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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 30 his response was this: If we wanted to continue to live the way we were living, then he would have to continue to work as hard and long as he was working. If we didn’t, then he would cut back on his hours at the office, pass up promotions, and spend more time at home. I remember this family discussion drifting to an in- complete end. I knew what my mother was thinking—even if she didn’t say so—and it was not what I was thinking. I was thinking I’d like to have him at home more. that never happened. he filled his absence with the fruits of his labor: lovely houses, money for my mother to buy nutritious food to feed us, a fully paid college education for all four of his sons, graduate school for me, and even help with the down payment on the first house my wife and I bought in upstate new york. he was not affectionate or demonstrative. he never cooked anything. he was not big on spectator sports, so he never took me or my brothers to any games. he was generous when he wanted to be, but he never spoiled us. my brothers and I had to work throughout our school years if we wanted anything more for ourselves than food, shelter, clothing, and education. I was ten years old when I got my first job, ordering flower seeds from comic books and peddling them door-to-door in our neigh- borhood, and I haven’t stopped working since—forty-six years later. I have always been grateful for this lesson and for the things my father bought for us with his hard-earned money, even if I rarely said so. days before his death, he drifted in and out of consciousness in a cool, dark intensive-care room in Jacksonville, florida, a sprawl- ing city where my mother and father had chosen to live the rest of their days. during one of my hospital visits, my father, tangled up in tubes and wires, struggled to tell me, “you’ve been a good son.” I replied, “and you’ve been a good father.” It was all I could do to hold back my tears as his dripped down his sallow, sunken cheeks. I touched his withered hand—something I’d not often done during our lives together. after my father had been moved to the nursing unit in the retirement community where my mother and father were liv- ing, a hospice nurse stopped by and suggested that my broth- ers and my mother each take turns saying goodbye. the nurse said that sometimes dying people need to be told that those they’re leaving behind will miss them but that everything will be okay. hearing, the nurse said, is the last of the senses to go. It’s as if the dying person needs permission to die, even if they are unconscious. I asked my father to repeat. If these were to be his parting words—I wanted to hear them. Eyes still closed, he took a deep breath. “Plenty of money?” he asked again. SUPERB SERVICE FOR ALL YOUR REAL ESTATE NEEDS SANTA FE & NEW MEXICO 888-832-5668