Monday, August 8, 2005

The Void

Thanks Dad

Not all of you may know this, but my father passed away last week. So it was not the best week of my life by a long shot. While I had prepared myself for his inevitable passing (he had a terminal illness that we knew he could not beat) there is always that sense of finality when it all hits you, and you realize that things have changed, irrevocably.

The thing that you can't really foresee in this type of situation are the little things that became second nature and ingrained in your personality. You notice them when they are gone, but sort of take them for granted when loved ones are still around.

There is that 'void' in my parents house now because my dad is no longer there and at times, that void seems tremendous.

Folks that met my father and did not know him well, did not know what to make of him sometimes. While he was always courteous and talkative, some people came away with the impression that he was unsympathetic and critical of my brother and me and sometimes was rude to my mother. I found that these folks usually never really knew what a caring and loving parent was.

My father was a great man. Not because he fought great battles or built great bridges or amassed large sums of money. He was a great man because he just did the right thing 90% of the time. Something that I have never known anyone else (including myself) to do since I have been alive.

His constant criticisms about my earning potential, or my weight, or the amount of air in my tires or the length of my hair were not derogatory at all. They were just his way of showing that he cared. He wanted the best for the ones he cared for and took every opportunity to 'coach' them in the direction that he thought was best for them. He knew we would do what ever we wanted, but he always wanted those near him to know he was thinking about them.

I came to realize this when I saw the parents of other people totally ignore their children or were constantly angry at them for not living up to their expectations. My parents were different. They are selfless. They told us what to do as children, pushed us out into the world and told us to make the best of it. Then they always looked forward to hearing from us to find out what we had learned.

Now that my dad is gone, I walk into my parent's home and realize that he will never again be sitting at the kitchen table to engage me in discussions about politics, the economy, my job, my health or a wealth of other things. This is that void that I am referring to. His willingness to simply give of his time to make sure someone was doing OK, and offer advice (sometimes very bluntly) about what was best for you.

I did not realize it in the beginning, but I came to rely on him more than I could ever realize over the years because of his selfless interest in me. He was like the Rock of Gibraltar. He would never solve my problems (that was something he taught us all to do on our own), but he would sure as hell make sure you going in the right direction to figure them out.

The classic wish of being able to go back in time and do anything you want is often bantered around the Internet. I have to admit that mine has changed. To sit around the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and have a discussion with my dad about 'anything' just went to the top of that list and I don't believe that it will ever change.

When my father was diagnosed with his illness, I visited him in the hospital. He was philosophical about the whole thing and said he had no regrets about his life and that he felt that he had a 'pretty good run'.

Since most of you could not have known him as well as his family, I have to tell you that this has to be one of the biggest understatements I have ever heard in my entire life. Allow me explain what a 'good run' is to my father:

Born in Iowa just after the First World War.
Learned to fly in the 1930s out of an Iowa Cornfield.
Went to college but dropped out to serve in World War II, he became a flight instructor, training pilots for the Army.
Flew bomber missions later in WWII over Germany.
Came home after the war but was called back up for service in Korea.
Married my mother
Rejoined the Air Force in the early 50s and was stationed in: Maine, Texas, California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Hawaii, Okinawa and Thailand.
While Base Commander at Vandenburg Air Force Base, launched military satellites into orbit.
Served in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Raised two sons and put both through college.
Retired after 35 years as a full Colonel in the Air Force.
Moved to Tucson, Arizona and 'finally' completed his college degree near the age of 60.
Worked for H&R Block for almost 15 years as a tax preparer.
Until his 80th birthday, continued to walk 5 miles a day and work out at the local gym.

Now mind you, after reading that very 'brief' history of his life, he considered this a 'good run'. I don't know if it is the times we live in, or the character of the generations that followed, but I don't foresee any of us, having a 'good run' such as this in our lifetimes. But to my father, this was all "No Big Deal".

If there is a heaven and I run into him up there after my time on this earth is up, I am really looking forward to sitting down and having a long discussion with him. Just like we always used to do. I am sure we will have a lot of catching up to do.


  1. My condolences to you Bruce. As we become adults, we come face to face with the sad and painful prospect of losing our parents. Ironically, it happens around the time that we begin to realize they are far greater people than we ever gave them credit for in our youth. I hope someday you get the chance to see your dad again.

  2. its a shame that i just got to read this now, years after you posted it.

    i think i need to give my dad a call today...