There were many things I did not know about my father growing up or even as an adult. When I was a child, he was often gone on some mysterious (to me) business trip for the Air Force, to which he dedicated almost 30 yrs of his life.
When I got older and moved to Santa Fe after college, he and my mother kept their lives busy with their own businesses and adventures. I was fortunate enough to have them also move to Santa Fe and be able to see them with some regularity. Still, we led mostly separate and busy lives. After my mother died in 2009, my dad started coming to sit at the bar at La Cantina every Sunday night, a place where I'd served, bartended and sung show tunes for over 15 years. We started developing this amazing relationship that we'd never really had before. I think her death made us both realize how quickly things can change and how important it was to both of us to become closer to each other.
Even after I stopped working at the Cantina, we continued to have lunch almost every week. I finally started hearing some stories about his life growing up, his life in the military, his adventures with my mom on the trips I wasn't fortunate enough to go on with them. I know most little girls think their dad is superman and a hero. I know I certainly did. That impression never changed for me, however: if anything, the more I learned about him, the more cemented that opinion became. He actually physically came and rescued me once from a terrible situation I'd gotten myself into in Colorado and got me home and back on my feet. Time and again, even when I did stupid things -- which during a certain portion of my life I did a lot -- he never judged me or stopped loving me and he always gave the benefit of the doubt. My dad was an incredibly smart, kind, adventurous, independent and generous man. There are many qualities my father possessed that I have always admired and try to emulate. He was spirited, always learning, kind to others and always there for someone in need.
When our nation started becoming more politically polarized, we found ourselves on opposite sides. I was terrified of losing our close relationship as I'd read so many families had. But, when we did talk politics - yeah ok, sometimes we'd have a heated discussion. But at the end we'd grasp each other's hand and tell each other how much we loved each other even though we didn't agree on certain things. That those things would never become bigger or more important than our relationship with each other. I've pondered why we could do this. My dad had empathy for others and the ability to imagine a walk in their shoes. I have that also, and I realized I got that from him. I also inherited his sense of humor -- yes, I tell bad dad jokes all the time! Humor was important to him, a way to keep life a little lighter and he loved making people laugh (or groan).
And so brave. The same year my mother died toward the end of the year, it was Christmas Eve, I was at work and got a phone call from the ER. When I got there, the ER Dr told me I might want to start praying as he might not make it. I went in and it was a very scary picture. There were many drs and blood everywhere - he looked me straight in the eye, grabbed my hand and said, "don't worry, I'm not going anywhere". And he didn't.
Not too many years later, he developed some very complicated medical issues. By then he and Dianne had found each other. No one could figure out what was wrong with him so she and I spent months taking him to different places until we found someone who could help him. Although no one could "fix" him exactly, they found a way to manage the issues. Again, my dad was determined to beat the odds. And he did. For 8 years. His Primary Care Dr once told me he had more lives than a cat. Even up to the very end, nothing could take him down.
When he went into the hospital for what turned out to be a gallbladder infection, he was very weak and slow to recover, Still, he was up and at it doing his physical therapy and determined to get home. On the terrible night I got the news he had contracted Covid, just 2 days before he was to be discharged, I cried all night. I didn't think he'd make it out of there or that I would see him again.
And yet he managed to beat the acute phase of that also! I got him home to his bed and to his buddy Buster, which is where he wanted to be. He only lived two more weeks. The day he realized he wasn't going to get better, he said he was mad. Mad at the world. That he wasn't done yet, he had so much more to do. I like to think he made peace with it. But it's hard to say that's true. I'm not going to say he died peacefully or that it was an easy passing. It wasn't. It was painful and traumatic and to say anything otherwise would be a lie to his tenacity and courage. We connected a just a couple more times after that-- once he looked at me so tenderly I burst into tears. We spend hours with the classical music station on, then Spanish guitar. I even played him a song I'd sung that I knew, even when I recorded it a year or two prior, that it was for that moment. (the one I put up here on this page)
I know that if he hadn't caught the virus, he would have gone on living his life. Perhaps with diminished mobility, but alive. He went out fighting. But that was my dad: fiercely independent, strong and very stubborn.
Since then, I'm not surprised to find he has so many more people and stories in his life. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you that has reached out. I hope you tell more stories here on this website I made to cherish his memory.