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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.