On October 1st I received a call that no one ever wants to receive. It was the police department from my father's town. He had passed away in his home.
I had called him twice that week and he never called back, but then I remembered that he was supposed to be on vacation, so I didn't worry when I hadn't heard from him. He never showed up for work after his week off, and after 2 days, his employer contacted the police department to check on him. It wasn't like my dad to miss work, especially without calling. He was a reliable, dependable, hard-working mechanic.
He was supposed to retire in the next few months and had grand plans for his retirement. He was moving to Alabama. He was teaching himself to repair motorcycles. He had already mastered the automobile, becoming an ASE Certified Master Automotive Technician in every conceivable category.
It was a sudden and unexpected death.
My dad wasn't a perfect man. He had his issues. He could be crusty, cantankerous and gruff. If you had 13 items in the 10-item checkout lane, he'd probably give you a hard time. If you drove slowly, he was probably calling you a whole host of names you'd never heard before. He could be downright hilarious when ranting in his sarcastic, yet not too caustic way. He made people laugh. He was one of those people other people call, "a character".
I knew all of his strengths and weaknesses. I knew his flaws and quirks.....a combined experience of time with him, stories from my grandmother and my aunt and uncles...and sometimes even from him, when I could get him to open up about his early years and the hurts he lived through. I knew more about him, and what made him tick, then he probably knew.
Because of that, I knew underneath that prickly exterior was a soft heart. He would visit and wrestle with his grandchildren. He would go to the beach with us when we would visit him. Every card he ever sent me was sentimental....at least twenty lines of Hallmark poetry across pink paper and contained in gold, foil-lined envelopes. His Christmas cards were always portrayals of Mary and Jesus, even though he didn't believe. He knew that my brother and I did.
As I sifted through my memories of him while planning his memorial service, I realized that my father had never yelled at me. My parents were divorced when I was only two, so that removed some opportunity for irritation towards me, but he saw us regularly for his visitation. In 34 years, I don't recall a single incident in which he expressed anger towards me. He saved that for that outside world.
He loved his mother and siblings, especially his oldest brother, Mike. Mike was his best friend and the bond between them was strong. I was always glad that my father had him to rely on for companionship, because my father had lived alone for many years. Mike was a constant in my dad's small circle of relationships.
My father wasn't a perfect man. He wasn't a perfect father....but he was the only father I had.
I'll miss him.