Lame Adventure 429: A Heartfelt Farewell

Some of you may have noticed that I have been absent from the blogosphere for a while. I was in San Francisco with my family. A week ago today my dear old dad died. Naturally, a part of me is bereft. I am now an orphan and I hate that. But Dad was 87, terminally ill with cancer and had suffered from a serious heart condition that worsened significantly when he reached his ninth decade.

Dad on his honeymoon in 1951.

Dad on his honeymoon in 1951.

Since October 2012, the going only got tougher for him. He was in and out of the hospital several times. After every hospitalization, his dwindling supply of energy further depleted. For much of the past year he told anyone who would listen that every night before going to bed he prayed that he would die in his sleep. Four weeks ago, following a collapse, this ferociously independent man’s decline accelerated at warp speed.

Lovebirds: Dad and Mom.

Lovebirds: Dad and Mom.

Soon, Dad was too weak to get out of bed. My siblings who lived near Dad, Dovima and Axel, made the painful decision to start hospice. Initially, Dad wanted to die at home. My brother, Axel, had checked in on him daily for the last fifteen months. Dovima volunteered to be his primary caregiver during Dad’s final days. I flew out to join her, but Axel was always near.

Fit and trim at 50.

Fit and trim at 50.

Dad loathed the indignity of home hospice. During one particularly rough night when he cried out in pain, Dovima came to his rescue. When he saw his eldest daughter he spoke two last words to her:

Dad: Oh, crap!

His last word to me was about how he was feeling:

Dad: Lousy!

His last utterance to Axel was a monosyllabic, a groan when Axel said:

Axel: Dad, it’s me, Axel.

Still buff at 74.

Still buff at 74.

We shifted into overdrive to enter Dad into a hospice facility. We heeded the advice of our Pathways social worker and got him into Zen Hospice, an oasis of nurturing and tranquility. Dad was so far gone there was concern that he might not survive the ambulance ride from his house to Zen. We knew he no longer wanted to die at home, so even if he bought his rainbow in transit, we decided that we were responding to his revised wish. I was allowed to accompany him in the ambulance, a bumpy twenty-minute journey. Dad, who could no longer speak, looked scared. I promised him that he was going to a place where he’d get great care and we would still be there with him. Dad survived the ride. The wonderful staff and volunteers at Zen backed up my claim.

Clowning for his 4-year-old photographer, granddaughter, Sweet Pea.

Clowning for his 4-year-old photographer, granddaughter, Sweet Pea.

At Zen, Dad was no longer restless, his dignity was returned, and he was comfortable. All of us, Dovima, Axel, my niece, Sweet Pea, brother-in-law, Herb (with a silent h) and Cousin Lou, held his hand and let him know how much we loved and appreciated him. Two days later, with Dovima and I at his bedside, Dad drew his final breath. His wish was granted. He died peacefully in his sleep.

Chirstmas 2012 (l to r) Axel, Dovima, Sweet Pea holding Thurber, Dad, Me photographed by Herb.

Christmas 2012 (l to r) Axel, Dovima, Sweet Pea holding Thurber, Dad and Me photographed by Herb.

Following our father shedding his mortal coil, there was a lovely ceremony at Zen where his caregivers took turns washing his face, hands and feet. They each said words of comfort. Dovima and I were invited to participate, but the pain of losing our father was just too fresh. We sat and watched. When Dad was carried outside, his face was exposed to the sun and he was showered with flower petals. Dad had told Dovima that when he died, he wanted to make his exit under tons of flowers. So, that wish was granted, too.

Dad's flower petals.

Dad’s flower petals.

This past Tuesday, we had a traditional funeral, but it was not a morose affair. We celebrated Dad’s life in pictures, and with many of his own words in a program we created that showed his wit and wisdom. A sample of his wit was what he liked to say to me when he thought I was behaving like a flake:

Dad: You have more crust than a pie factory!

A sample of his wisdom:

Dad: Do good and forget about it. Do bad and think about it.

But I agree with Axel, who wisely said:

Axel: Let’s be careful not to make him bigger in death than he was in life.

Our father was not a perfect man; possibly this was his most familiar expression:

Dad: God damn it!

But he was the perfect father for us.

In conclusion, I would like to share a tale about Dad in his prime, call it an early Lame Adventure. Our father was a very athletic man. In high school he lettered in Gymnastics and he maintained those skills well into middle age. He could be quite a show off; something my siblings and I loved. After Sunday dinner, he would take us out on walks in our neighborhood. He loved to sing an asinine ditty, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, at the top of his lungs. I recall doing a duet with him on it. It is an understatement that we had nothing on Nat King Cole and daughter Natalie’s duet on Unforgettable.

On this particular Sunday in 1966, as we were walking down Holloway Avenue at Denslowe Street, I begged Dad to do “the flag” as we approached a signpost.

An historic place in  family history.

An historic place in family history.

The flag was an extraordinary feat of physical dexterity. My dad, who had phenomenal arm strength, could extend himself completely perpendicular to the signpost.

Historic signpost.

Historic signpost.

It was quite a sight to see.

Witness's rendering of quite a sight.

Witness’s rendering of quite a sight.

As we were marveling at Dad’s truly awesome feat, a motorist slammed his or her brakes and we heard an awful screech. Looking back, the sight of a 39 year-old-man suspended completely perpendicular from a signpost into the street must have been discombobulating in 1966 … or maybe even today.

The father of Lame Adventures.

The father of Lame Adventures.

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111 responses to “Lame Adventure 429: A Heartfelt Farewell

  1. Thank you.

    Like

  2. Bettielou Wagner

    I am so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like he had a life rich in love and humor. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your siblings.

    Like

    • Thank you Bettielou. My dad was a very gifted joke teller. He loved to ambush his audience with them meaning he’d act like he was having an ordinary conversation with you until, bam!, he’d hit you with the punch line.

      Like

  3. A great homage and a terrific read.

    All my love,

    R.

    Like

  4. My dear V, I am so sorry to hear that. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful person [should have known from his daughter!] but I don’t think you’ll ever be an orphan because he will always be with you. Sending you my thoughts…
    ps the ‘like’ button translates: beautiful homage.

    Like

    • Thank you Marina. At Dad’s funeral, like you, the deacon said that Dad would continue to live on in all of us, and that a person doesn’t really leave this earth until the last person that remembers them buys their rainbow. I liked that idea a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. V, my deepest sympathies to you and your family. This was a beautiful tribute to your handsome Dad. You’ve constructed a perfect story here and took us along. Thank you for the privilege of that and I’m thinking of you.

    The Zen ceremony was lovely and I’m very glad your Dad was able to experience that as he left this earth with all of you there. Best to you, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Brig. We think Dad would have loved both of his sendoffs. It was such a beautiful ceremony at Zen Hospice and even at his traditional funeral, his coffin was showered with long stemmed red roses. He got his flowers and he got a lot of love.

      Like

  6. I’m sorry for your loss. Your piece is beautiful. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Like

  7. For whatever reason, tears came to my eyes when reading this … but I can also say that smiles came too! Peace to you and to your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My sympathies to you and your family. He sounds like a wonderful father. He helped you become the person you are. How nice it is to have rich memories. May you always remember him with happiness, warmth, and a smile.

    btw…I like that song.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. V,
    I’m deeply touched by your tribute to your dad. I can see where you got your sense of humor. What a blessing to have had him in your life for so long – even so, it’s hard to see him go. I’m glad he got his wish and I know that he is now at peace.

    My deepest sympathies to you and your family, V.

    Cathy

    Like

    • Thank you Cathy. I did inherit Dad’s sense of humor, big nose and narrow feet — not the worst combination in the world considering that my sense of smell is as fine tuned as that of a bloodhound. Also, Dad was a bird lover! We’re very glad that he left this world peacefully and that we got to be with him when he made his final exit.

      Like

  10. What a wonderful tribute. I am so sorry.

    I was thinking about you the other day, wondering how you were doing.

    xo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My condolences to you and your family- your beautiful tribute brought tears to my eyes. Your father sounds like a remarkable man with a loving heart and a sense of fun and adventure……just like you! I’m happy you have so many good memories to keep you company in the years to come.

    Like

  12. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this. My heart goes out to you.

    Like

  13. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. I had noticed you were missing from the blogosphere.
    It sounds like your dad was a character like you! I can see where you got his dry sense of humor even if you didn’t inherit his upper body strength. I’m sending lots of cyber hugs and positive energy to you and your family.

    Like

  14. Dear V,
    So sad to hear of your dad’s passing. My condolences and hugs. You honour him beautifully. What a lovely summary of his transition and a Dad well-loved.
    I am jealous too: I want to (be able to) do the flag! Wow.

    Like

    • Thanks Tania. My dad was a beautiful guy (especially in his hunky youth!) and just a great all-round family guy. Even though the closest I could possibly come to doing the flag was watching him do it, I thought that was so cool. How many kids could brag that their dad could practically crash cars with their gymnastic skills? I owned those bragging rights!

      Like

  15. What a wonderful tribute to your father.

    Like

  16. What a man and what a life! God bless him!

    Like

  17. Sincere condolences for your loss. My own father died at 62, far too young, so I understand the feeling when one loses a parent. You have written a great tribute to him, and the Zen Hospice was a wise choice.

    Like

  18. Lamo…beautiful. You’re doing him proud. So sorry–but he’s probably doing ‘flags’ up There.

    Like

  19. Oh Lame, I am so very sorry. This is a beautiful tribute to a man I know you adored. I’m all teary this is such a touching piece. I’m glad he left you on his terms and at peace. Hospice is a miraculous thing that I don’t suppose you understand until you experience it.

    Peace to you, mag

    Like

  20. A lovely tribute, V. How wonderful that he got he last requests fulfilled.

    Like

  21. V, I’m so sorry for your loss. My sympathies to you and your siblings. This was such a beautiful homage to your father. What a wonderful man. I know he will always be with you. I love the ceremony of the flowers and feet washing. I’m happy he passed the way he wanted. He lead a life full of humor surrounded by people he loves. That’s all anyone can hope for. What a touching piece, V.

    Like

    • Thanks Amy. Dad was a good guy and I’m grateful that he was always in my corner. I’m also grateful that I was able to make it back in time to be with him during his final days. The Zen House exit ceremony was a lovely sendoff. And he got his flowers!

      Like

  22. I am so very sorry for your loss. Your father’s greatest gift was producing wonderful children who shared his quirky love of life.
    There is nothing you can see that is not a flower.

    Like

  23. Dear V.,

    I read this with tears in my eyes, a smile on my face, a lump in my throat and a warm heart. A wonderful, beautiful tribute to your dad. I love the Zen Hospice care and ceremony. Makes me want to move back to California. It is so good your dad passed with dignity and according to his wishes. I believe both my parents did, both of them with me, family and, for my mother, hospice at their sides, holding their hands — and great music and laughter at their funerals.

    I see my dear friends R and Bettielou have commented here. This is what we have in our lives — family and friends. Life is short, even when we live long — so let us live it with humor and dignity.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. You dad seems like someone I would have liked to have known. He will be missed.

    Hugs from deep in the heart of Delaware,
    Carol (Samantha)

    Like

    • Thanks Carol. You nailed it about how wonderful the hospice experience can be. Dad was indeed treated with dignity and respect and so were his survivors. We all got the opportunity to say goodbye; to let him know how important he was to us and how much we loved him. As much as I miss him, I feel good about how he shed his mortal coil. I also feel very lucky that I have two such stand up siblings.

      Like

      • Yes, you are fortunate with your siblings, V., and I can’t say enough about the hospice experience. What Axel thought your dad might say, sounds like something my dad would have said. “Up there,” as my father drives by in his trolley car, he might see your dad flag him to a stop. 🙂

        I posted a link to your tribute here on my FB page; I had just written a lengthy tribute to Italians on my blog, and you and your family exemplify what I attempted to say.

        Like

  24. I am so sorry for your loss, V, but glad that you were able to be with him and that it was a peaceful death. Your dad sounds like a tremendous guy, and it’s lovely to hear that you have such great memories of him.

    Like

    • Thanks Jen. I wasn’t sure if Dad would still be around by the time I deplaned, but I got lucky. It means so much to me to be able to have had one last goodbye. I do have many very good memories of him, which I suppose is why it’s so hard to accept that he’s no longer of this earth. I know he lives on in my siblings, niece and me, but there’s part of me that wishes I could turn back the clock ten years, but life doesn’t work that way.

      Like

  25. I’m so sorry, V. There’s no good age to lose a parent. It’s nice to see that your dad remained vital for as long as he did. Good-looking man!

    Like

    • Thanks Smak. I know I had both quantity and quality when it came to years with Dad being around, Smak, but my greedy side wishes I could still have more time with him. He was ruggedly handsome — something that wasn’t lost on my mom.

      Like

      • “but my greedy side wishes I could still have more time with him”

        Of course it does. To me, that’s one of the really beautiful things we feel about the people we love, but which we can only really feel in their absence–that inexhaustible and indefinable thing which makes us love them and makes us ache for their loss, because there NEVER would have been enough time, there never would have come a day when your love for him would have been “satisfied,” when you had had enough of this very important man. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.

        I hope I said that right. If I sound like a jerk, I said it wrong.

        Like

  26. LA, I’m so sorry for your loss, you have written a beautiful and humorous tribute to him. He sounds like a nice man, and they never really leave us. I speak to my Dad everyday, sometimes aloud, sometimes in my head, but always everyday.

    I’m thinking of you.

    PS. The witness’s rendering is quite impressive.

    Like

  27. So sorry. But a beautiful tribute. I’m going to remember that line, “Do good and forget about it. Do bad and think about it.”

    Like

  28. a beautifully written tribute to a good man. Thank you for sharing him with us. What a loving and peaceful send off with the cleanings and flower petals…you have been in my thoughts, my friend.

    Like

  29. what an awesome post. I hope my daughter writes something heartfelt and filled with good memories when I kick the bucket. I echo Tom’s comments. My Dad is with me every day. BTW – I’m pretty good at doing the “limp” flag, especially after a couple of drinks.

    Like

  30. What a touching tribute to your dad. He sounds like he was a real character! At least now we all know where you get your wit from. The experience must have been difficult – especially near the end, but it sounds like your family pulled together to let your father have his dignity. You have my deepest sympathy, V.

    Like

    • Thanks Terri. When he was around, you knew it. He was the consummate extrovert. I cannot deny that the end was rough. Seeing this robust guy so frail and helpless was not easy, but we rallied to make his sendoff as special as possible. Fulfilling his wish for a peaceful death was foremost.

      Like

  31. Wonderful that your father had a nice, full life, and that he went out on his own terms.

    Like

    • Thanks Jeremy. It was wonderful that we were able to help him get his wish. To the very end he was a man who knew exactly what he wanted — even when he changed his mind and demanded to go in another direction.

      Like

  32. I’m so sorry to hear this V. My heart goes out to you and your family. I love your touching tribute to your father. How fortunate to have had the love of a man with wisdom, strength and a great sense of humor — I can imagine his singing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt at the top of his lungs! It’s also one of my favorite songs to sing at the top of my lungs. Take care V…

    Like

    • Thanks Sandee. I know that I was very lucky to be raised by a dad that was so true blue and into his family. When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come around just so I could be with him. He was a traveling salesman so he was usually away during the week. Friday nights I would get very excited knowing that he would be home soon.

      Like

  33. So sorry for your loss. And thanks for sharing with us a moving tribute of your Dad. I’m sure those photos are more memorable than ever to you now. The ‘flag’ is an extraordinary feat indeed. I’m sure you’ve inherited some of the dexterity and physical prowess.

    Like

    • Thanks Arti. Although I have not let myself go to seed, Dad was in a league of his own in the departments of physical strength and agility. All I inherited was the ability to lift a box without blowing out my back. As for the photos, you’re absolutely right about that. But my favorites are my parents’ wedding album. Those pictures are so lush, it looked like they were shot by Carl Van Vechten.

      Like

  34. Dude. I’m soooooooo sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. You definitely honored him well with this post. I love the fact that he had mad gymnastic skills and could just hang from a pole like that, I love that you remember that detail about him. I also liked hearing his quotes and words of wisdom you guys put together for his service. What a great way to remember him. Sending you lots of love, hugs, and strength buddy. Great pics my friend.

    Like

    • Thanks Guat. I know you know all too well about what it’s like to lose one’s beloved father. The picture I soooooooooooo wish I had of Dad was when he’d do the flag. That was wild! Back in the day, his forearms rivaled Popeye’s.

      Like

  35. Aw my coffee got salty with my tears reading this, I am so sorry. Your dad sounds like he was the perfect match for you. You can’t be an orphan, you will have him with you in wonderful memories and all those pictures. Thank you for sharing your dad with all of us, we are fortunate.

    Like

  36. Dear LA, This was a beautifully written post in tribute to a beautiful parent who lived a very good life. Well done on all counts.

    Like

  37. Your post (let’s call it a Tribute Adventure) reminded me of an editorial by the late TV news journalist Eric Sevareid who said (and I’m paraphrasing):

    “When we say ‘the good die young,’ we don’t necessarily mean that all good people die at a young age but, at whatever age a good person dies, it is too young for family and friends.”

    Like

  38. You have my heart, sugar.

    Your tribute to y’all’s Daddy was splendid! I love what your brother said:
    Let’s be careful not to make him bigger in death than he was in life.
    Our father was not a perfect man; possibly this was his most familiar expression:
    Dad: God damn it!
    But he was the perfect father for us.

    I can only hope to inspire this sort of remembrance from our coconut krewe when I buy my rainbow.

    You are a treasure, sugar. xoxo

    Like

  39. Being able to celebrate his life is a great way to honor him. Hold tightly to your memories of him and remember him as the person he really was. And if you can look back and not think of one other person whom you wished was your dad, then your dad did one hell of a job. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m sorta jealous that you got to have such a great father. 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks Mike. My siblings and I did get very lucky in the father department. He was a hardworking, reliable, fun loving, straight arrow who wasn’t strict. He didn’t smoke or womanize. He wasn’t racist or sexist. He never laid a finger on me, but he may have once walloped Axel and once, Dovima. With me he was primarily a hugger. He occasionally yelled at me when I behaved like a jerk, but that was the extent of it. If I was giggling with Dovima late at night, he might say, “Don’t make me come up there.” That was all it took to get me to shut the hell up. He was a social drinker that truly loved Mom. In many respects, he was too good to be true.

      Like

  40. I’m so sorry, Virginia. And my apologies for being late to the comments. Wow. What a wonderful send-off for your dad. You and your siblings are to be commended for all you did for him, both before and after his passing. Even when you know it’s coming, it’s still hard to accept. Your dad’s line about pie crust was pretty close to my mom’s. Only hers was “You have more crust than a nickel pie.” Sending warm wishes your way…

    Like

    • Thanks Melissa. It’s very true that even though we knew Dad was approaching the end of the road, it wasn’t easy to accept. Since he died, he has made guest appearances in my dreams. I so welcome seeing him. Dovima told me that he’s appeared in hers, too. I hope that both of our sets of parents have had a chance to meet wherever they are now.

      Like

  41. My condolences. May you all get peace. 🙂

    Like

  42. Five years ago, my dad passed at 88—he had also experienced a restoration of dignity in a great hospice facility. This post is just beautiful and great and full of spirit. Wishing you and yours peace. Thank you so much for sharing “the perfect dad for us.”

    Like

  43. I’m thinking your dad would have enjoyed this wonderfully warm “send-off”…

    Like

  44. It’s hard to say goodbye. Very sorry to hear your Dad is gone. His hospice sounds incredible and it’s so good to hear he was comfortable at the end, surrounded by the people he had spent his life with. Take care, and love and thoughts from all of us just outside London.

    Like

    • Thanks Kate. I cannot recommend Zen Hospice enough. The quality of care was top notch for both Dad and us. Out hospice advisors, Pathways, were also brilliant. One of Dad’s nurses, Han, and our spiritual advisor, Nada, even attended his funeral. They were wonderful and they got all of us through it. Dad got to make his final exit exactly the way he wanted. It’s hard that he’s gone but I feel good that we honored his dying wish.

      Like

  45. A wonderful tribute and I’m happy he got his wish. And the flowers. My thoughts are with you.

    Like

  46. What a fantastic remembrance of your dad.

    When Dad was carried outside, his face was exposed to the sun and he was showered with flower petals.

    I cannot think of a more beautiful way to leave this planet.

    Like

  47. V., I’m embarrassed to be so late in leaving a few words here. I put your post aside because I wanted to write you a message and then took this long to get back to it. Not nice. I’m sorry and mean no disrespect. This was such a personal and lovely tribute to your father. There’s a lot of love and respect on this page. To me that says there was a lot of love and respect in your relationship with your father and that’s something to cherish forever. My deepest sympathies at your loss but, at the same time, lucky you for all those wonderful memories. Including “the flag”. *Hug*

    Like

    • Thank you Patricia. There was a tremendous amount of love and respect in my relationship with my father and I know I was very lucky that he was my dad. Hey, he was a macho Italian guy who accepted having a gay kid decades before it was politically correct. He had an open mind about people. He was also a guy who was a brilliant joke-teller. We laughed A LOT. I have many great memories of him and seeing him do the flag was super cool, or as people might say today, it was awesome.

      Like

  48. That was lovely though I’m sure much of it was difficult for you. I just got around to reading it, so my late condolences to you.

    Like

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