November 3rd

My father is the finest man I know.

As a youngster, dust bowl depression era, Dad was the oldest of seven children in a poor farm family and learned his lessons of caring for loved ones early.

After starting his own family, he sent me to a private school - a military academy, which cost a large percentage of his income - back in the 60s when the public schools where we lived were terrible. Sis was also sent to a private school, in her case a catholic girl's school. We weren't catholic, but the religion and the expense were worth the education she received.

During the years of my early 20s I was living on the streets - about ten miles from the family home - pursuing the sorts of things that we children of the 60s did in the 70s. He went out shopping every Saturday. He would pick up five bags of groceries for his house, drop one bag at my little cockroach-haven and take the other four home. I doubt if Mother ever knew. My mother's dad died young and Dad took his mother-in-law, my grandmother, into his home and care for the next 40 years.

A few years ago my folks planned their retirement. Long hard work over many years had made them not rich, but middle-class comfortable. The plan was to travel the country, seeing a ball game in every major league stadium - as good a reason as any to travel the country. Unforeseen was that Mother would shortly develop two different terminal illnesses, and the fifth-wheeler trailer was sold, a hospital bed was wheeled into their house and for the next couple years Dad turned into the best damn nurse that never went to nursing school.

A couple of months after Mother passed away her mother quietly gave up and passed on, and Dad was left with an empty house. He spent the next two years blue, depressed and lonely. His whole life had been spent devoted to family, and with no one to care for and be with, he was adrift. I began working on bridging the gaps that had developed over the years between the best of the Ozzie & Harriett generation [him] and the flotsam of the Haight-Ashbury generation [which would be me]. We started getting to ball games together, worked together on sorting out all the household items he wanted to be disencumbered from, and building on our adult friendship.

From out of the blue, I got a call one day from Dad when he was on a snowbird trip to Phoenix. He had found someone! A widow, also quite lonely, widowed about the same length of time, from a family and life very similar, and they were a wonderful match. It was bittersweet for me - just as I had been cherishing my increased time with my father he suddenly disappeared into being a 70+ year old enjoying puppy love. It hurt me to step back, but he really needed what he had found, and they flourished together. It was flattering for him to come to me for advice on reclaiming his sexuality; it was great to see him happy, busy, involved. I decided I could show my love best by giving he and his lady every bit of support and encouragement I could in whatever they chose to do together.

They've had about three good years. This past spring she began to be challenged by an aggressive cancer and began chemo. Last week pneumonia struck, and try as she could, she wasn't able to fight it off. Tonight I got the call that she had passed away, mid evening, at a hospital near where they had settled in the Phoenix area. I cursed the 1500 miles that kept me from hugging him.

Twice in five years this fine man has stood by his partner, nursed them through terrible times, and held them as they passed away.

I've long said that my better traits I inherited from Dad, and my lesser traits I learned on my own. This evening I've been unable to hug him, unable to be there with and for him, and so all I've been able to do is to reflect on those 'better traits', and on this man I love.

Dad has done much to make my life good, and to make the lives of many others good.

My father is the finest man I know, and I mourn with him in his loss.

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