He was an industrious man, always building, fixing, or creating something, but Parkinson’s took away his ability to use his hands, and eventually his ability to move freely. He was always independent and proud, but his illness robbed him of both his independence and his pride.
My memories of him are disjointed and scattered. He was a hard worker, sometimes working two jobs to provide for my mother, four sisters, and me. He instilled within us all a good work ethic. And while he had never attended university, he had insight and knowledge in many areas of life. I think that my love for gardening and general interest in nature was inspired by him.
But we never had a close father/son relationship. Sadly, I do not remember much of my childhood, thus my memories of him are limited to what my family members recall. And what I remember most from my teenage years was that I feared him and his short temper and because of that I continually distanced myself.
I believed he tried early in my teenage years to build some sort of relationship with me by taking me with him mow lawns at a distribution center were he was employed. But generally the car ride there and back was silent except for the radio playing Johnny Cash and other “real” country western music he loved so much.
I was then, and still am an emotional and empathetic person, and I do not think that he understood how to relate to a son who would prefer to read a book and plant flowers rather than fix a car and build a walkway. My sensitivity, lead to much abuse in school by peers. There were times I would come home and go into my room and cry myself to sleep, hurting from the verbal wounds inflicted by classmates, but I never told him any of that. I assumed that he would not understand or even care.
I never felt as if I could live up to his expectations, although I didn’t really know what those expectations were because we never communicated. In all my life, I don’t ever remember him saying he was proud of me, or that he loved me. I am sure that he did, and more than likely he expressed that love in his “doing things” for his family.. But for a son that had already been made to feel worthless, stupid and irrelevant by his peers, acceptance and encouragement from my father perhaps would have lessened the pain of those days.
Somewhere in my late 20’s, early 30’s I was moved to write him a letter, asking forgiveness for how I may have sabotaged our relationship and forgiving him for the hurts I had felt from him. It was my attempt to clear the air and start anew. A week or so after sending it, my mother called and said that he was touched by what I wrote, but I wanted him to tell me, and he didn’t. So while I had released any animosity and unforgiveness our relationship did not move forward as I had hoped.
In the years that followed, he would come to the house when there was something to be fixed and he would fix it. No matter what it was, he would be there to take care of it. His wealth of practical knowledge about how things worked and how to fix them was amazing.
But we never really talked. Our conversations were strained best, covering the weather, gardening, or instruction on how to do painting, plumbing and other household repair and after a few minutes we ran out of things to say. We never even talked about religion, politics, or the social issues of the day,and feelings and emotions were taboo.
Unfortunately, the time to get to know each other has past. We both failed to get over the discomfort of each other. We both failed to appreciate and love each other as we were. I regret now the lost years of avoidance, the missed opportunities to say “I love you”.
Many people have expressed how much my father meant to them, how giving and caring he was, what a great man he was.
I mourn today, mourn that I did not know nor get to know that man.