Looking back on my childhood, I can’t remember many occasions when I had deep conversations with my father. We did a lot of hunting, fishing, and watching football but not a lot of talking. He wasn’t much of a talker. Even into my teenage years, when boys normally drift off from their parents as they find themselves, he and I didn’t have a whole lot of great talks. I didn’t know my father.
My parents split up my Freshman year of high school. I can’t really remember it affecting me but I’ve had other people tell me it did. I can remember being 14, enjoying basketball, my friends, and the occasional girlfriend. This is when my father wanted to talk. He lived in the city and I lived in the country. He would come by evenings or weekends to do things, to take me places and instead of us just enjoying our days, he wanted to talk. I don’t hold this against him but I do remember that he had a desire to constantly talk about “what was happening.” He was bitter and sad and I understand. But I really just wanted him to be there and not analyze the situation. I didn’t know my father.
My father was an alcoholic. He sobered up about a year before I was born and over the next 20+ years, he did everything in his power to help other people battle this affliction. When I was about 10, the business he worked for asked him to move from a blue collar position as a tool sharpener to a Drug & Alcohol Counselor position. That was his calling. His world revolved around his disease, what it had done to other people, and how to help his fellow man. I didn’t know my father.
October 1997. I had just come home from a 6-month deployment in the Navy. I joined in 1993 and was living with my family in Virginia. My sister called me a couple weeks after I came home to let me know Dad was going in for a routine gall bladder procedure and not to be worried. A day later she told me the news. He had a tumor in his bile duct leading from his liver to his stomach. The tumor was stopping bile from going to do it’s job of dissolving food in the stomach. Instead it was dissolving his liver. He didn’t have long to live. We drove north to Syracuse in late October and spent most every day with him. He was at a cancer hospital in Rochester. I would sit in his room with him and talk about life. It seemed like every day, streams of people would come to visit him. They’d cry and cry, hug him, thank him, cry some more, and every one would stop to share their story of how my father helped them battle alcoholism. He saved their lives.
I looked at the man lying on his death bed, yellow from jaundice, barely able to feed himself, and thats when I knew him.
My father was a good man. He did his best with what God gave him. His actions spoke louder than his words.