Happy Birthday to my father today... sadly he's been gone from my life longer than he was in it. He passed when I was 17, just a couple of months shy of my high school graduation.
My father suffered his first stroke when I was 12. Forty something years later, I remember it like it was yesterday. We were on vacation in Lake Tahoe. Our annual family holiday. He was rushed to a hospital in Reno and when he was able to travel, mom and I put him on a plane to LAX and we drove back to LA to meet him and transfer him to a local hospital. Funny how sometimes the mind plays tricks and doesn't remember things it should and other times memories are so very crystal clear that they bring back all the emotions. I honestly I didn't know what really happened and understood it to be some sort of allergic reaction.
He wasn't the same after that day... looking back there were no physical limitations from the stroke but mentally the man I knew as my father was just not the same. Now that Alzheimer's is a bit more common there have been moments when I wondered if perhaps he had the onset of Alzheimer.
If you'd known my father you'd understand how scary this was. He was a tall, strong and healthy man "forced" into retirement at 62 well because that's just what they did back then (and of course now a days they do it too) to make room for the younger generation. The man had worked his entire life and once retired, really didn't know what to do with himself other than to drive a few golf balls every now and then. If retirement wasn't enough... he learned he was a diabetic and put on a strict low cal diet. My father was a meat cutter and worked in the food business his entire life. No one loved food or sweets more than my father and now you had not only taken away his career but his plate of food.
Several years went by and from what the Dr. told us my father had suffered numerous "other" little mini strokes until January of 1981 when he had another massive one. My mother was in the planning stages of locating a rehab center for him when he came down with pneumonia in the hospital. He died shortly thereafter in February. I don't know if it was the pneumonia or the stroke that technically killed him but I am pretty certain that in the end he lost the will to live. At first I was angry and hurt but looking back who could blame him.
There are times that I am sad when I think of all the special moments in my life he wasn't there for and didn't get to experience. My wedding, birth of my daughter, divorce, and now his great grandson... I think what I really miss is something that we never had the chance to have those father/daughter talks. You know... the important ones that keep you from doing foolish things. :)
I like to believe that he would be proud of the woman I have become and how my mom has been with me every step of the way. Probably not too happy that she gave up the sweet rent control apt we lived in Hollywood... but even though he wasn't there for those memories... we certainly made some fun moments in the years we did have together.
My father loved adventures and boy did we had some adventures, so whether it was driving 26 miles on a dirt road in our 67 Camaro to a ghost town in Tonopah or renting a boat in Echo Park so I wouldn't go swimming with the ducks ( I jumped overboard anyway), we had so many good, good times. I'm pretty sure that I got my passion for road trips from him.
My dad was a good man with a heart of gold and I miss him.