Thursday, September 01, 2005

Our family lost a patriarch this week when my father-in-law, Dan, passed away from a heart attack. It was quite devastating shock to everyone, even though he did have a quiet history for heart problems before. None of us felt it was fair, few of us know how to really comprehend his passing. It happened last Sunday, when he was walking with his beloved wife of 20 years, and thankfully it was quick, and he was with the love of his life. I can't imagine what Carla had to go through that day, and how brave she was in going through the motions of attempting to revive him, and then go for help. I think I miss Dan just as much as I worry about Carla, because the two of them were so much in love, even after 20 odd years of marriage.

My wife lost her father, my children lost their grandfather, and for me, I lost a friend. Sure, he was my father-in-law and father-in-laws aren't supposed to cool like that, but he was just the epitome of cool. He accepted everyone at face value, and welcomed every soul with absolutely no pretension at all. This was a man who didn't have to try to be anything, he just was. I try awfully hard to be fair, to be kind, to be considerate, to be generous, to be loving, to be accepting, and he just did it, man. He did it because he understood the base of all human emotion - that everyone just needs to be loved, and heard. And he did that unconditionally. This year at the Camp Out, someone brought a meth-addict boyfriend who was witnessed behaving all druggy like, and he just went up to him, told him that if he hurt his stepdaughter, he'd hired someone to take him out. And he wanted him to leave immediately.

And that would've been just exactly what I would've done. Except, a few minutes later, he told Methhead that he could stay, providing that he behaves. He stepped up, voiced his opinions, and than gave this guy a chance when no one else was as forgiving. How big of a man is that? I couldn't have done it.

When we visited Carla the other day, I imagined him (as did my wife) standing amongst us. Now, I'm not terribly religious and am not very prone to believing the whole "angel on my shoulder" thing, but I imagined him standing in the same room as us, hands in his pocket, watching us reminisce, cry, and laugh about what he did, who he was, and what he meant to us. I looked at blank spaces in the room and wondered if I was looking right at him. And also, I've been trying to remember little things about him, like the cadence of his speech, his height, the stubble on his face when you hugged him, and his mannerisms. The messages he would leave on the phone, and the patience he would have when he's teaching me how to swing a golf club. All these little things, I would try to remember. And it was make me feel good for a while, until I realize that I can't have that anymore, and then sadness will sweep through me.

I've only known Dan for a few years, a mere fraction of his lifetime but a fairly important time in my life. I remember that he would want to take walks with me, which intimidated the crap out of me at the time, and there are two walks I remember well. The first was when we went camping at Steamboat Rock park, when my wife and I weren't married yet. He wanted to hike with me, and on that hike, he told me how great it was to see my wife so happy, and how I've brought her personality back to light. The other occasion was when we went to get pizza, and while we were waiting for the pizza, he told me that he was proud of me. Because I was a good father to my children, because I did the little things like changing diapers and such, and that he didn't change any of his children's diapers. What those talks did, silly as they might seem, was validate me as a husband to my wife, and a father to my children.

It really sucks that he's no longer with us, because it was fun trying out the word "Dad" on him. I never really got a good chance to use that growing up, at least not in my ideal sense of the word, and it was feeling pretty damn good calling a great person like Dan, "Dad", and having him say back to you, "Love you, Son." I'm going to fucking miss that.

We love you, Dad.

Diego and family--I was just surfing blogs to get a sense of the blog community. Your sad and beautiful story of losing Dan touched me. We are all seeing so many stories about the loss of life in New Orleans right now; and you all lost such a dear person. What a beautiful way to share the last of him with the world in general. My heart goes out to you.
I also want to say my heart goes out to you at a time like this. Remember the moments, remembering someone is an honor to their life.
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