Saturday, August 26, 2006

the long and short of 10 years ...

Ten years is a long time. It's a full decade, an era - one-tenth of a century.

Most cars don't last longer than 10 years. How many televisions shows run for 10 years?

Within the span of a decade, there are three different presidential terms, five terms in the House of Representatives, almost two full terms in the Senate.

But 10 years, in certain circumstances, is a very short time.

Like today, for example.

Today, 10 years ago, my dad died.

He was just 55.

My mother and I found him on his ranch, a place he loved to be, when we went to drop off the van for him; I was going to take my mom shopping.

We parked and I started down the hill, calling, "Pop! Pop!" We thought he was further down, doing some work. But then I saw him off to the side on the walk down, laying face down next to an upended bucket. I surmise he'd flipped it over and was sitting on it when the heart attack came.

He'd been dead for a while when we found him. In desperation I rolled him over and tried to give him mouth-to-mouth and CPR after yelling to my mom to call an ambulance. I kept trying, even though I knew it was futile.

Everyone who knew my dad took it hard when they heard the news. He was a well-liked and well-loved man.

In fact, he was the rock of the family. Not just my immediate family, but of our extended family as well, especially since the passing of my Aunt Anna. He wasn't the oldest among his seven brothers and sisters, but he was listened to and respected for his opinion.

He was not only my father, but a father-figure for many as well, especially when he was in the Air Force. Pop rose to the rank of senior master sergeant and served for about 27 years, and one thing was always universal -- his men loved and respected him. He was always there to help them out. He often brought them to the house for a home-cooked meal, or to one of our family fiestas. The officers over him respected him and his opinion.

Pop was also my primary teacher in life. He taught me how to fish, from how to tie on a hook, how to cast, how to gut and clean a fish. He taught me how to throw a baseball, how to catch and swing a bat. He taught me how to toss a football, dribble a basketball, make a layup and a hook shot.

Pop taught me how to use tools, how to change a tire, how to take apart a carburetor. He gave me my first pocketknife and showed me how to use it properly, how to sharpen it, how to carve wood with it. He showed me how to use a machete, the proper technique for splitting wood.

I learned how to build a fire, marinade meat and barbecue from him. He showed me the secret to making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

He taught me how to draw, how to do calligraphy, how to carve wood and weave coconut leaves into hats and baskets (which I forgot, but luckily my youngest brother retained all of that learning).

I also learned the value of reading from him. He and my mom read voraciously -- newspapers, books, magazines. His standard response when we wanted to know what a word meant: "Look it up." And we did, and we learned from that.

He emphasized the value of a good education. He and my mom both took some college classes while in the military, but neither ever got their degrees. I remember how proud of me he was the day I graduated from high school as salutatorian, and again, four years later when I earned my B.A.

He taught me how to treat friends, family and strangers, with generosity and respect. Everyone who came to my house was offered food and drink. If I brought a friend home unexpectedly, that person was always welcomed to dinner, and there was always plenty of food. There wasn't much he wouldn't do for a friend or a family member, whether it was loaning them money, helping them out on the ranch, whatever.

I got my sense of humor from him. He loved a good joke and it was always good to see him laugh his quiet laugh -- there was no sound; his eyes would crinkle and his mouth would open in a smile and he'd tilt his head back. He played practical jokes now and then, getting a kick out of scaring his kids.

He was so great with his grandchildren as well. You'd never expect if from a gruff, down-to-earth guy like my dad, but when he held a baby or a small child, you could see how great of parent and caretaker he was.

He was always quiet and reticent when I was young, but as I grew older, we began to talk more often, about all sorts of things -- politics, the world, sports.

Although it's been 10 years, it doesn't seem like that long ago. I still feel as if I've just recently lost him. I still miss him, miss his advice, miss his presence.

Ten years. Such a long time. Such a short time.


Chrissie said...

That means its almost 10 years since we met online... because I know it was your tribute to your Dad that first made me go into the hot tub (i think? *L*) and talk to you.

Good Post *smooch*

AlwaysArousedGirl said...

That was lovely, D. Are you doing something today with your family to remember?

Many hugs.

m_o_o_nspells said...

He sounds like a great man...I'm sorry for your loss.

The Savage said...

I miss him....

Madame X said...

Kisses and hugs to you and your family D.

D all these wonderful things you say about your father...well he reminds me of someone,D.

He reminds me of you.

terry said...

aww, dzer. you brought tears to my eyes. what a great tribute to your dad.

and i know he's proud of you.

SignGurl said...

I cannot imagine the futility you felt when you found your dad.

Your dad lives on through you.

Kisses and hugs to you.

JMai said...

Dzer, I couldn't read this post yesterday because I knew it would make me cry and I wasn't in the right place for crying.

But I read it today and I thank you for sharing all of that. You get from this life what you put into it, and it sounds like he got a lot. I'm sorry for your loss.

ell said...

what beautiful words.

he sounds like a wonderful man, d. you were extremely lucky to have him.


Shay said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Dzer!

Sunny Delight said...

This was the most beautiful tribute to a father I have ever read, he sounds like someone who everyone needs in their hope..if is something that you someday for you to be such a carry on his legacy of love.