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Dad, Requiem (Part 1) April 20, 2008

Posted by nukemhill in Family.
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It’s been 2 1/2 weeks now, since he died.  I’ve been walking through life of late in an “Ignorant” space.  Not sure how else to put it.  I mostly go around, happily ignorant of his death.  I’m doing my thing, not connected to reality at all.  Just puttering around in my own little world.

And then there are times when his death just comes up and pounds me upside the head with a baseball bat.  Happened last night in bed, after we’d cleaned up the Pesach dinner. (“only” 26 people this year; must be some kind of record for us.  One year we had 33.)  I was lying there, just reminiscing over the evening, and thought about how interested Dad would be in the whole Seder meal.

Oops.  Past Tense.  Bam.  No tears, but a deep, painful ache.

It’s really the little things.  We can’t talk about the Padres or Chargers anymore.  We can’t cheer on the USD basketball team.  That was one of the things, actually, that indicated how far he had slipped.  Mark went to visit him to watch USD in the NCAA Tournament.  Apparently Dad didn’t care in the least that USD was in the process of beating UConn.  That was a real eye-opener for all of us.

I can’t call him and tell him that my boss has authorized the start of the program re-architect that I proposed just before we left for Vancouver.  I can’t tell him that I’ve been named Assistant Manager for Alexander’s baseball team.  I can’t tell him about the work that I’ve been doing on Alexander’s delivery, and the immediate improvement he’s showing.  Man, what a fastball!

I can’t remind him of how proud Amie and I are of him.  Of how brilliant he was; how dedicated he was to his students; how much he fought for what was right.  I can’t argue with him over politics, knowing that even though we fundamentally disagree on how, we still agree on why.  He was such a champion for the little guy.  He fought so hard to see injustices corrected.  Even though he was about as far-Left as anyone could be and not be considered a Socialist (whereas I, on the other hand, still consider myself something of a closet little-L libertarian), we still agreed that the government was broken.  Maybe for different reasons, but hey, I’ll take my victories where I can!

I can’t tell him that Alexander, completely unexpectedly, has been accepted into an acting school.  What a trip.  Talk about the apple not falling far from the tree.  He gets it from Liora and Dad.  Dad sure would be excited.  But I can’t call him up and let him know….

I can’t tell him, anymore, that he’s my hero.  I told him two days before he died.  I told him how much I admired his willingness to be a dragon slayer.  I told him that his legacy resides in the thousands of students he taught over the 30 years he was at USD.  Every student who walked out of his class at the end of the semester knew that much more about how to read a text; about how to write a composition that communicated effectively; about how and why to love poetry; about the magic of the English language.  I think he and Jeff Goldstein would have gotten along famously.  Jeff’s really big on Authorial Intent.  Dad was really big on “What does the text say?”  They both basically dismissed modern literary theory as so much mental masturbation.

We won’t be able to argue about politics anymore.  We won’t be able to argue about Global Warming anymore.  We won’t be able to discuss my writing anymore.  I won’t be able to share my latest crazy programming ideas with him anymore.  I won’t be able to brag about Liora’s workshops anymore, and how amazing they are.  I would have loved for him to be able to do one of them.  I would have died and gone to heaven myself if he’d been able to go all the way through Completion.  I think he would have seen his childhood (as brutal and painful as it was) in an entirely different light.  I wish he could have had that gift before he died.

Have I told you all lately how much I hate Parkinson’s Disease?  Like, to the core of my being.  With a white-hot passion.  If we could eradicate that disease from the planet, it would be a mitzvah beyond measure.  It destroyed the man that I truly loved.  It ravaged his body, and chewed up his mind.  That brilliant, keen, incisive, sharp, steel-trap of a mind.  The mind I never felt I could measure up to; that I aspired to.  I hated seeing that light fade away over the last few years.

And now it’s gone.

And I weep.

Update (20080421):  Not sure why, but the comments seem to be nuked.  I’m trying to figure it out.

Update the Second:  Comments are fixed now.  Had to unlock the vault.

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1. Nukemhill's Dad [Dan Collins] - April 21, 2008

[…] was unaware of this, but frequent commenter nukemhill has a post up about his dad, who died a couple of weeks ago.  He’s feeling the loss of consortium rather keenly, though […]

2. nukemhill - April 21, 2008

Test.

3. Gregory Hill - April 21, 2008

Test 2. I’m logged out.

4. Liora Hill - April 21, 2008

My Love Letter for Dad

I haven’t really put my two cents’ worth into this blog. Ever. And I don’t know why I’m moved to do so now, but here it is. So I’m just going to, I don’t know, blabber…?…

I loved my father-in-law. Even though for years I went through unutterable loss and pain in the rakishly rough way he clearly did not love me, shunned me, kept me at bay and verbally & emotionally lashed me. Ahhh – unrequited love, even with a father-in-law, is oh-so-harsh.

And it got worse before it got better. Nastier. More eggshells to walk on. At some point Greg threatened his own father that he may never treat me that way again, or else never come to our home again. Oh my God. How dramatic! But how real. How sadly and head-shakingly real.

He was never that bad again. But there was yet another blow up – the kind that walks up the stairs with you. So we argued on the first floor and we argued up the steps to the second floor and we argued on the second floor before he went to his room and I went back downstairs.

At some point, that same father-in-law came back down the stairs. Frightened that he might corner me in my inescapable one door only office, I came out of my office only to find a gentle man who asked if we could talk. Still sensing a need for space, I wandered into our open sunny kitchen with a rather guarded and measured, “Okaaaay.” The father-in-law, who had, for the past 6 years of my knowing him insisted that I call him “Ron”, not ever “Dad”, quietly stated, “I want to start over again. With you. I’m sorry. I don’t think I ever really gave you a chance.” On terrified limb I ventured with, “Then I have to be able to call you ‘Dad’.” Ron, the arms-length guy very clearly articulated, “That will be difficult for me. But okay. It will take time for me to get to know you. I have never taken the time to know you. I want to do that. If we can begin that now.” And so we did.

A couple of months after that visit the phone rang mid-day. I work from home. Not yet being convenienced with the psychic powers that Caller I.D. provides, I simply answered, “This is Liora.” The voice on the other end said, “This is Dad.” Stunned – I mean REALLY taken aback at the unusual time of the call for him, I answered that Greg wasn’t home. I could give Dad Greg’s cellphone or work phone number or have Greg call him back after he got home. You see, I’d been in the habit now, for years, that whenever that man called I would simply hand the phone over to Greg after a cursory, “Hold on – I’ll give you to Greg.” But Dad (and I am weeping as I think how courageous this must have been for him to do) said, “I didn’t call Greg. I called you.” Still not understanding, I densely responded with, “What’s the matter? What do you need?” “Nothing,” he answered simply. “Can’t I call just to talk with my daughter-in-law? After all, how else are we going to get to know each other?”

So my tears fall. In gratitude. In relief. In love. In missing Dad. Every card he sent after that, rather than being signed “Dad/Ron”, was only signed, “Dad”. It’s in the little things, right? Little Things are Big Deals.

He loved martinis. Bombay Sapphire Gin martinis. With a spear of green olives – enough olives for his son, his daughter and himself. “The olives,” he once told me, “are only for my children. Many times other people would like one. But they are only for my children. And for me.” But after he permitted me the honor and the intimacy of calling him Dad, after all those years of being shut out, after knowing that there would never be any olives for me, Dad’s martinis looked different. His spears were crowded with olives. He made sure there were always enough olives for his son, his daughter, himself and…for me.

One of the things I think I weep for is something I haven’t dared speak aloud except to one friend. I’m really ticked off at Dad. I feel robbed of the years of friendship and love that we could have had. I know I should be grateful for the years of love and friendship we enjoyed at the end. And I am. Truly. But the end was a long time coming. Parkinson’s slowly ate away at his physical abilities before combining that with a slow leaching of his amazing mental capacities. So most of the time I was in reciprocated love with my beloved father-in-law he was slowly but surely losing his mind.

Suddenly that strikes me as unfathomably funny! I mean, maybe you have to be a bit of a nitwit to love me! (Oh dear, Honey – what does that say about you and our children…not to mention our friends and my students!?)

But I get it. I do. Dad was forced to disarm his well-guarded heart by the nature of the ravaging P. And yet I must face the cold hard fact that Dad reconciled with me before he was mentally down the tubes. He did that with all of his mind and all of his heart.

My gratitude for the lessons that man has taught me seems to be an endless well. Much like the walls of the well, moist from depths within, my cheeks are frequently, like now, damp from the well within me.

I miss you, Dad. I miss talking with you. Hugging you. Even when your body was frail. I miss your irascible sense of humor. Your brilliance. Your political diatribes. Your passion. I miss your random phone calls. I miss the way you would frame one event against another – usually using a piece of literature quoted with exactitude as your descriptive point of reference. I…I…just plain miss you.

And I love you. I will love you forever, Dad. Greg says you are his hero. I adore my own father. But I gotta admit. You’re my hero, too.

5. Thoughts and Anecdotes « Nuke ‘m Hill - April 21, 2008

[…] to the Requiem.  He states: I was unaware of this, but frequent commenter Nuke ‘m Hill has a post up about his dad, who died a couple of weeks ago.  He’s feeling the loss of consortium rather keenly, though our […]

6. alicia - May 8, 2008

Beautifully written. And I completely relate. The loss is so much more than that person and realizing what was is no longer there. It’s those moments you lose in the present and the future. Ugh. It’s angering and frustrating and heartbreaking. In the 22 years since my father died, the weirdest things are these times, in the most random of places – like a blues club or driving down an annoyingly crowded highway, when I feel the presence of my father. He’s sitting next to me, or walking next to me, and sharing that moment with me. While I can’t see him, the feeling of his presence is undeniable. I’ve never felt like he was “gone” but, boy, those moments are incredible and it’s unexplicably nice to really feel him ‘there’. I hope those moments happen for you because I’m sure your dad will always want to celebrate and share your life’s moments just as much as you want him to be there.


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