…whether he’s alive or dead, or off in some unknown place. It just doesn’t matter. Everyone has a father.
My father died back in 1986. He was just 53 years old.
Every time I think of him, I think of the last time we had together before he could no longer leave the house.
It was just before my second naval deployment on the USS America (now long decommissioned).
My best friend, Richard Kimball (just like the movie “The Fugitive”) drove my dad down to the Tidewater area in Virginia to take a fishing trip. I had no idea, at the time, it would be my last real “outing” with my dad.
We chartered a small boat, and the good captain took us out along the Virginia cost to his best fishing grounds. That day we caught a few flounder, and some other fish – I can’t remember what kind – I just remember being with my dad.
Despite his suffering — he had a bone cancer — he managed to appear to have a really great day. So did I and Richard.
When we got back to the pier, after many hours underway, we were about to get off the boat to leave. I stepped up on the pier with no effort, and my dad was right behind me.
To my surprise, and the boat’s skipper’s surprise, Dad fell back into the boat and was just laying there on the deck. He was conscious, but he wasn’t moving, and wasn’t saying a thing.
So Richard and the skipper reached to try and help him, but he just waved them away without saying a thing. I said to the skipper, “he has cancer, just give him a moment.”
He looked so helpless at that moment, and I knew he was in pain. But Dad said nothing. He just eventually got up, and helped himself up onto the pier.
I was thinking, how sad it is that my father will be gone soon, and I don’t know when, I just hope to see him again when I get back from my deployment on the America.
Well, he survived the six months I was gone, but not well at all. When I got home a day after returning from sea, he was convalescent. He was unable to get out of bed, and was in horrible pain. My sister was trying to arrange for a nurse to care for him his last days.
I was home for a few days, and during that time, for the first time I ever remember, my dad told me how he loved me, even though he had never said so before. I didn’t know what to do. I just looked at him and couldn’t believe how sick he appeared.
I had to go back to Norfolk, because my leave was up. When I got back (I had to drive – it takes about 4 hours to get there), my friend Steve had a message that the squadron had called. There was a Red Cross message for me telling me to return home.
I was exhausted from the drive, but had to turn around and rush back. It was late at night. As I drove, a vision of calm came to me as I drove during a particular hour. I was so tired, I thought I was just dreaming.
But as it turned out, when I arrived, my father was gone. I asked what time he died, and was told that it was the same time that I had the feeling of calmness as I drove. My Father was gone.
I didn’t get to tell him that I loved him. I let the moment slip away.
Please, love your father this Father’s Day, and tell him so. You may not get another chance.
- Wayne Sharer
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