[September 21, 2022] Two days ago, my dad passed away at 93. He is now with his wife Mary of 71 years (and my mother), who passed away a mere two weeks ago. My heart is broken, but it would be ungrateful to think, even for a minute, “Why me?” when I was privileged to have Daddy until I was 70 years old! Everyone should be so lucky.
I had seen him in Kansas just this past July, and we had a good time. We watched his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys; “daddy” was all in on the state of Texas. The games were from the 1970s, and he could name many on the team, including quarterback Roger Staubach. And we had fun seeing the New York Yankees play – our family’s number one team – from the 1950s. Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, all the greats on the Yankees team, he could name them all despite his severe dementia.
Born in 1929 like my mom, he was just 22 when I was born. He survived everything his country endured; the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean War, the Sixties, and all the cultural convulsions. And he survived a lot personally as well; a brain tumor, diabetes, and cancer, but luckily missed out on COVID thanks to good care from my sister Terri.
Daddy was the youngest in his family. His older brother Douglas James (we called him Uncle DJ) and three sisters, Lillian, Bertha and Edith, teased him as he told the story. They were much older than him, which was good for him as his parents doted on him a bit. Grandma told me that daddy’s earliest sentence was, “DJ wait for me!”
An outstanding debt is owed to my sister Terri for caring for mom and dad for several years in her home. No longer could they care for themselves despite wanting to remain in Texas. Terri had her large basement gutted and rebuilt just for them. It was a great place to relax and talk sports, reminisce about the old days, identify who was in the old black and white photos, and discover more about mom and daddy.
Daddy was a stern man but was always willing to help us kids. He was a bit too tolerant of me, I think. I was the one who probably disappointed him the most in my early years. My brother and I were up to doing something that could have earned us the Darwin Award on multiple occasions. He also insisted we attend church on Wednesdays and Sundays. Sitting in the church pews was not for me, but daddy said, “Sit still and pay attention!” I didn’t listen, but I never left mon and daddy’s side in church.
He taught me to ride a bike, bait a hook, row a boat, hit a baseball, shoot a shotgun, and encouraged me to join the Boy Scouts and the value of having men teach you how to be a good man. He held me to the highest ethical standards. This was invaluable to such a wayward boy like me who liked his friends, freedom and running around town whooping and hollering.
The loss of my last parent, obviously, makes me an orphan, like probably 99.9 percent of people my age. It still comes as a shock because daddy, it seemed, would live forever.
Thank you, daddy.