My dad died last January after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was a pretty special person in my life, although, we were not particularly close. In my family, we are surface relationship people, not really delving into the dark depths of familial relationships. That is how it was with my dad, and most of my other relatives too, but that is another story altogether.
When my dad was still able to have a lucid conversation, we talked about casual things such as sports, movies, vacations and music. Not about deep topics that really matter in the scheme of things. If we tried to discuss government, politics, religion, or feelings, for example, it was difficult to keep it respectful as we had wildly opposing views. For whatever reason, we just didn’t have that curiosity back then as to what each other really thought or felt.
My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s around the age of 45. Most of my best memories of him are only until about then, even though he was almost 66 when he died. After he was diagnosed, it literally consumed his life. Between the doctor’s appointments, medications, mobility issues, and a host of other things related to his disease, we didn’t get to just sit down and talk a lot after that. Sometimes I get sad thinking about that lost time. Over 20 years. Time when we could have been able to discuss topics that really matter, as I was mature enough, and patient enough to do so. Time to really get to know each other as adults, and maybe finally share our thoughts and feelings.
The reason he was so special to me, is that some of my best childhood memories involve him. Conversely, some of my most emotionally scarring memories involve my mother. My dad played softball, and taught me to play when I was four. We went to most of his games, and he was always the guy cheering on his teammates with the best phrases, “Go get ‘em guy!” One game, it started to rain, and we saw lightning looming on the horizon. The umpire didn’t want to call the game, but my dad and his team didn’t want to play in the dangerous lightning. My dad’s solution? In the nicest way possible, asking the umpire to hold a metal rake over his head while he was up to bat. That game got called a few minutes later.
My dad wrote me one letter in my life. He was not especially articulate or creative. He worked as a mechanical engineer his whole career, but that letter meant more to me than he ever knew. The letter was written on a yellow, lined legal pad with mechanical pencil, and his handwriting was precisely printed capital letters. Somehow he managed to fill both sides of that paper with anecdotes about what was transpiring at home and at his job while I was away at college. He even ended it with a drawing of a rocking chair and a joke about getting old. This was only about four years or so before he was diagnosed.
I miss my dad, and I’m grateful for the life lessons he taught me. He rarely raised his voice or got upset, so when he did, we knew it was serious. He was fair, unassuming, mild mannered, hilarious in his own way, and just a really nice guy who would frequently go out of his way to help others. Oh, he had his faults, and my mother never failed to point them out. Loudly. That may be why I was blind to his faults for the most part. He was my special dad. I knew he was the only person who loved me unconditionally, and that was all that really mattered.