Last week my old Dad died. He was in his ninety-second year and he went in classic Hollywood style. On the evening of his death he mentioned to his caregiver in the veterans home whose halls he prowled, that he was feeling tired and would like to go to bed early. With assistance he changed, got tucked into bed, and then looked up at the caregiver saying, “thank you and good night”. Dad closed his eyes, drew two deep breaths, and died.
He met his end in a way that most of us would envy…no pain, in the presence of familiar company, and having lived a long and full life. He was part of what Tom BrowKaw wrote of as The Greatest Generation.Raised during the depression he was thrifty to the point of obsession. When I cleaned out the basement, after assuming occupancy of the old house, I found a huge box of burned out light bulbs…after all they might be useful. This instruction by example rubbed off on me, not that I hoard burned out light bulbs but, we run a financially responsible home and have passed this on to our children.
His good name was a matter to be protected. He was not one to mince words and spoke his mind, occasionally to his own detriment, but always promoting a cause he felt was just and right. He had the courage to follow his convictions in areas where others might flag. However, he wasn’t vengeful and stressed forgive and forget, a creed I try to live by.
Dad lived a life of public service. Starting with the Second War, he was a naval officer for twenty five years until the ‘ill-conceived Unification experiment’ drove him to resign his commission rather than “wear Hellyer’s despised green uniform”. This was followed by another twenty years in the federal civil service within the HMC Dockyard in Esquimalt BC where his career began.
As we aged, a gradual swapping of roles occurred from care giver to dependent and back. Towards the end he would clutch my arm as we navigated over any terrain other than a smooth flat surface. His mind, though sharp, was subject to an ever decreasing short term of memory. At least now I won’t have to answer a predictable series of repetitive questions.
Dad loved life and I loved him. Death is inevitable and he has embraced it. The other certainty of life is taxes. I’m about to face up to them as I probate his will.