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By education and experience - Accountant with a specialty in taxation. Formerly a CPA (license has lapsed). Masters degree in law of taxation from University of Denver. Now retired. Part time work during baseball season as receptionist & switchboard operator for the Colorado Rockies. This gig feeds my soul in ways I have trouble articulating. One daughter, and four grandchildren. I share the house with two cats; a big goof of a cat called Grinch (named as a joke for his easy going "whatever" disposition); and Lady, a shelter adoptee with a regal bearing and sweet little soprano voice. I would be very bereft if it ever becomes necessary to keep house without a cat.
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2007-01-09 1:32 PM
Time to say goodbye
My dad died last night. I think in summary, he just ran out of energy to keep going, 15 days shy of his 92nd birthday.
I always have felt a little wistful listening to people discuss their happy lives as children, what they learned from their parents, and so on.
While I certainly learned a lot, and am grateful, I honestly couldn't say that everything about my memories is satisfactory. But in balance, I think that is a valuable lesson, or one that I learned to value. Recognizing another's feet of clay, and figuring out that one's own feet of clay are there to be observed by anyone who might be watching closely. This gave me a sense of balance of who he was, what his strengths and weaknesses were, and to take for myself what I could use in my own life to my own benefit, and let the rest just be.
My life with him began in 1942. I was their first child, and they combined their given names to arrive at mine. In early 1944, without telling my mother in advance, he enlisted in the Navy and for the next two years, with my baby sister in tow, we traveled. To Florida, to Massachusetts, to Yonkers New York, to Michigan where he deposited us with my grandparents. There were many intermediate stops at my mother's extended Polish family in Chicago. I remember my exuberant relatives well, and waiting on dozens of train platforms. The old steam engines and sometimes newer diesels would come thundering in. I was afraid of one kind of engine, intrigued by the other, but now some 60 years later, I can't tell you which type of engine frightened me and which type kept me standing on the platform in wonder.
I don't remember very much else about that time - I was just past two years old, after all. But the time with my grandparents on their small Michigan truck farm was pleasant.
He was on a troop train heading west to join the invasion force to enter Japan when Japan surrendered. We waited stateside for about a year and a half while he completed his service with the occupation forces.
After that, he took us back to his small town Iowa boyhood home, and that's where I grew up. 1950's high school and on to the University of Iowa.
He never quite got used to his kids (and there were 5 of us) living somewhere that was not home to him. He always wanted to know when he would see me again.
He loved gadgets. The bumper sticker "whoever dies with the most toys wins" was made for him. Speed dial phones, speaker phones, stereo systems, custom rigged barbecue equipment, and on and on.
He liked to hunt and fish. He was willing to clean the fish himself, but I spent many damp evenings helping clean the feathers off a duck. If you've ever done that, you know what a tedious job that can be. I enjoyed the taste of small game, but never enjoyed crunching my teeth down on a small piece of buckshot.
He enjoyed music and loved to travel. He and my mother went to Tahiti, Poland, the Panama canal, Holland, Germany, a short drive through London (they weren't impressed), the Hermitage in St Petersburg, New England for fall color and a sail through the St Lawrence seaway, a trip down the Mississippi and visits to antebellum mansions and the Vicksburg battlefield. We always got a sheet of instructions on how to phone them ship to shore. I know that he ached for his cabin phone to ring, so that he could use that gadget, too! The cost always prevented us from fulfilling his wish!
In early 2001, he visited his grandfather's boyhood home in Southern Germany, where family musicians had staffed the little church for years and years and years and years. He met a large collection of German friends and relatives with the same surname. My mother wasn't able to make the trip and was eager to hear all about what it was like, but when he returned he said very very little. That was one of the early clues to what was coming.
Vascular dementia began very very gradually to take the man I knew away into some other realm of perceiving reality. Conversations could suddenly turn surreal, as his mind zigged when everyone else zagged. As his sister told us once "don't worry sugar, your father always was strange."
His relationship with my mother became more and more contentious, but they stuck it out together for 64 years. A few days ago he told his pastor that he missed her. I find a sense of peace and gratitude in knowing that he could say that out loud at long last.
The funeral home can arrange for a firing squad, taps, the whole bit. I am inclined at this point to just stick with a flag on his casket. We'll see.
He drove me nuts most of my adult life. If you met him you would have been charmed by his company. Like everyone else who has ever lived, he was an intriguing combination of human foibles and strengths.
Time to say goodbye now.
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