15 February 2011


I MISS SPEAKING TO MY DAD. There were so many times, over a thirty-year period when I would call him just to hear the sound of his voice.

Of course, I never told him that, but it is true.

Dad was a Southern gentleman: raised Baptist; a convert to Catholicism; conservative to the core. He was, without a doubt, the most ethical man I’ve ever known. He would never associate with anyone or anything he deemed ‘shady’ or unethical. And if he caught wind of one of his children doing so, there would be Hell to pay.

As the second last of seven children, my relationship to my dad seemed different. As a writer, I often challenged his notions of how the world worked — and recall some short stories and articles I wrote in high school that must have put Dad in a terrible quandary — and made him uncertain how to react.

To his credit, he never once forbade me from writing about any subject, no matter how uncomfortable it made him feel. He could have done so — and I believe I would have honored his command.

But he did not interfere, sensing that this was who I was born to be: an artist, ‘agitator,’ of sorts, a mirror for society. . .a writer.

In February 2007, I was engulfed by Generation RX. The call came on a Sunday that he was lapsing in and out of consciousness and that it wouldn’t be long before he would die. It took me about 10-12 hours to process that, as I was rather numb upon hearing the news.

During my flight from Cleveland to Boise 36 hours later, however, I had plenty of time to sort through our many years of physical separation and replayed many of the events of my childhood. The nuggets I re-discovered have been applied — successfully or not — to my life as a single Dad.

AT 35,000 feet, I thought a lot about how affectionate I had been with my father. I sat on his lap and watched TV — far beyond the point of being a young child. I was 13, I think, before he finally threw me off his lap. I was already taller than Dad’s 5’9” frame — and I’m certain I already weighed more than him.

It took him months to enforce his new law for good, however, and something tells me he realized that I was the end of the line of Miller boys — and that like me, he wanted to relish every moment before I, too, was grown up and gone.

Most of my elder siblings say that my incessant, outward expressions of love for my dad simply “broke him down” over the years, and stripped away any remaining veneer of what were “appropriate displays of emotion."

I, on the other hand, have always asserted that my poor old Dad was just worn out after five children — and by the time he got to me, his personal “Berlin Wall” had fallen.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but one thing seems certain: Dad realized somewhere along the line that no two children are alike — and that there is no “formula” for success.

WHEN I ARRIVED IN BOISE, my Mom led me to their bedroom, and forewarned me that Dad had not opened his eyes for nearly 24 hours. He had suffered another stroke and was unable to speak.

I got down on my knees, at eye-level with my father, who was turned on his side.

“Dad,” I said softly. “It’s Kevin. . .I am here.”

And Dad opened one eye. . .a final ‘miracle,’ of sorts.

Tears filled his one opened eye. Mine too. The Prodigal Son had returned. . . in time to see him off to the next realm.

Over the next 24 hours, I whispered to my Dad and spoke to him for hours, even though he never again opened his eyes. I told him what a good father he was; how proud I was to be his son, and more. I thanked him for allowing me to be the creative spirit I had become — even when it threatened him — and I thanked him for being the best Dad on the planet.

I told him it was okay to let go — his shift was over. . .his time here well-spent — his impact undeniable — his suffering complete.

Within a few hours, he was gone. That was four years ago today.

There is so much more I’d like to tell you about my Dad: that he played minor league baseball with the Phillies before the war, that he adored my Mom for well over a half-century; that he lived a good and productive life. But those will have to wait for another day.

Because now, I’m going to spend some time with my own sons — to make new memories — ones I pray they'll recall with fondness at a ripe old age.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love you big brother!

11:35 PM EST  
Blogger Ron Copfer said...

What an awesome expression of love! I'm proud to call you 'friend!'

7:06 AM EST  
Blogger Middle Child said...

My youngest wrote about her dad as she sat with him on the night before the hospital forcibly turned off his ventilator at home.. part of what she wrote was this,
"It was on Monday night the 14th of May 2007 that mum phoned and told me Dad was going to be flown home to die.

I spent some time with him that night too and brought him a photo of Judy and Jeanette mum had stuck to the wall. He had a lot of photos in there and they must've helped him a lot. I made sure I said all the things I could think to say. I told him how great a Dad he is; how sorry I was that I hadn't come home more these last few years and how much I loved him. He mouthed I love you back to me. I wanted him to know these things I felt that they were the most important things to have him hear. It was hard for me to walk out this night. He had given Andy a huge smile when he left he was happy to have seen him there. I told him when I left I will see you at home tomorrow morning. "

As dreadful as it was for my children, and hard no doubt for you - my own dad was killed when I was 15 by a drunk driver - Dad was a pedestrian - but conversely I was lucky enough to have spent time with him in the early morning just before he went to work that day and it healed heaps between us

leaving our mum or dad is so mportant that we do it with love and tell them that we love them. -

4:53 AM EDT  
Blogger lasagna_maker said...

What a sweet tribute to your father.

I don't know you and found you via a google search for 'my father was a southern gentleman' since my own father died a week ago and I am helping my three brothers create the obit. (my dad had two strokes).

You and I are a couple of lucky people to have had such true, dedicated Dads in life.

It is true gold.

11:02 AM EDT  

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