… I thought I would write a few lines about my dad who died when I was 14.
I didn’t know well as a person – I knew bits and pieces but the things I knew about him before he married my mom and the life he led after I came to be were quite different.
For a time, he worked in a monastery as a brother (priest in training, I think, is what that was) and my mom tells me he counseling alcoholic priests. Probably not the easiest thing in 1954 when there were so many more taboos about both counseling and alcoholism. The details are fuzzy but my understanding is that he had somewhat of a breakdown himself from the stress and left the monastary. Mom tells me they just put him out on the street – with just a suit and $40 to his name. That’s rather cold, I feel.
Daddy went blind when I was 6 months old from diabetic complications but seemed to take that in stride (as much as you can, I guess). He became a role model for others who had also lost their sight, teaching them how to ride a city bus. (Hell, I don’t want to do that and I can see!) My mom supported the family for a while until he could get a job through the Maryland Workshop for the blind.
I distinctly remember leading him out to cars that were not ours, letting him get in (this is before everyone locked their car) and then announcing loudly “Get out! It’s not our car” – I have a feeling I’m doing some karmic retribution for those actions these days! He used to feel my face to see what my features were like. His blindness never seemed to handicap him, though. It was just something about him.
When I was 10, he lost both legs to diabetes and he told my mom it was at that point he felt truly handicapped. From an adult perspective, I cannot begin to imagine what that must have been like for him and for my mom (who was really just my age now when it happened) – I just remember spending ALOT of time in St. Joseph’s Hospital waiting area. We practically lived there for years. But during the time he felt better (he was never really “well” again after the amputation), he would let me sit on his lap and steer the wheelchair down a hill going real fast. Once I came home from school and he was sitting on the floor smoking a cigarette and listeing to the radio talk shows (his passions, both). I asked what happened. “Fell out of bed” he said. He hung around down there waiting for my mom and me to get home. Just another day in his life.
On a very personal level, my dad was the first of 3 men who really understood who I was down deep. (in fact, I’m pretty sure he was the model on which the other two were based) He was my friend, my parent, the one I could go to about anything. He was the one that explained what sex was to me (the summer I was 12), who listened when I cried about loaning out my baby doll Angel to a little girl who lived next door and then she moved away suddenly and I never got Angel back (you have to know me to understand how traumatic this was – I had Angel since I was a year old) and told me “that little girl doesn’t have much. Now she has a piece of you to carry with her” and that soothed my feelings.
I will always miss my dad. Always. He was a really interesting man, with a story all his own. I wish I knew him better as a person. I won’t forget the parts I do remember, though. And I know that any time I need him, he’s around. (Pastor Brown said so, even!)