Wednesday, December 1, 2010


He died 23 years and a few months shy of 80. When he celebrated his last birthday, his 56th, the brain tumor was likely growing already. When he celebrated his last Christmas in 1986, it was surely there but had yet to cause the headaches. The headaches would start shortly after the new year and they would become quite crippling until, finally, the powers-that-be that administer military health care would finally permit the retiree to go to a non-military hospital for a CAT scan.

In less than four months of being diagnosed with the brain tumor, enduring two surgeries and a round of radiation, he died. He died on the floor where he had been resting, slipping first into a coma. My stepmother waited a long while to call the ambulance. She hushed her son to not awaken the sleeping stepfather and had him go to the drugstore to refill prescriptions. Then she called for the ambulance, and she made them call his doctor when they made moves to revive him.

Today he would have turned 80. And while at the time of his death and amid the sustained grief of the first year I would never have admitted it, it was for the best that he died at 56. The emotional pain he had experienced for a decade and the havoc that rained down on everyone near him would have continued. He loved fiercely, but he didn't love the one he was with. He loved his life before that day in April 1977 that my mother asked for a divorce, seemingly from out of the blue. He pined for the structure that had been his life up until that point. He pined for utter control. He pined for a life envied by others. He pined for the obedience of his children. He pined for a time when blackness didn't grip him, body, heart and soul.

Oh, the tales I could spin of that 10-year period!

I loved my father. He loved me. There are moments of my childhood, snippets, really, which I can conjure up to show you evidence of that love. There are not really any moments of my teen years that I could put forth to show any of that. We did eventually have love again, and by the time he died, I had experienced enough reciprocal love with my father to offset the pure hatred and blacker emotions.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you. I think of you often, never more so than when I am singing silly songs embarrassingly loud to my children. I thank you for that. And for the dark hair with very little gray. And for my mathematical, analytical mind. But I don't think I'll thank you for my temper or the infamous propensity to sweat.


Anonymous said...

patricia, this is nice. your father is saying, thank you. i just know it.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Great post, darlin'. And I understand. Completely.

Anonymous said...

Knew you would write something special on this day. Great job as always, Sis. Love to you and yours, Steve


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