In the Autumn of 1999, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. In early December of 1999, the cancer had invaded one of Dad’s kidneys to the point where the doctor felt the kidney had to be taken out. In January of 2000, Dad had the surgery to have that kidney removed. He pulled through the operation. But the cancer was still in his body.
My father was so incredibly brave in his fight against cancer. I remember one Saturday, in the early Spring of 2000, Dad and I did some home repairs on the old homestead. We were replacing the old hinges on the basement door, when I came to see the pain of the cancer in my father’s eyes. Dad hid the pain well. Folks from church, neighbors, friends from town, and the old scout leaders who helped Dad run Boy Scout Troop 170; were amazed to find out how very ill Dad really was. My father felt strongly that he never wanted to give in to feeling sorry for himself, he was determined to fight the good fight.
At the time, I was working for an advertising agency. I really didn’t like the work. Writing copy for magazine ads never really did click for me. I was hungry to work for a newspaper again. At work, I had been assigned to the writing team that was doing a lot of magazine ad layouts for a big national soft drink company.
I don’t know how he knew it, but my father knew that deep down I wasn’t happy working at the ad agency. I remember this moment as if it was yesterday, when in truth it was nearly 12 years ago. As Dad began screwing in the screws to the new hinge, I held the hinge in place. I was concerned about Dad overexerting himself, so I suggested to him that I could screw in the screws and he could hold the hinge.
“I’m not out to pasture yet, Richard,” Dad said to me in a firm voice. I can still hear my father saying those words to me.
A silence fell between us for a minute or two, then Dad apologized for being so harsh. He told me that he knew I was only looking out for what was best for him. Then, amazingly, my father asked me point blank, “you’re not happy working where you are son, are you?”
I have to confess that I stammered a bit with a few “well, I don’t know….it’s just that…”
Then came a most sacred moment. My father finished screwing in the final screw to the top hinge, but the screw driver in his back pocket, looked me square in the eye and said to me, “you’ve got a talent son. I don’t want to see you wasting it, trying to convince people to drink a lot of soda pop.”
As we worked on replacing the middle and lower hinges, Dad shared ideas with me. From that conversation, together we developed the ideas of my writing, “The Fond Memories of Growing Up in Lincoln Park,” as well as the idea of writing a series of articles on the history of the Morris Canal and of the history of Lincoln Park.
On just those concepts alone, I had well over 200 articles published in local newspapers and publications.
I loved my Dad with all my heart, I still do. My dad went Home to be with the Lord in May of 2006. I still miss him so very much.
I don’t know where I would be today, without my father’s insightful guidance. My dad dropped out of high school to sign up for the Army Air Corps during World War II. He saw action, stood in harm’s way, and saw some of his army buddies fall to the ground to defend the hallowed concept that men and women should be free and live in a democratic society. Despite not having a lot of formal education, my dad was and remains to be, one of the wisest men I have ever known.
There are no guarantees for any of us. It is painfully true that tomorrow may be our last day in this physical life. Please, show the people you love, just how much you love them today. In this journey to find truth, this is painfully true, tomorrow may be too late.
Peace, love, and good will; Richard