June 27, 2008

It is what it is

The words of Todd Bertuzzi are becoming a catch phrase in this part of the woods. Part defiance, part resignation, part reality, and part of the family. Today is my father's birthday. Except Dad, or the part of his ashes we cast to the sea, is no longer with us. He is resting or floating in English Bay and beyond.
My father was a wandering soul in life; he may have floated over to China. Or maybe he only made it half way- vacationing in Hawaii.

Hell, he could stay at the time share we still have yet to sell.

For a time in the sixties, he was a travelling salesman . Did he get mad and quit the steady job? Was his famous temper part of the reason for the departure? It is what it is.

He had a family of seven to support. This is a concept that is hard to fathom today. For whatever reason, he was usually gone. On the road. Home on the weekend. The Weekend Dad. Late for supper, with a friend invited at the last minute. My theory is that he needed his space. He loved his family and my mother, but he needed his space.

My mother was a quick-change artist. We grew to like our chicken white and dry, because well.....it is what it is. When your husband is late, and you keep the kids waiting for him to be home for dinner, the breast of a chicken can get a little dry.

When he came home, Dad would head to the yard to mow the lawn, or "build". He helped me build something for Scouts. I found out at the race, that he had put it together backwards. I was a bit ashamed, as he had done all the work, and here it was backwards. But we ran that race, and came in second. Backwards!

In later years, he would putter and build and buy things he didn't need, but most importantly, he would volunteer. He volunteered for the Association for the Advancement of Retired People, or AARP. One day, he went to the Governor of Washington's office to present the Governor with an AARP card, as he had just turned 50, my age. My dad had a heart attack in the Governor's office and died. But the story does not end there.

But because he had lobbied for cardiac resusitation equipment for the Governor's office, the aides were able to bring my father back to life. A defibrillator later and he was volunteering more, making sure that this type of emergency equipment was available in every senior's center in many counties in Washington. He lobbied for senior's rights and care,and even had a law named after him in Washington state, The Fred Mills Act.

In the end, which was two years ago, he drowned in his own body with a condition they call congestive heart failure. You fill up with fluids, and your heart becomes too strained to pump the blood, so the fluids continue to build, and slowly you drown. In your own body. Your own worst enemy. It is what it is.

Today is his birthday, which is a day of celebration. So I celebrate his life, as I would not be here without him. I didn't always like him, I even thought at a time that I didn't love him; unfortunately, there were times I did not respect him.

But we are a complicated beast. There were also many times I did admire him. And I will always love him, and I grew to respect the part of the whole of the man I called my father.

We are not perfect, and he wasn't perfect, but he was perfectly my dad. And in the end, I love him. It is what it is.

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