When you think of a giant, you don’t think of a five seven, one hundred and twenty pound man (at most), who appeared even smaller than that due to the ravages of scoliosis and a life spent in a wheelchair. Yet, my dad was huge. He was a mountain. Despite being unable to stand, he stood taller than any person I have ever known. His presence in my life will forever be massive. He was a giant.
When you think of a teacher, you don’t think of someone who never left their home, who was basically a shut-in. Yet every time I saw my dad, he taught me something. He taught me how to persevere. He taught me gratefulness. He taught me Delco. He taught me how to live my best life and the importance of enjoying it, and he taught me all of this and so much more without even trying to. He taught me with his example. He was a teacher.
When you think of a strong man, you don’t think of someone whose hands started shaking the moment he picked up a fork, a knife, or a morning cup of coffee. Yet, my dad was the strongest person I will ever know. He did so much on his own, more than he should have had to, and more than what was right. And he never complained. He just did it. He was strong. He was so strong.
When you think of a lively man, you don’t think of someone who habitually slept vast portions of the day away. Yet, if you got into conversations with my dad, if you engaged him on topics ranging from sports to current events to the importance of family, he would sit up straighter, talk a little louder—okay, a lot louder—and dominate the conversation. If you put his grandchildren in front of him, he would simply light up, and the smile he was never able to quite muster for a photograph suddenly appeared naturally. He was lively.
When you think of a proud man, you don’t think of someone who was continually unkempt. Yet, if you saw how concerned my dad was with his hair, if you ever popped his cap off and helped him tame his untamable cow lick, you would have seen just how much his appearance mattered to him. If you talked with him about family, about his children’s or grandchildren’s accomplishments or his siblings or his nieces and nephews, his pride was evident. He loved his family more than anything and would have done anything for anyone, and he was proud of everyone. He was proud.
When you think of a healthy man, you don’t think of someone who battled a degenerative brain disorder for decades, who suffered from respiratory issues for years, and who was in so much pain he continually sought out new treatment modalities—none of which ever really worked. No doubt about it: my dad was a medical mess. But he was emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, at least most of the time. Life beat him down, but it never beat him. It never defeated him. He was always so happy to see you, so excited to spend time with you, and so understanding if something prevented you from visiting. Plus, let’s get this right: Despite all of his myriad health issues, it took a pandemic to finally take him from us. I have to repeat that, because it’s stunning in so many ways: It took a pandemic to finally take him from us. He was healthy, at least in some ways.
My dad defeated the odds far longer than we ever expected him to. He kept fighting, he kept smiling, and he kept loving right up until the end. He was my hero. He was the best father I could ever have hoped for. I love you, Dad. I will miss you every day.