June 21, 2009

P is for my Pop! (and peonies!)

Father's Day. And, this is the 12th year without my dad. He was 52.

The Lord was very good to him. And, he knew it. As he often said..."this is the hand I was dealt...I'll play it out the best I can."

He had Wilm's Tumor when he was only three years old..that's childhood kidney cancer. He spent a good couple of months back in 1947 in Ann Arbor for treatment. Mostly alone. Because of the times or perhaps because his family was dysfunctional, he spent time during his recovery alone. Can you imagine leaving your three year old in a hospital all alone for weeks at a time? My heart breaks when I think about it. Perhaps that early age independence made him trust and learn to live in harmony with a grateful heart.

Perhaps that's just how he was wired.
Regardless, it is a miracle he even made it... he lived with just one kidney.

He came from a broken, divorced home. His mom left him and his three siblings alone with their dad in the driveway and split. Never to return.

At age 12 years old, he vowed to make a good life for himself, regardless of his circumstances. At 16 he left home. For good. Never, ever returned. He didn't smoke. He didn't drink. He worked..and he worked hard. Several jobs at a time.

Living with one kidney, left him unable to be hired into the union-backed $$$ auto industry. Truth is, it would of stifled his creative personality.

Knowing, someday he would need to live on dialysis, he set out to climb the ladder selling lumber in the suburbs of Detroit. He went on to hustle income and made very, very wise investment choices. He was not driven by his ego, but for the simple fact that he was a self-reliant man...wanting nothing from the government and no pity. He knew he'd live on dialysis one day and may need to buy his own machine....or not be able to work at all.

In the meantime...

He took advantage of his good health and lived well... he traveled with my mom to exotic places. And, appreciated everything and everyone. Knowing his time was probably limited. Although he never, ever discussed it.

Negativity was never an option. Not even at the end. He walked with a spring in his step. And, a giggle in his belly.

On one trip in the Caribbean, he contracted Dengue Fever, which damaged his good kidney. Soon after, he had to go on dialysis three times a day. Modern times came out with a pretty simple "at-home" dialysis unit. So, he was able to cleanse at the office or home...even shipping his equipment to a church in New England and dialysising there, so he and mom could enjoy a trip.

He went on to build his self-made empire. He put carriage sheds on the Michigan map and built several hundred in Michigan. He was the only one to build them and to this day, while many are copycats, no one has been able to duplicate them. It's amazing how we'll be traveling in the least likely places and we'll find one of his barns. It's like he's saying, Hi, I was here!"... he invested in 40 apartments and built and maintained 5 industrial factories. All of which my little 5 foot mom manages with an iron fist. She rocks! Not the easiest job for a woman.

My dad eventually (after a five-year wait), received a kidney from a six year old boy who was in a bike accident. He lived a good year or so and developed full-blown cancer. We believe it was due to the rejection medicine that he had to take.. cancer was a huge side effect. But, he had no choice.

He lived in and out of the hospital... one time when he was home and I was over to visit, he asked me to play Gloria Gaynor's, "I will survive" on the tape player. One time after immediately being diagnosed with bone cancer, he asked Brad to play a game of backgammon with him. Toughest game Brad ever had to play.

To say he was a wonderful man doesn't cut it.

He was beyond wonderful. I'm hard pressed to find the right adjective. Kind. Generous. Funny to the extreme. The best dad anyone could ever want. Never negative. Always finding the best in people.... don't get me wrong..if he needed to protect himself, he had no problem unobtrusively moving on, without burning bridges, Loved dogs. a Life Scout. Best friend to many... everyone gravitated toward him. A Godly man who had an open mind. Polished. Trustworthy. Firm hand shake. Loyal to my mom. True to his word. The best euchre and poker player ever. Patient. Liked to swear. Loved coney dogs. Didn't really like sports or hunting. Liked to read. Loved Rush Limbaugh. And, Johnny Cash, Waylon and Willie and the boys. Wore wranglers and levis and cowboy boots, nearly everyday. Loved NO-LIMIT people and radicals. Was selling me on homeschooling before I even had Tommie. Forgiving. Humble. Loathed gossip. Loved to dance. Loved Halloween. Lived his life to the fullest. Everyday was a good day. I fondly remember walking into his hospital room and just seeing his feet from the door, made me happy!

He spoke with so much wisdom. Almost planting the seeds of advice, knowing I would need to draw on them one day. And, I do....EVERY SINGLE DAY! Here's just a few things buried in my mind:

Never let an old person "in." Meaning never grow old..always stay young mentally.

You don't owe anyone an explanation.

No one wants to be around you if your negative.

Do the best with what you have to work with.

How hard is it?

Make a decsion and deal with it.

A ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not where a ship was meant to be.

Promise me you'll never be an 18 year old know-it-all.

Wear make-up!

Storms never last.

Try to act like men do.... do you ever see men standing around gossiping about their friends? Holding grudges? Nope, we just don't take all that stuff so personal.

Pull yourself up by your boot straps.

Happy Father's Day....Tom.
(I never did call him dad).
You taught me how to live. And, taught me how to die.


Diosa Del Desierto Corazon said...

What is Dainke Fever? I'd never heard of it and looked it up and found no info on it. Is it like Dengue Fever?


MICHELE said...

Oops Penny...thanks for the correction, that is how it is spelled, but pronounced Dankee (rhymes with Hanky) fever. Off to correct it.


MICHELE said...

Oops Penny...thanks for the correction, that is how it is spelled, but pronounced Dankee (rhymes with Hanky) fever. Off to correct it.


Lynn said...

Michele, what a tribute! It made me teary-eyed. That's where you get your awesome, positive outlook on life.

Are you better, dear friend? I hope the hives and itching have calmed down.