It's still the worst day of the year, August 30, at least for me. This was the day, in 1990, when my father passed away, at the age of 57. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism, a all-too-common complication following surgery. At the time, I was only 26, while my youngest brother was only 14. Dad knew what was happening to him and didn't want to go. His hands were gripping the rails of his hospital bed and he was trying to hang on.
A lot has happened in the sixteen years that have followed. I married Jill the following year and we began our family four years later. My son will be 11 this year and my daughter will turn 7 at the beginning of the next. Jill and I moved to the Twin Cities and have made our home here. We have weathered some hellacious financial storms, including the current one, but we are strong and resourceful. Meanwhile, some of my siblings have married and had children as well; all of them have entered adulthood now. My baby brother is now a 30 year old man. Life does go on.
But I find that I think about Dad every day, even though he has been gone so long. Dad had started to develop the physical maladies that so many people who led his sort of lifestyle are prone to: he ate too much and probably drank too much, too. It's easy to say those things now, but I don't know that he would have changed that much if I'd had the opportunity to tell him that. He was comfortable in his own skin, in ways that I never have been. I admired him maybe even more than I loved him, because his character traits were so good. You'd have been hard pressed to find a more generous fellow. He was honest, open and decent. There were times that I thought he ought to be more cynical about certain people and certain things, but he always gave the benefit of the doubt to people. He was an optimist, despite the very real horrors he went through in his marriage to Mom. He loved a cigar, a cocktail and a good conversation. And he had a summer thunderstorm temper - he might anger, but he would retain his equanimity very quickly.
Dad was simply a hell of a guy. He left footprints.