Last week, I said goodbye to my father for the last time.
100% true to form, he was cracking wise and fully present until the very end (lung cancer). I now realize what a profound gift that is—to have both the time and the motivation to say what is most important.
We shared lots of memories those last few days. First up? The day he was determined to teach me to ride my bike without the training wheels. I was scared and kept delaying the inevitable. That day he just took them off, promising me he’d hold on while I rode down the incline that was our driveway.
I was doing just fine until I realized he’d let go and boom! There went my confidence and off I flew into the giant pricker bush at the edge of the lawn. Took hours to get all of them out—it looked like I’d been attacked by a pack of badgers.
But the very next day, my dad insisted I get back on the bike and do it again. I was very careful to avoid that damned bush…
He had tried college, but it didn’t take. Bored and restless, off he went to join the Army. I came along during his stint in France and my parents used their base in La Rochelle to travel around Europe. This was heady stuff for a small town Connecticut boy and it left him with permanent wanderlust.
He would take us on all sorts of adventures when we were growing up. We didn’t have much money, but he’d toss us in the back of the Buick and off we’d go. To the shore for the day. The mountains for a weekend. And Vermont. Always Vermont. Because no matter how much adventuring he did, that man loved to walk (and drive) the hills and countryside of his first and forever home.
While the other neighborhood dads drove station wagons, mine got a motorcycle. He had a sense of adventure that always astonished and delighted my friends.
Later, when he met my stepmother, they rode their bikes across the U.S. and Canada on their vacations and long weekends. That’s when they weren’t in Vermont skiing or golfing.
My dad was always in motion—my pals christened him “the energizer bunny”. Always up for a party, a 200 mile round-trip drive for the best sausage he’d ever tasted (and was craving that day) or a jaunt to the pick-your-own roadside stand to make his legendary blackberry pie.
Even after his treatment robbed him of his sense of taste and he could barely walk, he insisted we all pile into the car to his newly-discovered BBQ Exchange to sample their pulled pork and six barbeque sauces (50 miles round-trip). His last meals weren’t hospital food, but hand-delivered plates of his favorite fried chicken and spaghetti with meatballs. His beloved wife Judy and BFF Kathy made sure of it.
My dad lived every minute of his life to the fullest, exactly the way he wanted to.
And really, that’s the best epitaph of all.
Thank you Popster. For showing me the way and having the most elegant and true-colored exit one could hope for.
There will be no other posts this week or next. Just a heartfelt thank you for reading this and indulging me. Thanks for being there…
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