My family lost someone very special to us the day before Thanksgiving this year.
It was unexpected even though 82 years is a hell of a life to live out entirely on your own terms. Still, the acute pain of sudden loss stings differently than the dull pain of a more prolonged sickness; selfishly, the latter gives you more time to prepare.
Shocked despite death being nothing new, I always considered him ageless – whether it be for his lighthearted character or his ever-lurking smile or his eyes that always held some sort of secret or surprise. No matter how old I became, I always saw the same spindly, yet larger-than-life figure in some 80s shorts and a never buttoned shirt, aviator-style glasses and cigarette hanging from his mouth – working the lawn, cleaning out the gutters, rumbling around in his truck, waving as you went by.
He wasn’t perfect – none of us ever are – but he cared deeply and made those around him happy even if they didn’t acknowledge it. And how many can truly make that claim?
In celebration of someone I never thought would be gone, I wrote this poem that can never do justice to a true renaissance man. A member of our family, whether you realized it or not, you gave all of us so much. Now, I give you my sorrowful appreciation and thanks:
The Stories He Told
He would regale us with stories of the farm.
Of his father training hunting dogs.
Or of him getting up early to milk the cows.
He would regale us with tales of football glory,
In high school, in college,
On the field.
He would regale us with stories of the union,
Quibbling over benefits,
Quibbling over vacation time.
He would regale us with anything
And everything in between.
Hockey, cousins, politics,
His children, teaching, late nights,
It was all the same in a way:
As long as he was telling a story,
We were listening –
For his smile, for his laugh, for his presence,
And for that, I’ll miss you, my friend.