NOTE: I wrote this article in 2003 just before my dad passed away

The youngest of eight boys and a sister, my father’s biggest fear as a 17-year-old was that the war which had called all of his brother’s would end before he could enlist.

He just made it.

My father was a strong and decisive man, self-made in the tradition of the American hard work ethos, rising from a laundryman in a hospital to a policeman in our little town.  From walking the beat, then patrolman, finally detective, he persevered through bad bosses and good times.

He raised our family and demonstrated a strong faith.  He sang at the top of his voice regardless of whether he was in the church choir or sitting in our family pew dating to 4-generations.  He showed me the power of absolute values and uncompromising principles.

He listened to talk radio before it was popular, late at night the crackling faint and fluctuating AM-radio voices sounding so far away, making it feel so special.  He took me to a small church in the country on some Sunday nights so he could sing real loud and enjoy the company of the minister, his dear friend.

Dad showed me that crying was OK as a man and he leaned on me as a boy when I thought I couldn’t do things,  but I could, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.  He introduced me to death as his mother and then older brothers fell one by one.  I knew it was all a dress rehearsal.

He loved my mother harder than he should have.  He hadn’t considered his own vulnerability, it wouldn’t have been right.  That would undermine the commitment, the uncontested, no restrictions love that he thought transcended all.  He was wrong sometimes.  The divorce nearly killed him.  His only chance was to wade back in quickly.

No good deed shall go unpunished and indeed it did not.  Five children, all pre-teens and a 2nd wife with shoulders built to carry a chip.  He did the difficult with no thanks and suffered at the hand of her having it both ways because he relished the task of being needed.

We all assailed him as adults with various and wide ranging admonitions, requests, presents, favors, accusations, automobiles and accolades.  He was accused of high crimes and misdemeanors and the saving of lives.  Some disliked him because he stood for something and was unashamed in defining it.

He was born late enough to have science save him from the heart disease that took his father and brothers, only to live long enough to be sentenced to death without parole in the cell of a nursing home, a prisoner lost in his own mind.  The Law of Unintended Consequences.

I speak of him as if he were dead because the disease insures that he is, forced to observe it all from his frail body with a capacity just functional enough to feel the terror of the reality every once in a while.  Where is God in all of this?  Why the loss of dignity to such a good soldier?

The only reason I’m not embittered by my father’s dilemma is the knowledge that if he were healthy and guiding me today, he would tell me not to be.  He would look me straight in the eye and tell me that God had nothing to do with this.  It’s because of his faith and example that I believe him.


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