Many here will not know who wrote this, but some will, and IMO it is as good a post you'll ever find in cyberspace.
From the evil OBR boards, fatdad like us was a Browns fan and a regular who frequented their political rant board. He passed away in 2006 IIRC.
This is good b/c it is real.
It has been an incredibly emotional several weeks for me.
I last posted here on Father's Day, June 19th. So much has happened between then and now that I'm still in a state of emotional overload.
Early morning, the day after Father's Day my wife and the mother of my two children showed up at my door with a suitcase and a great big smile. She had come home after a seperation of close to an entire year without saying anything to me so she could surprise the kids and I. (Or maybe to catch me screwing up.)
My wife didn't leave the kids and I last August because it was something either of us wanted. We'd been getting along great. We always have.
She left to protect us.
The fatwife (don't ever tell her I said that) had been informed late last summer that the cancer we thought she had beaten earlier that year was back, and had spread, and that she was going to have to go through another long bout of treatment. I say another because she, we, had already gone through a long, hard fought suffering ordeal of watching modern medicine walk that tightrope that their so-called "cure" will kill the cancer invading my wife's body before the 'cure', just deadly poisons really, or before the disease itself kills her body first.
(before I continue i want to thank you motley mother ******* for being my surrogate family for the past few years. I don't know if I'd have been as capable of keeping my kids, and myself smiling without the friendship, support and daily doses of rectal or cranial pain I took from people like Kronus, AJ, Opt, Bone, EJ, Pol, DoW ... Thank you, all.)
Watching the woman you love shrink down to 65 pounds and begin talking as if death would be a welcome visitor is enough to humble, and then crumble anyone.
Even harder, there is no worse feeling in the world than to watch the light in your childrens eyes begin to fade and go dull. To have to lie to your once magically silly sprite of a seven year old daughter when she asks you "daddy, is Mommy going to die." How the **** do you answer something like that? My strong, brave, loving wife had decided, on her own, to spare her kids, and her husband that pain by leaving us. In all probability, quite realistically to die alone. After a day of crying, then bargaining, I gave in. I had no choice. She's a lot smarter and stronger than I am about so many things.
When we were given the news last summer that she was gravely ill -- again -- well, after a few days of cursing God, my wife made the bravest, most spiritually generous decision and sacrifice I've ever seen. She told me that she wasn't going to put the kids through another year or two of hospitals. She refused to subject her family to the daily watching her shrink away and worrying that one night the phone would ring telling us that she had died. She had decided that she would return home to live with her mother, and go through those torturous treatments again. This time alone. How hard it had to be for her to leave her kids, faced with the fact she may never see them again. That is a sacrifice I know I wouldn't want to face.
At Christmas time we thought she wasn't going to make it. I was preparing myself to remain a single father for the long haul. You guys may find this odd, given our board personaes, but the only person I confided this with was Yipiciya. --Yip, thanks for your kindness and words of support back then. And for your discretion throughout in keeping your promise and not telling anyone else. I am in your debt. Even if you are a crazy ass fascist Republican. I hope and pray all is well with you and yours.
Ever sat alone at night and cried? I have a lot lately. Tears of anger. Tears of fear. Tears of sympathy.
Two weeks ago I was rewarded with tears of long overdue reunion and joy. And of relief.
My wife, my best friend is finally home. She's healthy. And my kids, and I are becoming whole again. We can all begin building a life together again.
And, in the way only true loves and best friends can, we are as comfortable together as ever. Better, really. Sacrifice brings newfound respect for the little things you tend to overlook. And, isn't it the little things and how you approach them in the everyday here and now which truly matter? I think so. I couldn't remember when I'd ever been happier.
aside: Well, fatwife is healthy and she's home. For those of you who don't think the American system of health care needs a massive overhaul, well, you are totally wrong. This thing has cost me 50 times what it should have cost. Our system, a government mandated monopoly is seriously gouging sick Americans and their families for exorbitant profit. The insurance companies fought paying for my wife's treatments, tooth and nail, until I agreed to pay for amny of them out of pocket. I can go on but not in this thread. That's for another rant.
Looking back at that day, this past Father's Day I'd also just come from visiting my father in the hospital where he was getting knee replacement surgery. At 69, my dad is, and always has been my hero. He's a poor boy who's now a self made millionaire many times over. This year he'd finally decided to retire.
The Friday before Father's Day, June 17th, was also my birthday, and my dads youngest son, my eight year old little half-brother's birthday, too. Dad keeps himself busy.
June seventeenth was also pop's official last day of work. He was going to sell his business and property and take off into the sunset. But not until he could be fully functional. Years of walking and kneeling on concrete had destroyed both of his knees. He planned to have them replaced. Both knees at once. Titanium or stainless steel knees, I forget which.
He described the surgery as using a hammer, saw, and chisel just like you would on stone to carve out all of the bone from the knee from the legbones. One knee would have been painful. Leave it to the old man to rush it and go for both at once.
I told my mom, who's been divorced from dad for over 30 years about the old man's condition and upcoming surgery. She told me to tell him how well a cousin of our's grandkid, Sonny, who'd lost both legs from the knee down in Iraq was doing with his new legs. Mom was truly concerned and wanted to comfort her former husband. She made me promise to tell him not to worry.
My mom and dad are both funny human beings. They've probably only spoken to each other twice in the past ten years. They haven't once laid eyes on each other in over thirty years. Yet you can see the look in each of their eyes when one or the other gets a chance to have me or my sister deliver a message between them that shouts how much they still care for each other. I obviously came by my stubborness and hardheadedness and passion honestly.
For the last five years my old man has been working on a custom built boat. A dream craft, hand crafted by a well known family, a father and son, of North Carolina boat builders. A family who have been turning out boats since the 1700's. They only build and put their name on one boat, or less, in a single year. Dad's project took nearly five years. It burned twice. Acts of God. God is such a practical joker.
The old man drove 5 hours each way to work on his boat for five years of weekends. Every detail was thought out. Finally it was finished. He'd finally retire.
Well, the boat had her last few glitches ironed out by late May, early June of this year. Close. The old man was within weeks of realizing his life's dream of living on his boat and getting to spend the first years of his retirement living on this 60 foot work of art and bouncing from one Caribbean island to the next. Only one last thing to do. ...He had to have his knees, which had been damaged by 50 years of hard work, replaced. He wanted to be able to stand on the flydeck with his woman and eight year old son all day; chasing tuna and mixing boat drinks.
Dad wasn't afraid of the pain. And they told him it was going to be some seriously horrific pain. He hated being immobile and not being able to work far more than a little pain.
More importantly, the boat he had designed and overseen the construction of was finished and he was finally going to retire, sell off his assets and live on that teak and mahogany, dual Detroit diesel masterpiece for the next few years. No pain would get in the way of his life's dream. It was oh, so close.
He told me, "Son, all I want is to be able to live on my boat in the Caribbean for one year. Then I can die a happy man." He sounded like he was bargaining. He looked like he felt that it would never happen. But hell, my old man's healthy as a horse. He worked hard labor every day in the hot Carolina sun. He drank until after midnight every day of his life and never missed a single day of work in over 50 years, always rising and planning his day just before the sun came up. I told him, "dad, you're gonna live to 90 and die giving a 40 year old woman a screaming orgasm." Thing is, I truly believed that about the man. The light that burned in him was that bright. He was truly that remarkable.
Fatwife and I still laugh at how pop's young trophy bride would always complain to my wife that the old satyr wanted sex every morning before sunrise. Sometimes twice a day. Sans vitamins or viagra. Every day. A mythical beast, my father. Women loved him, and men wanted to be his friend. He ate red meat and drank hard liquor. He took spiritual joy from working with his hands and wasn't happy unless he was busy either partying, working or *******.
My father was one of those rare people who live life completely without fear. He didn't fear failure -- he simply refused to fail. He wasn't afraid of losing because he believed that as long as he could honestly say that he had done his best that only good could come from the effort.
My father also never feared God. He once told me that he didn't believe in an afterlife -- that there was no Heaven or Hell. He said that, "this is it, son: here and now, and what you do with the time you have, and how you live it is all you'll ever really have. All that really matters."
I remember thinking that the thought of living a life without the comfort of a belief in an afterlife was a burden most of us could never shoulder. For so many people, it is the fear of death which drives us. For my father, it was never the fear of death, but the love of life, and a profound, ever-permeating sense of it's transience which continued to move him forward. He knew life was short and because of that lived harder than any man I've ever known.
My father spent his entire life living in the moment and enjoying everything he did to the fullest. He'd named his boat "Got One" partly, he said, because his little boy used to scream out everytime he got a bite, "Do you got one, daddy?" But I also think he meant it as a sort of iprivate message to himself reminding him to look at what this skinny young rebel who's mother had left him on his grandmothers doorstep at nine and was shipped to Cleveland without two nickels to rub together, to remind him that he had Got One, too. Got One on his own.
My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly last Friday. It shocked everyone who knew him. The funeral director, and a longtime friend's voice actually cracked when said to me, "you just don't expect Superman to die."
His death shocked his doctors. In his last moments he had walked --yeah, he was walking after double knee replacements 48 hours after the surgery.
He spent his last day in a chair looking at his boat dreaming of pink sands, big tuna, and clear water. Then he walked from the dock he'd built in his backyard to shelter his boat to the front of his house.
And then he just collapsed.
A neighbor, Danny Sawyer, saw him fall and ran to him. My father's last words were, "don't worry, Danny, Death isn't that bad." And then he closed his eyes. What great last words. Cool mother ******, my pop, right down to his last moment. Goddam, GODDAM, I'm really going to miss him.
And I'm angry at God for not giving him at least some time to have those boat drinks on that boat he'd worked so hard on, and which meant and represented so much to him. And, I guess, was what ultimately, indirectly, at least, had killed him.
In the last photograph of my father, taken just ten minutes before he passed away, he is smiling, sitting in the sun, and giving the camera, or maybe giving all of us who loved and admired him, the thumbs up. That wicked, sensitive, intelligent and beautifully knowing smile of his makes me wonder if he knew his time was done. He doesn't look ill, or unhappy, but seems as if he is telling us all not to worry or cry, that he's fine, and everything will be okay. That "...Death isn't that bad."
Dad was a self made millionaire. As a young businessman in Cleveland in the sixties and early seventies, he had battled the union thugs to a draw and was the only non-union large concrete company to still get big contracts and the dago's begrudgingly left him alone out of simple respect for his work, and his balls. That says something still. I still remember him going to work every day with a sawed off shotgun on the front seat, refusing to give in to the hoods in black caddies. He was shot twice in the back by a Cleveland cop. He was back on the job five days later.
He was a pilot. He built bridges and skyscrapers. Racetracks and waterparks were specialties of his, especially racetracks. When NASCAR's top engineers couldn't figure out how to get a concrete track done to spec, they flew the old man in and he'd school the PHD's. He once told a young engineer that if he didn't shut up he'd pour him a concrete hat. I beleive he could've, and could have made it fit, too.
He designed and built the 6400 sq ft waterfront home in which he lived. One of the most beautiful, yet comfortable homes I've ever stayed in. He built it around his joy of entertaining his family and friends.
He was a gourmet cook and loved to feed people. A gracious host. A grandfather. A father. A fisherman.
His parties are still stuff of legend.
He didn't miss a single day of work due to illness in 50 years. He also probably never missed a day of having a drink over that same span.
He genuinely and deeply loved women, all women, and women somehow sensed this and responded to it. If Hugh Hefner had ever seen the old man in action he'd have asked for pointers. No ****. The old boy has been on more beautiful women than makeup and to a count, they all remain friends and would still visit him regularly.
Pop was neither Republican nor Democrat. Conservative nor liberal. He judged all people and all situations individually.
He built over a dozen basketball courts in poorer areas without saying anything to anyone. He just knock his crew off early, take them to some small, black churchyard, or some white trash trailer park and then he'd quietly build the kids a perfect, concrete, regulation sized basketball court. Then he'd leave without saying a word to anyone. Once in a while you'd see him sitting in his truck, watching the kids play ball. Guess that was recognition and reward enough.
He'd let his hair grow since starting to build his boat some five year a ago. And in the last months he began to look like a Goddamn pirate or a biker. A pirate? Hmmmm.
And, at 69 years old, dad still didn't have more than a few grey hairs in his head. Probably could have passed for a man in his early fifties. Til the day he died he worked as hard as any young man. And partied as hard as one, too.
My father's death will probably make me a wealthy man. But nowhere near as wealthy as the example of how he lived his life has taught me to live mine: Fearlessly, in the moment, and always without anger or regret.
But I do regret-- I'd gladly give every nickel of my inheritance, his legacy, to charity for the opportunity to spend just a few more hours with my dad. Think of all the BBall courts we could quietly build. I regret not having the chance to say all of the things I wished I'd said.
And I am angry. I am angry with God for being such a cruel joker.
I want one last chuckle and a final hug from my father. Maybe some 'boat drinks.'
I would gladly have given my old man both my knees if it would have given him the chance to take that last adventure on the boat that he'd worked so hard and took so long to build. It took him a lifetime, literally.
I hope the God he said he didn't believe in has a boatyard for the old man to tinker in so he can finish what he's started the way he finished everything else in his life. He earned it.