in saying it again. He was terminally ill. He had to dialyze three times a week for four-plus hours at a time. He lost part of a lung to a failed kidney transplant. He had to have two spinal fusions and any number of other surgeries over the years.
And yet, he was a kind man. Loving. Compassionate. Willing to help out others even when he had almost nothing to give (financially or physically). He coached my brother’s sports teams and was at almost every one of my games or debate competitions. He came home at 10:30 at night from a long day of work followed by dialysis and he sat at the dinner table and ate dinner with me and we played chess. Because, despite all life had thrown at him he was a generous, giving man who never showed bitterness at his lot in life.
I try to remember that example when I look at my own life of comparative leisure. If he could be so kind, so helping, so positive, I think so can I.
It’s not easy. I often wonder if his illness wasn’t a sort of balancing factor for him. He was a man with a genius-level IQ, but I think so much of his energy was put towards managing his sickness that maybe it helped tether him to the here and now in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if he’d been fully well.
I miss him. Today and always.
In his memory, I’ve put the short story, The Price We Pay, up for free for a few days. The main character in that story is my dad. Or a version of him at least that might’ve existed in a world where people are made to prove their worth to receive medical care.