Thoughts On My Father

As you may know, my father passed away on July 22, 2010.

I’ve experienced so much in the last week it is difficult to put into words. This post is not about travel. I don’t normally like to stray away from travel related topics, but in addition to being a travel blog, this is MY blog and so I want to use this to talk about a bunch of things which are on my mind. Quite frankly, to not talk about this would sort of be an elephant in the room.

I want to thank everyone for all the support everyone has given me the last few days and months. It has really been overwhelming. All the tweets, Facebook messages and emails has been very touching. I couldn’t believe everyone at TBEX who took the time to ask about my dad. Sometimes, you don’t know if anyone is listening to what you say, and it is nice to know that someone is. If I didn’t reply or acknowledge your condolences, please know that I’ve read everything and I do appreciate it.

Three months ago, my dad’s health was fine. He suffered from an extreme case of septic shock and ultimately from a staph infection on his heart valve.

According to the doctors, there is no way you can ever know where an infection came from. In reality, he got a staph infection (most commonly transmitted in hospitals) on his heart valve hours after going to the hospital to undergo a standard procedure to check on his heart valve. You do the math.

The the last 78 days, he suffered from kidney failure, partial liver failure, a stroke, acute pneumonia, was placed in an artificial coma, was on a respirator for over a month, had a tracheotomy tube installed, and had one of the largest bed sores the staff at the rehab center had ever seen. He had not only survived, but had overcome almost everything. His kidneys had fully recovered, the pneumonia was gone, he was off the ventilator with the tracheotomy tube removed. His physical rehabilitation showed progress every day. On his last day, he was talking, feeding himself, had almost full control of his hands and arms and showed almost no evidence of his stroke.

The only thing which wasn’t healing was the damage done to his heart.

One of the hardest parts of all of this is the fact that he was getting better up to the point he passed away.

My dad and I were very different in many respects. He was a morning person and I am not. He was very organized and often pack for a trip weeks in advance. I’ll usually pack the night before I have to leave. He was a sportsman who loved to hunt and fish. I didn’t mainly because I didn’t like to wake up really early in the morning and hate cold weather. My bother took after my father much more in that department.

My dad also had more common sense in his little finger than I had in my entire body. One of the last things he ever said to me was to remind me to get my oil changed, which is something he always did. He was organized and very methodical about many things.

He wasn’t a computer guy by any stretch, but he sat down and taught himself how to do banking online, email, and everything else he needed to do. He was very smart in areas where he wanted to be.

His last day, he made the nurses turn on the radio to listen to my interview on public radio. There are many regrets you have when someone close passes away, but one thing I never have to wonder about is if my dad was proud of me. I know he was. He told me many times. That is one thing I know I’ll never need to wonder about.

The only time he really ever made me do anything was in 5th grade when he made me play the cornet for the school band. I was horrible at it. I never practiced and didn’t enjoy it. After that he never really made me do anything, but was supportive in whatever I wanted to do: Boy Scouts, the debate team, starting a company or traveling around the world.

He certainly had doubts when I told him I was going to travel around the world, but he never said anything. He trusted my judgement and as my travels continued, to his friends, I was the “son who was traveling around the world”.

I have spent the last 3 months living in terror of the phone ringing. I was always worried about bad news if I answered. It was about 4:15am when my mom answered the phone and woke me up by saying “Gary, dad died”. It was just that sudden. I’ve had those words rolling around my head ever since then. I’ve lost many nights of sleep reliving that moment.

Losing a parent is just a fact of life. Eventually, it happens to almost everyone. I have friends and former girlfriends who lost parents at very early ages. I wonder now if I wasn’t as understanding as I should have been.

Both of my parents lost their fathers before I was one year old. Both of my grandfathers were alive when I was born and dead by the time I had my first birthday. I never got to know either of them, and one of my biggest regrets is that fact that if I ever have kids, they will never get to know their grandfather.

My dad spent much of his life doing what he loved: hunting and fishing. He really loved doing that.

If there is one thing I can take away from my dad it is to do what you love. That is why I travel. What we love doing is different, but we both pursued the things which gave us joy.

I don’t know how much time I have on the Earth, but plan spend the rest of it doing what I love and trying to live a life that would make my father proud.

I love you dad and I will miss you.

40 thoughts on “Thoughts On My Father”

  1. Beautifully done. your dad is smiling at you and you will always have wonderful memories in your heart. Take some great pics and have a safe trip. love and prayers. P.S. had supper with your mom monday, she is doing well.

  2. Sorry to hear about your father Gary. Am sending you my thoughts, energy and strength……to you and your family.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad…I’m also sorry to say I’ve heard similar stories about things picked up in hospitals, very scary. Your dad sounds like he was a great guy who enjoyed his life. My husband no longer has his parents but I still have mine and I am so grateful for that, and your post reminds me to never take that for granted, thank you for sharing.

  4. What a beautiful recount of your father. He sounds like he was a wonderful man, someone that supported you in everything you did. Celebrate his life!

  5. So sorry to hear this Gary. I wish I could give you a big hug. My father has had many health problems and I’ve grown up with the same fear of the phone ringing. I’m so glad your father lived a life that he loved and that he wanted the same for you.

    Please let me know if I can do anything for you.

  6. Definitely just got teary-eyed reading this. You are so fortunate for the relationship you had with your father, may he rest in peace.

  7. What a beautifully moving post – it’s seems so clear that you had a solid relationship with your Dad, full of mutual respect and love. I hope that close bond, which even death never breaks, will bring you some amount of comfort.

  8. Wonderful post in memory of your father. I am very sorry for your loss. Best to you and your family.

  9. Gary, you’ve written a beautiful tribute to your dad. He must have been quite a guy. I remember a couple of years ago when I got the early morning call that my dad had died. He didn’t know it but I was to fly to surprise him in the hospital that morning.

    My thoughts are with you. You are lucky to have had such a wise dad.

  10. Gary, I’ll always remember getting the call that my grandmother had died. She was the only grandparent who I had gotten to know. She was always proud of me and always asked about me when she was delirious towards the end. I think it’s her strength that has helped me through a recent surgery. She’ll always be with me in my heart as I know that your father will always be in yours.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, Gary. You and your family are still in my thoughts. And I’ll say, from my experience, that although it does get a bit easier over time, it always sucks. No matter what.

  12. I’m sorry for your loss. I can relate to the phone call. I was young when my Dad died. I learned of it coming back from a weekend in NYC. My brother told me while in the car on the ride back to the house from the train station. There was a house full of people when I got there. When my Mom died, I was at work and my Lieutenant told me. I was 31 years old and both my parents were gone within ten years of each other. I was a mid-life orphan at age 31, and it’s the most terrible feeling. I cringe when I hear people complaining about their parents. I wish mine were alive.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Gary.

  13. A very moving post Gary.

    We all tend to take our parents for granted, well i did. I Grew up assuming they would always be around. I was 18 and travelling around Australia on my own when I was told about my fathers death. It was such a shock and I have never gotten over it. Losing a parent is so, so hard, I understand how you feel. It sounds like your Dad was a real fighter.

    You are doing so many good things Gary that your Dad must be very proud of you. Carry on doing what you love and we are right behind you.

  14. I’m so sorry about your father Gary. I know that parent’s deaths are inevitable but it still frightens the hell out of me and is probably the one thing that makes me feel guiltiest about traveling. It’s really fortunate that you got to spend much of the last few months near him. And it’s fantastic that he was able to appreciate what you are doing with your life.

  15. That call the horrible shock n horror it will undo you. Speak of him tell the stories and he will never leave you.

  16. Thank you for sharing your memories of your Dad. I was thousands of miles away from my family when my father passed away. Even though I knew I was where I was supposed to be, it still added an extra layer of sadness… praying for you.

  17. I am weeping, Gary. What a lovely tribute. I tell my kids every day I love them. You reminded me that I need to make sure they know I’m proud of them and their endeavors and successes and failures (because they tried!), and that I’ll support whatever paths their lives take them.

  18. My heart goes out to you Gary. I didn’t speak to you at TBEX but I knew who you were and I sat there wondering how your father was doing. I lost my father much too young and it hurts more than words can express. I pray that you can find peace in all of this and continue to do the things that made your father so proud of you. You wrote a beautiful tribute and I whs you and your family only the best.

  19. Gary, this is a beautiful post that reminds us all to appreciate and spend time with our parents while we still can. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your community here on the blog and farther afield on Twitter is here for you going forward.

  20. so many things we need to say while our loved ones are still alive. thanks for reminding me what a great dad I have too! thanks for sharing ..

    • Same here ! This one ( btw, congrats and thanks for sharing this slice of your thoughts ) really moved me ! It makes appreciate that I still have my folks Here – with me ! One phone call away, that I make right now !

  21. Gary, this post brought me to tears as I read it. It spoke to me in so many ways. “My dad also had more common sense in his little finger than I had in my entire body.” That’s my dad too.

    You’re in our thoughts!! take good care!

  22. I know this was a hard post to make but I think it was a good thing to do. It sounds like your dad was an amazing man and I’ll keep your family in my thoughts during this time.

  23. Gary,

    My condolences to you and your family during what I know must be such an extremely hard time. I felt personally connected on so many levels and cried my heart out after I read that he indeed passed away. My grandmother passed in the same fashion; of a staph infection that lead to complications. My father is currently suffering from kidney failure.

    But, I’m not here to share my stories; I know it’s difficult to hear at this time. Instead, I offer not only my prayers and thoughts, but my gratitude for having the strength to share this story in his honor. For following your heart.

    I cried when I read the part where you discuss your fear of the phone ringing. I understand how paralyzed I get in the same scenario; worrying about traveling and wanting to be there every moment with my own father who is also ill.

    I hope you find strength and comfort during this time. Once again, I am so deeply sorry for your loss and I hope and know you will continue doing what you love. It is moments like this that really deepen our core and make us strong induviduals that follow our true passions.

    (Forgive me as I don’t know your religious affiliation) God Bless and Take Care. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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