Happy 87th birthday dad

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

Today would have been my father’s 87th birthday. He died two years ago from something called acute aortic dissection, which in layman’s terms means a tear in his heart that was difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

He knew surgery was an option, but his doctor, being the honest practitioner he was, also made it very clear to my father and all of us that his odds of survival were low.

I remember being in the hospital room with my dad several days before he died and he said he had lived a long life, had no regrets, and if it was his time, he was ready to go.

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In 54 years I have lost grandparents, but my dad was the closest of my relatives to ever leave me — to leave us, I should say.

We knew about 10 days before his death that things were not good. We were even told at one point that he may not make it through his first night.

Because of our advanced warning, my siblings and I — there are five of us — all had the chance to travel from our homes in Florida, Colorado, Michigan and South Carolina to be with him.

Despite being laid up in a hospital bed, and physically tired, he was in good spirits. We joked and laughed and reminisced about this and that.

And we also talked about serious things, such as what was to happen after dad was gone. And he was involved in those conversations.

He had some very specific plans, including no big service, and he was to be cremated, with his ashes placed in a vault in the main foyer of the Lutheran church he and my step-mother Barb attended.

He even told the minister that having his ashes inside the building meant he would never miss or be late for another service.

That was my dad. The funny man.

But he wasn’t always that to me.

It was only as I grew older that I came to appreciate the man who had such an important role in giving life to my brothers and sisters and me.

We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, and that led to an occasional raising of voices, or my storming out of the room mumbling something awful about him at a level he could not hear. Or I don’t think he could hear it.

As we both aged, we became closer, learning how important the father and son relationship really is.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We still didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. After all, the man was a Denver Broncos fan. Give me a break.

He loved his Broncos and football in general.

In fact, the night my older brother called to tell me dad had died, he said the information relayed from the hospital was that dad had been watching Monday Night Football. At one point during the game he asked the nurse to dim the lights in his room and turn the TV off. He then closed his eyes for the last time.

There are a lot of things I miss about my dad.

There are his corny jokes. We’ve all heard them over and over again, and many times they involved a Lutheran or two.

He had this “old man” shuffle, something I suppose you get when you’ve lived more than eight decades.

And you could always count on him falling asleep in the den watching football. Heck, you could almost set your watch by it.

When I see my older brother Stephen — which isn’t often enough because he lives in Boulder, Colo. — I see a lot of my dad in him. They both have certain mannerisms that make them very much alike.

But I suppose the thing I miss the most is calling my dad, hearing his voice on the other end of the phone, and hearing him light up when he recognizes me.

I even miss when he used to call me by my brothers’ names, or even once, by my sister’s.

I remember very recently I was driving home from work and thought to myself that it was time I called him. I hadn’t done it in a while. And then I realized the impossibility of such an act.

So, anyway, dad, if you’re listening, I miss you. I miss hearing your voice.

Hope wherever you are they never grow tired of your corny jokes.

And by the way. Happy Birthday!

Douglas Grant is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. Contact him at 934-9603 or doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com