This past weekend I got to talk to my dad on the phone. When I say I got to talk to him by that I mean he couldn’t talk back. Unfortunately, his Alzheimer’s has taken him to the stage where forming words is impossible. From what my stepbrother tells me my dad can understand me but I can’t understand him and that’s when it hit me. He can never again tell me that he loves me. I know he does from my last visit but I’ll never hear him say it. That’s ok. It will have to be. I got to tell him how much I loved him over the phone.
My dad left when I was seven so for the most part I grew up without him. He tended to be a little harsh on us when we were around him on weekends and summers but now I wonder if it was because I wasn’t used to having a dad as an authority figure. I wonder if the anger I felt towards him was all wrongly conceived in my mind. Or perhaps not. He did leave us. In fact, during one stay over the summer, he mocked my faith and that was hard to take. None of that matters anymore. I love him with all of my heart so I’m choosing to remember the time he was around and he taught me how to ride a bike. He did what all dads do…he ran beside my bike until I could get it going on my own.
And boy did I get it going.
My dad also gave me a really strong work ethic. “Lazy people work twice as hard,” he used to say. That meant that if you don’t do the job right the first time you’ll have to come back around and do it again. He owned and ran a restaurant where we worked six days a week from morning to night. Every morning he’d wake me up by placing a pine cone on my chest. Oh that was upsetting. Especially at 4am. Then we’d stop by the bakery for supplies (I can still smell the fresh bread) and then head over to the restaurant where I had to sweep the entire parking lot every morning. Yes, the entire parking lot…..with a broom. Oy.
He also taught me how to drive….in a stick shift van on the side of a mountain in Puerto Rico. Yeah, there was no falling off of that cliff. What was he thinking?
This weekend I was leaning on the couch when it hit me. He’ll probably leave us this year. I must prepare my heart for that. Out of the blue, my daughter asked me if we would all go to the funeral if he did pass away soon. I was honest and told her that financially we probably all wouldn’t be able to go and she understood. I also explained that it wouldn’t be much of a funeral because he wants to be cremated. Then I had to go into an explanation as to what that was. Fortunately I had one of my favorite movies recorded so I showed her the last scene in Family Business when they throw Sean Connery’s ashes over a Brooklyn rooftop.
“It’ll be a lot like that,” I told her. She asked me if she could hold the urn with me. I don’t think that’s the only memory I want her to have of him.
A comforting thought is that the one thing that I had always wanted I got last year. All I ever needed was for him to look me in the eye and tell me that he was proud of me. Last year, with glossy eyes he uttered those words and then some as he shook from excitement.
“You’re more son than I could have ever hoped for,” he said. “I am so proud of who you are and I love you very much.”
I got what I needed.
Now I have a beautiful and loving wife and a gorgeous, fun daughter.
I have everything I’ve ever wanted.
Don’t mess with them, Jack.
Leonardo Ramirez is an author of Science Fiction and Fantasy books for all ages. For more info, please visit http://leonardoverse.com and sign up for the blog.