The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
SPECIAL EDITION: MY DAD
So put me on a highway and show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time…
– The Eagles (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner)
I have been broken-hearted, I mean really, truly broken-hearted just a few times in my life. I can count them on hand with a pinky and thumb left over.
April 11th, 2009 – my mother passed away.
September 9th, 2018 – the bestest cat I have ever had in my life, CJ, passed away. (don’t call that silly. I’ll smack you, really hard)
September 2nd, 11:31 PM. No offense to my mother and my sweet CJ, that was the hardest.
My father, the man that I looked up to the most, the man I wanted to be like, the man that was both my Indiana Jones and my Henry Jones Sr. all wrapped up into one, my hero, passed from this earth.
He had been sick for a long time. Dementia is a cruel sickness, just as bad as cancer in my book. Not only does it take from the person inflected, but it also takes from their loved ones. Where cancer eats away at your body, dementia eats away at your past, your present, and your future.
Let me tell you a little about my dad.
He made things. He fixed things. He was loved by many. And if there were anybody who didn’t like him, it came from jealousy and stupidity and those people should be pitied.
My dad was an animal whisper. It frustrated me when I was little because I loved animals as much as him but they would go to him first. He irradiated trust and animals felt it. Thinking back now, it seems uncanny, Christ-like, in a way.
Doctor Doolittle? Maybe.
In time, I have been able to express this power that he did. Never as well, but it’s there. Because of him.
He showed me how to change the oil in the car when I was little. We would both scoot under his truck and I would watch him drain the oil and take off the filter. He would make sure I saw him put the oil plug back in (you never want to forget that) and then put the new filter on and new oil back in. He’d double-check the oil level with the dipstick and then let me check it. Then we would both wipe our hands on the rag he had. Of course, his hands were filthy and mine was barely smudged. But he made me feel like I had done something.
My dad was always a saving grace even when I got older. One time, my battery had died and if I didn’t get it replaced in a hurry, I was going to miss picking up my daughter from daycare. This was not long after my ex-wife and I divorced and seeing my daughter was a limited thing. I just had to see her.
I called my dad and he was there. We went in his vehicle, picked up my daughter from two towns away and then got my battery replaced, all on his dime. It doesn’t seem like much but it meant the world to me. He was still taking care of his baby boy, even in my early thirties.
There were many times like that, many more than I can write about. There are probably a ton that I selfishly forgot in the past years.
There were moments that I disappointed him and, I hope, moments that I made him proud, proud for me to carry his name.
The funny thing about that, carrying your parent’s name isn’t easy all of the time. Being a Junior can go either way. One thing I remember that was great was when I was an elementary school, a kid would ask me what my phone number was and I’d just say really slyly, ‘it’s in the phone book’. It felt cool to do that.
But you go through a time in your teens where you want to be independent, you want your own name, in many different senses. And some jerk would start calling you Junior when they found out I was one and call me that relentlessly in some jerk-like voice.
But for a long time now, I have been proud to carry his name. It feels less like a name and more like a royal title.
I love my dad. Not loved but love.
Love doesn’t die even if the person you love does. Love is forever.
And that makes my dad live forever.
What I’m not going to talk about is his last days and what he went through. It was bad. That’s all I’ll say about that.
But I’ll leave you with something I wrote for his eulogy. I wanted to read it but I knew there would be no way I could read it. I wouldn’t physically be able to. So, the pastor read it.
Here it is:
My dad, like a lot of dads, was amazing.
To me, he could fix the unfixable and make the unmakeable. He built a deck, he converted our garage into a living space and a workshop for him and took those garage doors and made a shed in the back yard. He built chicken coops and dog houses. He repaired TV’s and radios. Back when you needed vacuum tubes to do it, testing each one with the determination of a mad scientist at the tube tester at Super X as I looked on impatiently. And he erected a tall (probably so tall that it was illegal) CB antenna so he could talk to people all over the country.
My dad could fix or create just about anything he wanted to. And I tried to follow in those footsteps.
But there was one thing that amazed me more about him than anything and puts him just a step above most other dads. (yes, I’m biased)
When I was little and went with him on Saturday mornings downtown, going to auto part stores, RadioShack, or getting lumber to build one thing or another, he would always run into somebody he knew. Anyplace we went, somebody walked up to us and he would smile, and they would start talking. It always happened. I would remember these moments because I was extremely shy, and I was always embarrassed. Each time it happened, I would blush or try and getaway.
I even said it to him more than once, “We can’t go anywhere without somebody knowing you.”
I look back on it now and wished I had understood then.
Of all the wonderful things he was and did, this was the best thing.
He was looked up to. He was a friend to lots of people.
And he was loved. Maybe more than he ever knew.
Dad, lots of people, more than this building could hold, is missing you right now. They are feeling a piece of their heart going with you.
Thank you for the things you taught me, that a thoughtful smile and a funny word is worth more to people than anything.
And thank you for being my dad and I love you.
I’ll be right along. Have a hug ready for me.
It’s been more than a week since he left this earth and I finally got up my strength to write this. It’s been difficult. Just when I think I’m alright, tears will fall like a summer storm, right out of nowhere, when I think about something he did or said. Or just that smile on his face. The exact same smile that I have. His smile is my smile.
I’m going to miss my dad up to the moment I take my last breath.
But then I’ll see him again. His perfect self and my perfect self, embracing. I’ll tell him how much I missed him and how much I love him.
There is that to help keep me going.
I truly believe I’ll see him again…
I love you forever, Pop.
-Loyd William Elmore Junior
September 13th, 2019
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.