Had he lived, my father would have been 95 years old today.
When I think of him, as I often do even though it has been 16 years since he died, I don’t see the old man he was when he died. I don’t see the old man shuffling along the sidewalk. I don’t see the old man defeated by a botched reconstructive surgery that turned his handsome face into something people stared at in horror. I don’t see the old man no longer interested in life. I don’t see the old man’s eyes which no longer sparkled with mischief, intelligence, and a love of life. I don’t see the old man waiting for death to stop by and take him.
I see the vibrant younger man. I see the younger man who loved connecting with people, especially complete strangers. I see the younger man striding along the sidewalk. I see the confident younger man. I see the younger man with the laughing eyes who loved puns. I see the younger man standing at the kitchen counter happily preparing his secret barbecue sauce, which changed each time he prepared it, and which remains the best damned barbecue sauce in the world.
My Dad wasn’t college educated like his children. He was, however, knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects that always fascinated me. He was a kind man. He was a man who never swore, even when he hit his thumb with a hammer. He was a patient man even while teaching his daughter to drive his car or to change the oil in her ancient VW bug. He was a supportive father who taught his daughter how to throw a ball and ride a horse. He wanted his daughter to be well-rounded so we went to baseball games and to the ballet. He was a betting man, betting his daughter $1.00 on the outcome of the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the U.S. Open Tennis championship matches, even when neither of us was interested in who was playing.
My Dad was only 78 when he died. I spoke to him on the phone two days before he died. He was in the hospital, but looking forward to going home on Monday. He died on Monday. My last words to him were, “I love you, Dad.” His last words to me were, “I love you, too, Honey.”