July 21 will mark the five-year anniversary of my fatherís death. Itís been on my mind lately.
My dad and I were never close; Iím not sure if thatís because we were so different, or if itís because we were so much alike.
Certainly, there were a lot of things we didnít agree on. Like a lot of boys, I dreamed about becoming a pro athlete. Growing up, I was consumed with sports. Whatever sport was in season, I was obsessed with it. My dad, on the other hand, couldnít care less about it. He considered sports to be silly, a waste of time. One of my most vivid childhood memories is my dad driving me to a basketball game, complaining the entire time about having to work all week and then ďdrag (me) all over the country to play basketball.Ē
Maybe ó probably ó he didnít realize the impact of what he was saying. Iím sure he forgot it before the day was over. I never have.
My dad was very serious. When he wasnít working, his idea of relaxing was Ö working.
He was an appliance repair technician, and a very, very good one. I once saw him diagnose the problem with a broken washing machine over the telephone ó by listening to its owner describe the sound it was making. After he hurt his back and took an early retirement, he kept busy by buying and repairing broken appliances. He sometimes sold them for a nice profit, but I think he did it more for the enjoyment of the work.
I donít mean to say that Dad didnít have a sense of humor. For some reason, he absolutely loved old Laurel and Hardy movies. I remember thinking how unusual it was to hear him laugh, but Laurel and Hardy could do it every time.
One of my favorite memories of Dad revolves around peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My two younger brothers and I all loved them, and my mom often made them for us, especially during the summer. My mom quickly learned to make six sandwiches, or nine ó a number divisible by three. That way, we each got the same number of sandwiches and there was no bloodshed involved.
Dad, of course, didnít know that rule. One day, he decided to make sandwiches for lunch ó seven of them, to be exact. I donít remember the details, but there was a disagreement and perhaps some violence involved in determining who should get that last sandwich.
Dad wasnít pleased, and he wasnít buying the ďmultiples of threeĒ rule.
ďNext time, Iím gonna make seven sandwiches, and yíall better be trying to give that last sandwich to your brother,Ē he said.
Sure enough, a couple weeks later, there was a plate with seven peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We each had two, and then I said to my brother Jerry: ďJerry, why donít you take that last sandwich?Ē Jerry shook his head, and said ďNo. Ö Joey, you should eat that sandwich.Ē
I will never forget what happened next.
My brother Joey, without missing a beat, said ďOK, thanks!Ē and grabbed the sandwich before we could even react.
I glanced at my dad, standing in the kitchen and laughing so hard I thought he might faint.
There are a lot of things about my dad that I didnít understand, and never will. Iím sure there were a lot of things about me that he didnít understand, either.
When my motherís health began to fail, Dad cared for her at home. It wasnít easy, from a physical or emotional perspective. But he did it, and he never complained.
The night before Mom died, we listened as a surgeon explained to us that her liver had been virtually destroyed by cancer. She had suffered from kidney disease for years, but the cancer had gone undetected.
When the surgeon told us that Mom was on the brink of death, Dad broke down crying. I can count the times I saw him cry on one hand. Iíll never forget him sobbing, asking ďWhat am I going to do now?Ē
Mom died the next afternoon, and Dad never really recovered. He had quit smoking, but started again after Momís death.
Seven years later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Doctors said the prognosis was good, if he had a portion of one lung removed. He went in for surgery in late June 2012, and never left the hospital.
In the end, it was up to me to make the decision to remove him from a ventilator. He was suffering, and he wasnít going to get better. Still, it was the hardest thing Iíve ever had to do.
I donít think my dad was a great father, and Iím not sure why. I donít think he was a bad person. I donít think he wanted me to feel the way I did about him. Iíve resigned myself to the fact that Iíll never understand some things about him.
As a dad myself, I tried to do some things differently than my dad did. Especially as a divorced dad, that was tough sometimes. Both of my sons played high school basketball, and there were countless times when I drove 350 miles round-trip to watch them play for 10 minutes. I would do it all over again, too, because it was important to me that they knew I cared.
Itís hard to believe heís been gone almost five years now. And even though our relationship was complicated and sometimes rocky, I miss him.
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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.