My father died yesterday.What I wrote for his birthday last month (below)
remains accurate. The official Obituary skims his life, leaving out what is most real. Of course I have fond memories, mostly of his life before 1970 when I graduated from college and Dad moved on to his second wife. As she once said, "Marriage is the triumph of habit over hate." Quite forgotten, it seems, are their early days together, he turning his historic law office and house into an art gallery, going to art shows, making her conversion from English teacher to artist complete. Now all that is left for his second wife is the ample Air Force retirement check she will have the rest of her life.
Going to his final funeral service and to the military salute that will honor him means little to me. I think my father dies with only one person truly loving him and missing him, my good brother, John. For me, there are memories of travels together when I was a child, of playing chess, or bowling, of some letters we wrote, some of which I still have, while I was in college, graduate school, and living in the carriage house attached to his office. We had some good times; but he remained a mystery to me. His childhood as the son of a Jewish father, that he found out was not his biological father, his ambiguous religious feelings, his affairs and love life, his politics and love of the military remain unknown. He was always secretive and capable of telling lies, sometimes based on his prudishness. I do recall fondly his love of Stravinsky and his reading of Schopenhauer. It is sad how much he loved, and was so little loved in return.
94 -- But Not Counting (Dec. 10, 2015)
"To sleep, perchance to dream"
end of summer smile
shades made for the afterlife
fists pep pop tabletop
Today is my father's 94th Birthday.
To celebrate in Savannah my brother is taking Dad for ice cream and a look at the nearby lake. Dad has no idea it is his birthday. My brother goes over each Saturday to persuade him to leave the bed and go for an afternoon outing that usually involves fast food ice cream.
It would be nice to say his life is comfortable. It would be nice to say he is well cared for. After all, has he not lived to the very ripe age of 94? Without home care. Without a bath or shower. Without food except for nutritious "shakes." Or, as my brother reports, gobbling up everything on his plate for Thanksgiving when there was real food to eat. Like Rip Van Winkle, he spends long hours in slumber; only he will not awake to a wondrous future.
Not that I have room to complain about his being ignored and left uncared for. He and I have no relationship any longer to speak of. I see him on Saturdays on my I-Pad and he tells me to shave. Today, he was rather lively, saying he had peach ice cream and repeatedly surprised to hear it's his birthday.
Dad's quips include still the desire to chase after girls. Sometimes he sings for the I-pad.
The military man, the retired colonel is gone. So too the Savannah lawyer. He still mentions Kathy's name with love and devotion. But much as we might think, or wish, he does not see the world through rose colored glasses. He is a shade wearing shades. He has become the archetype of countless aged souls who are left to fade away, those around him daily expecting him to die, leaving him seldom washed (unless he can manage to shower himself), without medicine of any kind to help him, or anyone to encourage some minutes of exercise.
Yes, I feel sad for the old man I long, long ago played chess with. He is gone. And yet, he lives. How I love the irony of the photo of him and his umbrella with Munch's Scream.
Dad has been most often the stoic, screaming only in irrational anger, never-- that I recall-- in pain or anguish. His smile has always included his defiance.