Brief intro to this post…I started writing this on Mother’s Day. I wanted it to be thought out and coherent, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time tweaking things. I think it still holds true to my original intent, so that’s a good thing. Anyway, enough preamble. Also, be warned as there is some mild “adult” language in here. Here’s my Father’s Day post.
This is the first Father’s Day in over 30 years that I’ve purchased only one card.
That realization hit me about 5 or 6 weeks ago when I was going through the process of buying Mother’s Day cards for my mom and step mom. Since 1983 or 1984, I’ve always bought 2 Father’s Day cards (my mom and step dad were married late June of 1983 – I can’t remember if I gave him a card that year or not). One was for my dad, and the other for my step dad. I love my dad very much, and he has done tons for me, but fortunately, he is still around. My step dad on the other hand, is not. Thus this post is about him.
I first met Ron when I was around 10 or 11 years old. I had lived a fairly sheltered life up to that point, so this general contractor with the permed hair and the wild eye who was blunt in the way he spoke was a bit of a shock to my system. I will admit that he was not a welcome addition to my life at the time. My parents had recently divorced and I was still reeling over that and I was a very sensitive kid back then. I tolerated some change well, but this was one that I wanted nothing to do with.
It was a bit of a roller coaster ride navigating the depths of adolescence, emotional fall out from the divorce, and integrating a new father figure into my life. Looking back at things, I certainly could have handled them better. Ron, though, handled things very well. He “adopted” my brother and I like his own sons. He tried teaching me some basic handyman type skills that I now wish I had paid better attention to. He loved us both unconditionally. I look back at that now in wonder.
It seems like all the entertaining childhood stories that I have involve him. One of the best was a time when I was probably about 16 or 17. I was in his truck and I was poking around the glove box and found a magnet. I took the magnet to the dashboard mounted compass and had a great time seeing what a magnet did to a compass. Needless to say, the compass was never the same again! He got into the truck, saw what I was doing and said in that gruff voice of his, “Christopher, you’re like a damn monkey. If you can’t eat it or shit on it, you break it!!” I think I was mildly hurt at the time, but I look back on it now, and howl at that comment. He wasn’t wrong.
His health had been going downhill the past several years with a mini-stroke or two, a broken hip, and heart issues. The final straw, though, was lung cancer that metastasized to his spine. Not a surprise considering he smoked for most of his adult life, but still a blow.
They had moved back to Michigan in May of 2015 to be closer to family (they had been out in Colorado with me, but when I moved they decided to go back to Michigan). They had come out to visit us in October when my son happened to be in town visiting. He was still doing fairly well then, but was starting to tire more easily.
The next time we saw him was Christmas, and he was still looking fairly good. I was able to see him once more in January and again in February a few days after his 79th birthday. His birthday was one of his last really good days, and started to go downhill right after that.
The plan was for me to come over again the weekend of March 19th for another visit (it’s only about a 4 hour drive from here to there). I received a text that I knew was not good news. “Call me.” That’s all it said, and it came in late morning of Tuesday, March 15th. I stepped outside and called my mom. The conversation was brief, but the message was clear. “Come now. It’s time.”
I drove home, threw a few days worth of clothes in a bag and hit the road. I arrived around 6:00 pm, and Ron’s youngest son was already there. He had flown in from San Francisco a day or two before. His oldest son and his family arrived shortly after I did. We had a wonderful evening of sitting by the hospital bed in the living room, taking turns holding Ron’s hand and telling stories of years gone by.
Ron’s sons were never much a part of my brother’s and my lives while growing up. That was through no fault of their own, I discovered. It turns out they had to sneak out of the house to go to the wedding because their mom had forbidden them from going. Hearing these things now really cleared up some misconceptions that I had back then.
Ron died around 5:30 on the morning of Wednesday, March 16th. My mom woke me up right around 6 to let me know. I felt more of a sense of relief than of sadness at that moment. He wasn’t in pain anymore. I think that I had done most of my grieving leading up to that moment.
The memorial service was scheduled for a couple of weeks later, and we all assembled again. I wanted to say a few words and share some memories at the service, like the story above, but that was probably a bit to risque for a church setting. What I did say, though, was much of what I have already said in this post. He loved Josh and I without hesitation or conditions. We were as much his as his biological sons and he would go miles out of his way for us. He helped to teach me what it means to be a decent human being. I made it through without breaking down completely, but it was close.
It has been 3 months since he left us, and I feel his absence every day. I know that the acuteness of it will ease up with time. But, I never want to get to the point where I don’t feel it. He was an extremely important part of my life for a long time, and much of who I have become was because of him. I know that the other holidays this year and his birthday next February will be a bit difficult, but I also know he wouldn’t want us to mourn over him too much.
I love you and I miss you, Ron. Happy Father’s Day.