I did though, during the months he was on hospice, write a eulogy for him because we knew death was certain. However, with no service any kind, I never had a chance to share a series of great memories with my dad. The remainder of this essay is a part of what was to be his eulogy…
When I was in high school I struggled early on. Before I even turned 16 I released myself on my own recognizance. Not long after dropping out, my parents divorced. I spent time with each of them, but eventually I moved out as a self-emancipated minor. I shared an apartment with an older friend who had also dropped out. As you might imagine, 2 high school dropouts trying to make it on their own did not fare too well too long.
At the age of 16 I knocked unannounced on my father’s apartment door on a May afternoon. Groveling, staring at my feet, and with my tail between my legs, I asked if I could live with him.
“Yes” he said, and immediately gave me 3 stipulations, “You can live here, and I won’t charge you rent, but this what I need from you…”
- I had to be employed.
- I had to be in by 9pm on weeknights, and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Every night at 10pm we would watch M*A*S*H together. It was his favorite program.
I agreed and lived out those terms. I was already working at a Nautilus Fitness center, rarely stayed out late, and I have always loved M*A*S*H, so this was an easy ransom.
Living with my dad at that time was a good settling in period for me. Though he occasionally traveled, we shared some quality moments during that time. I think this when my father and I began to trust one another on adult terms, and form what he would later call “the bond”.
Fast forward 13 years. My father was now taking fundraising campaigns on a yearly basis. He would take an assignment, say the Montana Historical Society, spend one year conducting a fundraising campaign, and then seamlessly move on to the next one. During this period he spent time in Montana, Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama.
As for me, I was no longer the 16 year old high school dropout. I had a wife, a new baby, and was employed as a scheduling analyst for America West Airlines in Phoenix. After our baby was born, my wife took her to Denver to live, and I flew from Phoenix to Denver on my days off to be with them. Monday through Friday though, I lived alone in Phoenix – in a 3 bedroom house.
One day the phone rang. My father who had back-to-back campaigns organized for 4 straight years had come up dry, and had just sold his New Jersey home. I have no doubt that he was staring at his shoes as his softer than normal, tuck tail between legs voice asked if he could move in with me until he got another campaign. Without missing a beat…
“Yes” I said, “and I won’t charge you rent, but this is what I need from you…”
I went on to explain that I knew he was working on getting another campaign, but I requested that he be in by 9pm on weeknights and 11pm on Friday and Saturday, and that every night at 10pm he and I watch a show together like we did at his apartment in Denver in 1979. I could hear tears in his voice as he began to thank me.
That’s when I explained that the show we would be watching was called Beavis and Butthead.
“I’ll pay rent” he said “I’ll pay rent!”
That may be the only time he ever called me a son of a bitch. We both chuckled. He would live with me for nearly 3 months, eventually moving to Las Vegas to get a jumpstart on retirement. He only watched Beavis and Butthead with me a few times. Sometimes parents just don’t understand…
The time we spent together at my home in Phoenix was the best. We dined out nearly every night on his dime. He had the place to himself on weekends while I was in Denver, and we continued, if not perfected “the bond”.
The day after my father passed in May of 2013 I was on a plane to Athens – to be a father myself. I had promised my daughter who was living and studying in Greece at the time that I would meet her there and I wasn’t about to cancel that trip. When I had to choose between daughter and father, I chose daughter. I have no doubt my father would have approved.
There was no service for my father. His body was cremated, and nobody came to pray. It was a Curtis Lowe moment that could not be avoided. I had intended to visit Las Vegas last October to finally say goodbye to my father. That never happened. Life, as they say, got in the way.
I hope sometime in the coming months to visit the marker where he is interned at the Veteran’s cemetery near Las Vegas. If I never make it though, that’s okay. I thank my father every morning for the love that he gave me, the tools he provided to prepare me for life, and for the sense of humor he shared with my brother and I. In that sense, I memorialize him every single day. Be well… rc
Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Enjoy…