It’s Father’s Day again and I know how and where I want to celebrate it this year: at home with my family and loved ones as I reflect on those losses that have touched our lives over the years. This year, I am the same age my father was when he left us abruptly. On a lovely April day in 1980, I came home early from college to celebrate my dad’s birthday with the family. When I arrived, he told me he wasn’t feeling well and was going to lie down before we left to go to my sister’s house for his party.
At my sister’s house, my brother and his wife and their respective families had all gathered for dinner and fun. My dad invited one of his long time friends and his wife from his days in the Army. At around 8 p.m., he and my mother left the party and went to the hospital. At 8:30 p.m., my mother called my sister’s house and asked to speak with me. “Gather everyone up and come to the hospital,” she instructed me, nothing else was said. Upon arriving at the hospital, we were escorted into a room and informed by the ER doctor on duty that my father had passed away after suffering a heart attack. Panic and pain erupted and our celebration quickly turned into grief-stricken remorse.
Dad was a go-getter type. He was not one to sit around and wait for you, oh no. He would have made it happen and corrected the problem before you even knew it was necessary. My dad was born in Texas in 1927 as the last child of his parents who previously bore three daughters before him. They were not rich, but they were not poor. They worked the land, raised livestock and his father taught him to be a barber, so he did that for the locals in town. In the 40s he met my mother and with the encouragement of other family members, moved out west to California with my oldest newly born sister Marie. Not long after their arrival, Dad was called to duty and he entered the U.S. Army and trained and worked as a medic. After leaving the enlisted world, he found work at a factory in San Francisco for a company that specialized in creating set materials for films in Hollywood. This was a fun job and boy oh boy did he love it. We were all happy when our pops would come home from work and talk about the fiberglass suitcases that he made at work that were going to be featured in a new movie. Happy Father’s Day, Pops!