My father passed away in December 2014. He had been sick for years, suffering from heart disease and emphysema. Pneumonia and a blood infection got him in the end. I was able to spend time with him during his final days. It was hard, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. As he started to go downhill at the hospital, he asked that mom get all his sons to come see him. I was at work when I got the call.
I walked into his hospital room, and I was floored. I had seen him just the day before. Although he was not able to talk much, he was somewhat alert. As I looked at him now lying in the bed, I noticed his breathing was very shallow. His eyes were closed. Mom leaned over and said, “Charles, the boys are here.” He opened his eyes real wide and looked at us and gave us all a salute. Such a special moment. I knew the end was near, but I was not able to get my arms around it.
You see, dad was my hero. Although we had a trying relationship over the years, he was always there for me. I was not an easy child to raise. Always in trouble. Lying. Breaking things. Mom said I slept all day and kept her up all night. She quit the ninth grade to have me at age fifteen. Dad was only nineteen. It was 1959. A long time ago. Can’t believe I’m fifty-five already. I spent thirty-seven years abusing drugs and alcohol. I had to go to state prison for three years at age nineteen. Unfortunately, I continued to get drunk and high after I got out of jail. I lost all of my possessions, and ended up a week from being homeless. Dad allowed me to move in with him and mom in 2008. Although I had a few relapses (the last one being right around the time of his death), he stuck by me. He would drive me to AA meetings and counseling sessions and physical therapy. I thanked him one day, and he answered, “Hey, this is what I signed on for.”
Anyway, dad worked in plastics all his life. He started at PlastiVac in Montgomery, PA right out of high school, and retired from Penn Reels outside of Landsdale, PA thirty years later. He was a genius at troubleshooting, and did some private consulting as well as full-time employment. He taught a non-credit course at a local college in the Lehigh Valley relative to the field of plastics engineering. He was an OSHA officer at several of his jobs. He built his own house from the ground up. He had a wealth of knowledge regarding gardening and lawn care. When he bought a house after retirement, he built a screened in back porch, two decks and a pond with a waterfall. He also was a great woodworker, and built furniture. Mom still has a lot of the pieces. He painted oils for years. The walls are decorated with his art.
Mom gave me one of his paintings after he passed away. It is a depiction of a street in Puerto Rico. I cannot believe the attention to detail. He even put birds on a church roof in the background. I love staring at the picture and imagining myself walking down the streets. Many of his oil paintings are fantastic, but this one is my most favorite. Mom said, “You may have it, but don’t ever let anything happen to it. You have to keep it til the day you die.”
That’s not hard to do when it’s my most prized possession.