Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rest in Peace, Papa

My mom called tonight with the news that my father has passed away. He died the night of his 86th birthday, after fighting Alzheimer's Disease for over ten years (though it is difficult to pin down exactly when that affliction began). He was the greatest man I ever knew, and with his death an era has ended.

I was a shameless Daddy's Girl. My pop made me feel special and worthy of spoiling. I have two older brothers who always shared a room. From their perspective, I must have seemed the lucky one, getting a room to myself. But I often felt lonely and wished for a sister or a playmate. Thanks to my dad's attention and affection (liberally bestowed upon me, despite the restrictions of a college professor's busy schedule) I had a built-in comrade at home; someone to harmonize with when singing old standards in the car, a fellow Cubs fan to watch televised games and drink bottled Tab with on hot summer afternoons, a diehard supporter of my musical and artistic efforts, my own personal Candyman, generous to a fault.

My dad was bigger than life. A tireless volunteer, he selflessly gave his heart, soul, sweat and time to the YMCA; he served them first as a camp counselor and then as a Y executive, later as a professor in a university training Y staff people and as an International Y's Man. He organized countless fund raisers for Y World Service, and annually helped organize and walk in "Miles For Mankind" sponsored walkathons. He worked hard in our church, too. Both he and my mom were always on this committee or that, and his was one of the loudest voices urging us to support foreign missions.

My father always used to say he would rather wear out than rust out. He would never have chosen Alzheimer's as the way to die. He liked to feel useful, to help others. This was always his motivation behind the zillions of volunteer activities I saw him commit his time to through the years. Even in his retirement village, he was constantly lending a hand, visiting shut-ins, pushing a broom in the Alzheimer's Ward -- even after becoming a patient there! It was hard to just sit still. He wanted to earn his keep in life.

He had his share of quirks, Lord knows. And he passed on to his kids many of them: I'm a bundle of them, myself! But when all is said and done, I'm so very proud he was my dad. I'm grateful to God that he passed rather peacefully in the end. Mom said she could visit him daily at the end there...each time saying her goodbyes as though they were the last. Someone once called Alzheimer's Disease "the long goodbye" or something like that. Mom found that to be true. She's been gradually saying goodbye for the past year or more. And I have, too, I guess.

My dad will be remembered by many, I know. Rest in peace, Papa. I love you!


dorami said...

You told me so much about your father.It was privilege to have known your father.
I know how your father loved you.
He was a really attractive man.
I hope your memories of him will
be some comfort to you.

Sal said...

Thanks for the warm words, Dorami. I know you were a Daddy's Girl, too, and can identify with my sense of loss better than almost anyone.

karen said...

Sal, I am sad to read just now about the loss of your Dad. I remember meeting him a couple of times in Japan - he was quite jovial and full of life. You said some lovely things about him. What a lot of pleasure he must have had being your Dad!

I had never seen a photo of him when he was young, but he was quite handsome!

I hope your mum is doing ok. I know it has been hard for her the last few years.

I hope you too, are doing ok. I know it is hard losing someone you love when you are far away.

Sal said...

Thanks, Kar'!
Thanks, too, for saving stamps for him in the past. He really appreciated your contribution!!

Both my mom and I are at peace about his passing. Today is Thanksgiving in the states and Mom has gone to my brother's house in IL to enjoy the holiday with the family. She wasn't able to go to his house for over a year, so this will be a real treat for her, and a healing time, I'm sure. She told me the other day she was looking forward to all the 2-way conversations and being able to play some games with the grandkids. She's had to do without those simple pleasures for a very long time.