03 October 2014

FBF: Miss you, Dad

On this day in 1991, my father passed away from cancer. He had fought and beaten it 10 years earlier, but a car accident in 1989 triggered the cells anew, and after having intense headaches throughout the summer, he collapsed over Labor Day. The doctors discovered multiple lesions in his brain; the cancer had metastasized into a new and lethal form.

My dad in 1959, his senior year in high school 
I was 19 and getting ready for school to start - my junior year and a planned year of study in Spain. While I understood the cancer was back, in my naivete I assumed he would fight it and win again, and I said that I would not go abroad, but go back to college in the states (Wellesley was just over an hour away from where we lived at the time). My father said, 'No, you must live your life and go have your adventures. I will be here and I will be fine.' I believed him; maybe I just wanted to believe him.

The last time I saw my father, he was waving good-bye from the porch, as I drove to the airport to study overseas. The last time I spoke to him was from a phone booth in Cordoba, telling him all about the city, the school and my classes and the job I had gotten teaching English to mechanical engineers. He fell into a coma a day later and never awoke. He was 50.

His 50th birthday in May 1991. 
My dad was a philosophical man, with a ready humor; a dry wit with sometimes macabre overtones, but he always had a ready smile and a heart that felt deeply. He taught me about unconditional love and made me understand that I had value simply because I existed and not because of anything I might achieve.  He was from the deep south and believed in de-segregation and protested in support of civil rights. He was a journeyman of sorts, and while intensely intelligent with broad knowledge, he never had a "profession" as society would define it. He was a rail conductor, a teacher, a taxi driver, and an insurance salesman, among other things.

A few years after he died, I found a letter he had written me prior to my first year in college. In it, he told me how I was connected to the world and that my actions in that world would make a difference. He also described how he felt he had failed me as a father, that he knew he hadn't been there for much of my life, that he hadn't protected me and that he could never make-up for it. He asked me to forgive him. I don't know that I every told him I had.


  1. …remember the waffles??? Every type under the sun, just to see what they will taste like.
    I miss him too.

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    miss you

    1. Thank you, Ruma, for your kind words... I agree, that inner fire always needs tending to and even rekindling from time to time....best to you.