Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Father's Day :: Remembering my Dad

My Dad died in 1982 after a four year battle with lung cancer. Adinocarcinoma with metasasis. In other words it spread all over. It made its way into his lymphatic system and we think his brain. Bad stuff. He was 54 years old. He had seen all of his kids get married, but had never experienced the joy of a grandkid.

He was a geologist with Union Oil Company of California for many years. First Lafayette, then New Orleans, then he ran the office in Jackson, Mississippi. We moved back to Lafayette for my high school years and he became an independent/freelance geologist. Geologists were on the "exploration" side, versus the "production" side of the oil business. I remember going into his office and looking at all of the maps and seismic logs on his drafting table. He was the guy who analyzed the maps, determined the subsurface geology, and decided where oil was most likely to be found. If I remember correctly, oil pools in subsurface sand and alluvial deposits at the underside of anticline (convex up) formation in rock. He would always explain to me what he did in his job and why. Vacations and road trips out West were always a treat - with an oral geological and geomorphological history.

He loved beer. Luckily, he never drank too much, but he did love to drink it. Falstaff was his favorite. I remember taking a sip one weekend while I was mowing the yard. I thought it was nasty. I would go with him on road trips to Spicewood Springs, Texas to buy cases of Coors beer. For a long time, Spicewood Springs was the easternmost point that you could buy Coors. Coors was a special treat, like champagne to him.

He liked to go canoeing and camping with me when I was in my teens, although we had to get him a comfy air mattress to sleep on. He loved to fish, mostly deep sea fishing. I remember he had two or three tackle boxes full of lures and gadgets, and a wide array of rods and reels. My brother has all that stuff now. In the final months before he died, I would ask him if he wanted to go fishing in the Atchafalaya Basin - in our little fourteen foot john boat with a 25 horse Evinrude motor on the back. He always said no. He was just too weak from the chemo and radiation treatments.

We had all been at the hospital for long hours in the final days. Early one morning, the nurses encouraged us to go home and get some sleep and shower. As soon as I got home, around 6:00am, I got the call from the hospital that he was not doing well, and that I should call my Mom and get to the hospital as soon as possible.

I got there first to discover he had died. I knew it when I walked into the room because all of the tubes and IV's had been removed. He died alone with no one at his side, which, in all my life may be my only true regret. Knowing my Dad, and how he was, we think he waited until we were all gone to let himself go. We had been telling him in those last few days, in his few lucid moments of a morphine haze, that it was okay for him to go. He fought and struggled to stay alive, but just couldn't do it.

I'll never forget that day. It was April and the dark, blue-gray clouds were a sure sign that a blue norther was blowing through. It was rainy, cold, and windy as I walked back to the hospital parking lot after all the arrangements had been made. The rain drops were the sharp, icy ones that sting the skin. I remember the taste of the salty mix of tears and rain on my lips.

I was 21 years old when he died. I often wonder if I would be different were he still alive, if my life would be different. He was a good man and a good father. He died too young, much too young.

I miss him.

Remembering my Dad
Around 1932...

Remembering my Dad
In the Italian Alps around 1945, on shore leave from his Navy ship...

Remembering my Dad
In 1951...


Elizabeth said...

Thanks for that Alex. I woke up thinking about my dad today. This is my second father's day with no father. I wish he could be here next Saturday to wathc my daughter get married.

Johanna said...

This post means a lot to me, Alex. I too lost my father at a very young age and often wonder how different my life might have been had he stuck around more.

Thank you for sharing such intimate thoughts, and for posting such wonderful photos of him. He was quite a looker!

La Tanguerita said...

Very beautifully-written post. Made me cry. I know how unbelievably lucky I’m to still have my parents around and I also try to enjoy every minute I spend with them.

tangobaby said...

Oh Alex. My heart is breaking for you. I don't blame you for missing him. Thank you for sharing his, and your, story with us.