Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Color Him Love

I seem to have an odd attitude about death, at least compared to many people I know. Oh, I don't for a moment think that I'll escape the embrace of the Grim Reaper. I don't have a secret hiding place in mind to avoid the Rapture. I don't plan to have my head amputated at the end, in hopes that future generations can cure what ails me and place me in a new body [not that there's anything wrong with that...].

But I also don't have a mental [or actual] list of death anniversaries. While I do attend funerals, memorial services and burials of those who are important in my life, I don't carry a lot of memories of those activities in my head. I don't visit grave sites, except to accompany others.In short, I sort of ignore the whole death process. But I'm not ignoring the regular reminders of mortality. I just prefer to remember people as alive.

My father died five years ago yesterday. I'd forgotten that fact, until The Woman I Love reminded me of it. She loved him, as I did, and holds him up to me from time to time as a positive role model. Actually, even if he hadn't been my father, I'd agree that his life was one to be emulated.

He raised five children from the 40's through the 70's. And he did raise us, along with our mother [also deceased], despite working the night shift for most of his employed life. When extra money was needed, he worked a variety of odd jobs. He drove taxi cabs. He delivered specialty newspapers to newsstands around Buffalo. He was a night nurse, and an aide, at Buffalo's Veterans' Hospital for most of his working career, before taking training and becoming a prosthetics builder, designer, and fitter for his last few years of work [He switched because I, the youngest, was going away to college, and he wanted to make sure someone was home at night with my mother.].

Despite working all night, he always made it to our moments of [to us, anyway] glory that took place during the day. He backed up my mother's parenting decisions, made in his absence. He was a god example in many ways. He ran our church's weekly bingo for years. He became a church trustee, replacing my mother when she died. He was an active volunteer in the community, both during and after his work career. He was patient when he should have been, slow to anger always, loving and caring for Mom and us kids.

But while I try to emulate those things, none of them is the quality of his that I admire most. To me, the most admirable and emulatable [if that's a word; I expect you know what I mean] quality of my father was that he was the least judgemental person I've ever seen.

I'm sure my father had opinions on life's events. It's hard to be alive and not have them. But, if they were critical, or even just not supportive, he kept them to himself. Who among us can honestly put that skill on a resume? We're smart enough not to put down those who could hurt us down the road. But how many of us can say they've never taken the opportunity to "kick someone when they're down", either in person or to someone else?

My father was old and sick before his passing. He was in pain. His body was beginning to break down. It was time for him to be with God. But there are still days when I wish he were here, teaching his lessons about acceptance, about being supportive, about love [I also wish that I had inherited his amazing skill for repairing mechanical things. But sadly, the tool-skills gene must have skipped at least one generation.].

I loved that man. I miss him still. I suspect I always will...