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In Memory of my Dad and Mom

For the last month or so, my family and I have been experiencing the 24-hour syndrome to the max. This is the eve of my father’s death. He was 59 the day before his 60th. I swear that if it were not for bad luck I would not have any at all. I was already far into my fire and dispatch career. I had visited him on the 13th for his birthday because we always razzed him for being born on Friday the 13th. You see both he and mom were products of the stock market crash and although they had parents they was brought up in an orphanage so that they could have a roof over their heads. Orphanages were not warm and fuzzy then they were just one rung above living in the streets and sometimes from the stories that I heard many times they were a rung below. My father did not complain but I pumped stories out of his fellow orphans.

Because of his dire circumstances and poor record keeping he really did not know his birthday. The two most commonly used dates were December 13th and 15th. But I digress. I had much more to learn from him because I was young yet since he was in his thirties when I was born. I was in my twenties when he died. Yes I had much more to learn from his eighth grade education, because after that a man had to go to work. He was a self taught man and very brilliant. He devoured periodicals like National Geographic and technical books. I feel cheated mostly not for me but my children. They did not get to know him.

The day I visited as we usually did we started to horseplay. When I was getting the better of him because I now was bigger than him he would try to ball up and go limp to try and make me loose my grip on him. It never worked. I would toss him around like a rag doll as he was laughing so hard he could hardly breathe (his more jovial attitude coming with his later years). We (my parents, my wife and I) had a little dinner and celebration. After that my father said let’s go for a ride. This is when he gave me my facts of life speech. We drove around for over an hour and a half, my wife just now said thanks a lot for that as I asked about another fact from that day. LOL No it was not a sex talk duh; it was literally a facts of life talk. He told me about my temper and how to control it, how to manage marriage, which by the way he was no good at either but wanted desperately for me to learn from his mistakes. We talked about kids the headaches and the joys. This was all very unusual because he was a tough man for the most part. There were some craftsmanship things that I had done that he never let on about how good he thought that they were. I only found out after he died from friends of his because I was wearing one of the leather motorcycle jackets that I painted. His friends stated “So this is the jacket that he talked so much about!” They would tell me how proud of me that he was because I just picked up the very expensive tools and was determined that I was going to be able to do it. They also relayed the he was especially proud of me because the first airbrushed jacket that I did was a copy of the embroidered tiger and eagle jacket that he brought home from Korea. It was getting too old to wear and the stitching was brittle and breaking. So before I bagged it forever I took pictures of it and then duplicated it on a leather jacket. So there was no question that I freehand copied it I reversed the direction of the tiger. Anyway he was especially proud of this because I am color deficient and mixed all the colors myself. He was like that; he did not like to praise in fear of giving me a swelled head.

So I offer to you that I use to love the Croce song “Cats in the Cradle” because we had a relationship like that because he was always working to make it better for his kids and I followed suit for a while. Now I take all the time off that I have coming to me, life is short, money is not everything, and your time with your kids is exponentially shorter.

My bad luck I worked until 8am on the 14th and right before I fell asleep after just seeing my wife off to work I got that phone call from a dear friend, fellow dispatcher, and firefighter. He said “A neighbor had called about a man down in my parent’s back yard, and it does not sound good.” I beat the police and paramedics to my house and there was my father down in the garden in the back yard. If he could he worked that garden on any day that was minimally hospitable to do so. He loved that garden, and now so do I. The cop also a young man was the best person to respond because he too had recently lost a father. He got there seconds after me and told me not to start because it was to late . . . (my father did like to get up early) I will never forget him for the kindness and compassion that he showed that day. After I left on the 13th apparently my father and mother had a quarrel and mom was still asleep . . . I waited for the medics to show up so that if she had a problem they would be there. To add insult to injury . . . I had to commit my mother that day also (yes, I was expecting it because she did have some diagnosed issues). When funds ran out because she still was not rehabilitated . . . I had to send her to the State Hospital. All my EMT, and paramedic buddies consoled me because they knew how deplorable the state hospital was . . . there was little choice, I could not do it, newlywed, pregnant wife at home etc., my mother ended up dying there due to lack of ethics and compassion. She died the way she feared the most, alone. They ignored her cries of pain and she was restrained to the bed. She just turned 56, and died 4 months after dad. She died of peritonitis an infection in the stomach lining 500cc’s of puss, this does not appear over night, this is from neglect, and I sent her there.

Now, I am drawn strongly and emotionally to a song by Mike and the Mechanics. It is “The Living Years.” It is a clone of my life and I believe that the author of the song had to parallel my life because there is no way to write that song with such precision without having been through it.

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that Im a prisoner
To all my father held so dear
I know that Im a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
Im afraid thats all weve got

You say you just dont see it
He says its perfect sense
You just cant get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
Its the bitterness that lasts

So dont yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you dont give up, and dont give in
You may just be o.k.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye

I wasnt there that morning
When my father passed away
I didnt get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
Im sure I heard his echo
In my babys new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye

Listen to it here
or here

I have had many friends thank me for this advice below, before the song came out.

Do not be an ASS tell your father you love him in the living years!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do not have my regrets, I know it is too late dad . . . I love you, and I miss you, thanks for teaching me what you had the time to teach me, I am a better man for it.

I hope this helps someone who needs it.

b

See a Glenn Sacks similar blog here

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7 Responses to “In Memory of my Dad and Mom”

  1. I miss my Mom and Dad, who died in 1998 and 2000, they lived in Florida then! But worse was my wife, who died in 1986, after the doctor came out and asked me if she needed “extraordinary measures”! Our 6 kids have been the answer to all our prayers since then, and my friend Midge helped pass these many years since!

  2. Bernie, it is never easy to lose a parent and I can relate as I just lost my Dad on 10/12/08. I am not sure it matters if you can be there with them or not when they pass on, it’s still difficult and you always wish you could have had just a little more time to talk and things you wise you had said… and this, my experience I share with you.
    Dad had suffered for several years with heart issues and back in June 08 he went into full cardiac arrest. In the confusion of the ER, NO ONE remembered he had a DNR order! It took us til the next morning to get the nerve up to tell Dad what had happen as he didn’t remember anything from the episode. With his ever crazy sense of humor, when the doctor came in for morning rounds, Dad ask him if he could “sue” the hospital for “jerking him back across Jordan”!!
    On Oct 5 Dad was placed in Hospice care, my sister called to say Dad was not doing well and was asking for Riley and I. When we arrived it was pretty obvious he wasn’t going to last long. All four of us kids, the four in-laws and 8 grandchildren,made the decision to take leave from work and stay with Dad at home and only use Hospice for guidance. My niece is an EMT and we leaned on her a lot to administer meds etc as directed by Hospice. It was only a short seven days later, short for us but I am sure with his pain it felt like an eternity for Dad, he closed his eyes and went to heaven as all of the family sat holding his hand, or leg, foot…we all just wanted to be touching him. He had in those last few days told all of us how much he loved us, how he was looking forward to seeing us again in Heaven. But you know what, once his eyes closed at 2:25AM and I knew I’d never hear his voice again and I’d never be able to talk to him again… even though we’d spent 24/7 the last week and we had always been close throughout my 49 years with him, I still felt like I had missed out on hearing him tell me things or my telling him.
    I have found that I am best dealing with being out of his touch and out of the sound of his voice, that I remember all the good times. I remember all the times that made me laugh and be proud of my heritage with and from him. He wasn’t an easy man, he was strict and never gushed with praise but yet in my heart I know he loved me and was proud of me. Just cling to the good memories and you are right, one should never pass up the opportunity to say how much they love another, especially their family!
    As I told someone in our extended family, Heaven seems a little sweeter these days…if there is a Heaven I know my Dad is there and if there isn’t a Heaven, it sure makes living life a little easier believing that it is real.
    I know at this time of year many people who have lost family and friends miss them even more, this is my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my Dad and it’s been hard. But I keep reminding myself he is in a much better place. My prayers will be more fervent for all those missing someone this holiday season!

    Vickie in Casanova,Va – Sunday, December 14, 2008

  3. Bern,

    I remeber this time in our lives well. I had forgotten some of the details, though. I remeber how strong you were; having to immediately assume care for your Mother, while taking care of your young family. I hope that you have had the opportunity to pass these lessons on to your son, there is no better honor than a second generation learning from your Father, from a Grandfather he never met.

  4. Thanks guys for the kind words and comfort.

    Vickie,

    All I can say is that you have to keep the holidays. My mother was obviously very distraught and she did not want us to celebrate Christmas. My nieces and nephews would not have understood and I told her it is not right to put this on us or the kids and I am sure the neither of our parents would want us to diminish the value of Christmas. My father loved Christmas and we honored his love of it by keeping it happy. I will post the History of St, Timothy’s Church Manger. My father made the Crèche and it has been a family tradition that our family sets up and strikes the manger since 1962 and has now done for three generations. This is the way I now stay in touch with my father. My youngest was not in born yet but the paper got hold of this three generation tradition and the two older ones were in the paper for continuing this tradition. I hope that they will if not in the next few years put all three of them in the paper for the fiftieth anniversary.

    Dave,

    I am so sorry. The only weak moment I saw in my father was when my mother’s meds interacted with each other and she went into a seizure. I had the double trouble of dealing with my mother’s medical issue having worked in the field and my father’s weak moment. That was more troubling than my mother’s medical issue. My father was never weak and always strong. I knew that mom was going to be OK but it was hard to convince dad so I have seen how difficult it is to deal with the death of a spouse because that is what my dad thought was going to happen. I have also I am sorry to say to see what it is like for children to die and parents having to deal with that. You know I though it was bad when the children were young but to have to call my granma (spelling intentional that is how we said it) and tell her that her son is dead and then to have to deal with her and her sister at the funeral, wow. There is more that I might get into at some future point in time. Anyway I saw that it is not any easier when your baby is 59 years old. Heart breaking.

    Mike,

    Yes I have passed many of these life lessons, and he still has many that he has to learn and apply. Thanks for the humbling complement about how strong I was. I did what I did because I had to, and I guess that definition of a man that would have made my father proud. It is not as though I did not make mistakes and loose my temper with mom at times because I know many widows that have lives a long and fruitful live after there husbands death. She also should have pulled herself together to live for her grand kids. What many did not see is that it did catch up with me months later. I did let it all hang out and let my emotions win for a very short period of time.

    I love you guys never forget that, and yes I am big enough to say that and big enough that no one will have the guts to say anything about what I just said. LOL

    b

  5. Bernie,
    We are all reflections of are parents and those before them. We never say “I love you” enough. Though we get strength, knowledge, and love from them they ask only for our love and respect in return… We forget at times.
    Thanks so much for the reminder.
    Charlie

  6. This is from a cyberfriend of mine and he said that I could share it with others so here it is:

    Attila L. Vinczer Says:

    March 14th, 2009 at 9:36 am
    Bernie:
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and sharing your experience to better your fellow man. My Dad is 71 and my mom 70. They will be celebrating 60 years of marriage this year. I feel extremely lucky as they both have been amazing parents to me. I owe so much to them that I could only repay to my own children! They are definitely not perfect! They can argue intensely, disagree about many things. But they love each other unconditionally! They have grown out of utter poverty, where eating potatoes for weeks was not uncommon. They have shared the good days and bad days. They have never abandoned each other no matter what the difficulty or crisis life may have bestowed upon them.

    I love my mother and father deeply, but there is a very special bond between my dad and I that I cherish. I agree with you whole heartedly that you never know what tomorrow will bring hence the reason why the Clock of Life poem means so much to me as you simply don’t know when the hands of time will stop at late or early hour. A late dear friend and mentor of mine Willard Solderberg would say, never say good by, instead say I’ll see you later. He said goodby is just too permanent. He also said when you think you have it really bad, if you check carefully you will find someone close around you that has a much bigger problem than you.

    My dad went out to work when he was 14 years old and he would bring home ALL his earnings to his mother who was rasing three children, including him, alone during and after WWII. No child support, no luxurious baby bonuses! They had food stamps and had to take turns waiting in line from 4.00am just to get a loaf of bread before the bakery ran out. They kept a goat for milk and a garden for vegetables and fruit. Hand washed clothes and had only one heated room in the house in the winter. These were REAL single mothers. Today’s single moms are spoiled selfish brats who unjustly and selfishly take children from their loving fathers and their wallets! I would be utterly ashamed to do something like that to my children!

    His dad left to fight in WWII (for freedom!) when my dad was just six years old and did not see him again for 18 years as my Grandfather got stuck behind the iron curtain and attempting to cross it was pretty much suicide. My mother’s father also went to war and NEVER returned as he got stuck behind the curtain as well. My mother’s mom also raised three children ALONE without ANY financial support from anyone. She worked at the Bata shoe factory all her life. Neither of my Grandmothers fooled around or remarried and they were both in their twenties when their husbands got swept away to war!

    My dads dad died when he was only 35 years old so he only had a total of 17 years to know his dad. My father misses his dad dearly as do I. I remember writing letters to him and going to church with him as he held my hand walking. I just loved doing anything with him. What I would do to be able to spend even ten minutes talking to him. I listen to my father say, “I wish I would have remembered to ask dad this or that? or It would be so nice to get his advice etc.” I listen intently and learn from my elders who are wise people if one cares to listen to them. They hold invaluable life secrets and tips that are costly to learn and earn on your own time.

    Bernie, I believe your dad knew that you loved him even if you think you never told him enough, you did! If I can tell you loved your dad then certainly he could. I know my boys love me by the way they act, the things they do and of course by the way they tell me they love me all the time. My wife used to say “I love you.” and I knew she never did even if she said it all day long! I could sense her infatuation was with something other than me, money, status, flirting, drinking who knows. Who cares. I felt used and hollow with her. I have felt more compassion from complete strangers or even my dog than my own wife and I say this honestly not vindictively!

    Bernie, you are right. We men are not very good at telling our dad’s that we love them in words. Nobody has taught us to and men don’t feel right saying it much. We want to. And then when we get our nerve up to it, it is too late! Much easier with our moms. However, I think we men express our love towards our dads just a little differently and I think we do that all the time.

    Attila

  7. #2 from Attila,

    Attila L. Vinczer Says:

    March 14th, 2009 at 5:32 pm
    Bernie please do cut, paste and post it as you feel you like to. I read your story on your website and found it moving and a remarkable rich history about your family with your dad emerging from terrible adversity. I know you are hurting about losing your parents at such an early age but I sense a lot of joy. I could easily visualize your joy playing with your dad and those moments will live with you forever! It gives me a great deal of pleasure to read and know about others who feel so strongly about making a deep positive impression on their fellow man or to have the intuition and motivation to try and make good men better.

    I married a woman who claimed she was abused in her previous marriage. Huge lie! She had a 5 year old daughter and a 3 year old son. I felt they should have a dad, not even having a clue what goes on in the world of feminism, false DV claims and women distancing children from their fathers in those days, 1996. I could have married anyone. I always felt sorry for my step children’s dad, never knowing he was the decent parent who was destroyed by a woman connected to a wealthy family. I recall his dad an elderly English gentleman who I could easily converse with, while others claimed they could not, weeping when I told him what was going on in my marriage as he said “That is exactly what my wife did to his son.” Sick.

    Some would say why I deserved such an unfair hand in life. I don’t. I see it as being given a bigger task in life to help others and my own family experience was preparatory work for the much bigger task to help others. I have been blessed by two amazing boys and no matter what contempt I may have towards my ex wife she did bear these children and almost died in childbirth with our first son. In that regard I have nothing but gratitude towards her.

    I have told my children about Willard and they too say see you later or see you soon with a love you dad at the end of the sentence as you never know if that may be the final see you later. I am sure they will pass this along to others.

    I will also share with you when my dad’s mother went in for heart surgery she waited a long time in hospital as there was a nursing strike. We visited her almost every day. The day before surgery I was going to visit her and then thought, no she would probably appreciate it more to see her after surgery. The next day, I being the liaison between the hospital and my family, called and they were telling me surgery is going well and the last call they said she didn’t make it. I said no I just need you to tell me when she will be out of surgery, they repeated a few times that she didn’t make it before the sense of pure shock set in and chilled my body to the bone.

    When Willard was in hospital, who spent his whole life in the Canadian Military, I had to drive by the hospital to run an errand and I was going to drive home being late, but I recollected my grandmothers fate and turned around to go in and see Willard. I bought him a coffee and we chatted. He died that morning at 2.00am and I was the last one to see him.

    Myself having a near death experience and realizing how little the difference there is between life and death, I never put off anything with people as tomorrow they may no longer be with us! I cherish and value life immensely. Even my children value their grandfather and often ask how long will “nagytata”, Hungarian for grandfather, live. I tell them although he is older, he will live a long time more.

    My opinion. dads/men are very important people yet not much appreciated. It’s difficult to grip how feminism has had such a deep adverse effect on men. Before I leave the face of this earth I will see to it that men are respected and appreciated once again.

    Attila


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