Thursday, June 14, 2007

NPR - Fathers

I can only speak for my father, who passed away November 1994 three days after his 75th birthday. I had long left the home - in fact he told me to leave when I was 19 years old and was suspended from the College of Engineering at the University of Denver and the Army was sending me letters about my eligibility for the upcoming draft lottery for 1969 - and didn't attend his birthday party because I was living a three hour plane flight away from the only home he and Mom bought in 1964 when he retired from the US Air Force. He had three goals late in his life, pay off the mortage to the house, celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary, and see the dawn of his 75th birthday.

After making the last goal of his life he went to bed that night and didn't get up again. He died quietly in his sleep three days later, his heart just quit, even after having a quintuple heart bypass at 73 which the doctors didn't recommend but couldn't refuse for whatever reasons they had at the time. I last saw him a year after the surgery and a year before he passed away, and to this day I never understood why he had the surgery. He had long given up on life when Greg, my older brother and his oldest son, died suddenly three years earlier at the age of 47.

My Dad rarely spoke to his two sons, especially me as the youngest and the last of their three children, just a year younger than my sister. You see we both had similar history's in our youth with our fathers. And in the directions in life we take, he left home at 19 to join the Army in September 1940. He went on to the US Air Force when it was established and a career where we followed as the family of an officer. Anyone who was raised a service brat knows the tune and tone of being in one of these familes.

And my point? Well, my father had an interesting life. He saw a lot of the world in the service, but sadly he never shared it with us kids. And even in retirement he rarely talked to us let alone spend time with us. He spent time with his friends from his time in the service, his later career in public service, and friends he met after retiring. And he rarely spoke to his grandkids, all of whom would have loved to know him and hear about his life. It's a sadness of some people who don't see and realize that not sharing your life with others but especially the family, everyone loses.

Even my Mom discovered another side of his life after his death. While cleaning out his desk, she opened a locked drawer to find it full of letters, cards, and a lot of loans to friends over the years. She guessed Dad never asked to be repaid and probably never did see the money again. She just sat there wondering how this man could have neglected her and their children without a word, the man she thought she knew. She loved him, and was realistic about him over the years of their marriage, but this hurt.

And all the while Dad could have had a better life by being a Dad to us kids, he never did. It took me many years to see the reality of him and his life, and then to see him not as my Dad but as a man, who lived with his demons. While he was my father, he was never my dad. We both lost, he for not knowing his sons, and me for not knowing a father and a dad. And it's why I wrote this, for in his absence in life and death, he still is there with me.

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