*Hard to believe this journal of my father’s last months on earth was written over 10 years ago. This is the beginning. Thanks for reading, and if you want to pay tribute to a very good man, have a margarita! I turned him onto them in his last years on the brown and blue orb, and he really loved ’em.

Jan 30th, 2010

My father is sick and in the hospital with pneumonia and as a result I could not sleep last night. He will be eighty-two this July; I love him very much and last night this daddy’s girl got herself crying so hard over his eventual and natural demise I could not rest, relax and let go. Ridiculous and real, natural and foolish as I need to get my sleep so I can better support him; yet this is reality and while I feel sure we are many years from that hard and sad event, my imagination (blessing and curse) made me go there.

We had dinner this week; he was unnaturally exhausted but the evening before was his bowling night. He said he had stayed up until 1a.m. which is five hours past his usual bedtime. After bowling he goes out to the local pub with his best male friend, the one of few remaining close friends of his who is still alive, and they have a beer or two and a cigarette or two (I know, I know, I wish he wouldn’t but he is eighty and at this stage of his life…) but although he got home at 11:30p.m., he could not get to sleep. I now wonder if it was the illness already making itself known.

Last night he was immediately blossoming under the ministrations of several nurses who, as is right and natural, were instantly enslaved by his charm. My dad’s sense of humor is wonderful; he is also as smart as a whip. I have to get going if I want to fit in a visit with him before work and make sure his dog is okay. I hired a walker who will also be feeding my dad’s favorite female…Zelda Lou Miller, 7 years old with a delightful under bite and great gobs of long hair. Daddy, I love you. Do this for me, would you: get well soon.

February 2, 2010 — Another Letter to my Dad I will NOT sent. Probably.

Dear Dad –

You are not well but you will live, I gather, even if your life will be somewhat limited by your now 24/7 need to be hooked into an oxygen tank. This is very hard for me to see – you, less able, more infirm, unable to breathe without visible effort on your own – but I am pretty sure you will make the adjustment well (as will I, I hope) to this change. You have spoken, and spoken much too soon, about giving up bowling. I may have to drag your sorry ass there as to give up one of your great pleasures, and the social contact, the joy therein, would be a grave mistake, and it is early yet – maybe bowling will be possible and still fun for you. Wait and see; try it. I know it will not comfort you to hear that your sister-in-law, the bossy one who has lived in a retirement community since she was 49 years old, says that down there “people go everywhere and do everything with their oxygen tanks!” but I will tell you anyway. I know you don’t want people to see you with your tank, especially the women you especially like.

Last week I asked you about your dreams, if you dreamed, and you said you had been, lately. What about, daddy dear? My father is in them. Oh? And what was my esteemed grandfather doing in these dreams? Being a father, you said. I know you loved and respected him, and that you feared him, but I was very struck by those words, deeply. I now want you to know how like a father, and a great one, you have always been in my reality, in my life as well as in the lives of your three other children and your nine grandchildren. You do have a gruff exterior, you do like to grouse, to bitch and moan, yet you are a total softie within. You are smart, funny, and you will do anything for a laugh. You worked hard, so hard, in order that we all could have whatever lives we wanted, no college debt, and access to the best life had (has) to offer. The best life had to offer us was you: rolling us up and out of a giant towel back onto our bed as kids, telling us jokes or stories about life on the farm when you were young, playing gin rummy or spoons and puffing on your (goddammit) ubiquitous pipe, all while listening to us argue or tell stories of our own, and – loving our mom.

One of the best things you ever did for us was not take us personally. We were and are, as are your grandchildren, our own creations – not extensions of your ego. Though I have often sensed you were bemused by us (and always, always amused), I never felt our choices, our successes or failures – our lives – were taken in any way as a reflection of your accomplishments (although you could take much more credit than you do) and that has been very liberating, a real gift. You delight in our successes, you are proud of us, I know that, and you feel our failures when we fail, but you never, ever have made any of these events, circumstances, choices, good or bad, about you.

Thank you. Except for the fact that I am so angry with you right now for smoking all these years, I need you to know how much I love you, how much I respect you and always have, and that you are an amazing man. I also want you to know that I can live with your anger because, regardless of the fact that you told me I wasn’t to do so, I am throwing out your god-damned Parliaments before you get home from the hospital!