When Dad's arms moved walls got higher, floors were laid, furniture fashioned, detail attended to. He was a master of his own environment. If you wanted it, he could build it and it would not fall apart. That's the main reason I cannot see my world without him. Yes, there will be people there to support me and build my life with, but no one will ever guarantee again that it will not fall apart.
My Dad was born in Staten Island. That might sound regular to most people but to know my father you would be shocked to hear this fact. Shocked to know that this quiet, bearded, stern man in Carhart and camouflage was born light years from where I grew up in a small Mississippi town. Of course he was born in the midst of my Grandfather's military travel, and has lived in Mississippi for quite some time. Yet still I cannot help but imagine him against larger brick buildings and that faster paced lifestyle every time I see the city listed beside his name.Most recently I imagined this in the suite of a funeral home, picking out pine boxes.
I always saw the mortality of my parents. Especially when I became a nurse and could see visible symptoms of age. Though even with 20/20 vision we don't always see clearly.
My Dad had a personality that masked all the cracks of the years by embracing them. He was a man that made hard decisions, seemingly with ease, but never in frivolity. A fix-it man who specialized in wood working, and broken spirit. He had made mistakes in his younger years and like any wise man he allowed them to haunt his present. He used his now years on years of sobriety to help more than a few men navigate out of addiction. He'd give them work on his construction jobs and bring them to our family holidays or bring our family holidays to the halfway house.
Often in my adolescence I'd be forced to go with him in the summer to jobs and "help." There were times you could not make it through half a day before Dad had to abruptly end the job to take a drunk stranger to treatment. I saw Dad through this lens, a rose colored glass of kindness and strength that was wholly apart of himself. He would always be the guy brave enough to do what was needed. In my mind so intrinsically brave, he blinded me to that mortality I thought I knew.
This year I saw something likened to a rare, endangered animal in my life. I saw a mystery run across my Dad's face, a jittering in his hands and feet, a bead of sweat from his furrowed brow. He was afraid. Fear had crept in through a white coat and sterilized environment. It took ahold of his icy blue eyes and then spilled over onto his face to make an expression I wasn't ready for. He was in pain. Pain I couldn't take away by a google search or even just a search of my own nurse's brain. Pain that was even worse, unexplainable.
They ran tests and brought forth different diagnosis after different diagnosis. My dad leapt out of his tool shed comfort zone and into the clinical. Where nothing is guaranteed and dignity is a fleeting object not always afforded. And then after weeks of running from one MD to another, they came with the real fear. The words we had sought after but tried to ignore. Words that poured the fear from my Dad's face and on to all of us. Stage IV.
In the coming days the pain would be treated. Nausea medicines were poured into him and a plan for Chemotherapy would be solidified. Yet all those things would fail him. Fail us. He would continue to be in pain and stop eating all together. We, all of us, the world had failed my father. Modern medicine could not fix Mr. Fix-It.
They say the good die young, not because of the abundance of benevolent teenagers walking the Earth, but because no time is enough. Not even 61 years.
A fellow nurse at work turned to me when he went into hospice, "Well Dave, was he a good dad?" I wanted to turn my face away and not think of that yet. Force the emotions down until I was ready. But I gave her the most emphatic "YES!" I good muster.
In my head Carrie Underwood starts to sing her song, "He is Good." I want to run up to my roof and yell it at the top of my lungs to whatever higher power will hear it.
HE IS GOOD! SO GOOD! HE TREATED US ALL LIKE A GOOD MAN SHOULD......
Please let him show you what he can build you with his hands. Please let him interpret scripture with you and play his favorite Elvis gospel. Please let him hold the babies when they come, he's the best at babies. Please let him love you because he is good at it. He is good. So good.