Two years ago today, I lost my dad. In the aftermath of the ICU, medical noise, and decisionmaking, we had a small gathering to honor him. I put together several of the multi photo displays, one each for his childhood, young family and work life, and the rest of his years. Many 8 x 10 photos that hadn’t been seen in ages were placed in my frames, resting over pictures of my sons mostly. This process gave me wonderful moments, several of them, where I just looked closely and thought about his life.
Memories frequently trip through my mind, things he said or how circumstances were for him near the end. His last Father’s Day, I gave him a card fairly gushing with praise about all the ways he was a wonderful father through the years. After he read it, he said, “Well, thank you, darlin’, but I didnt do all that.”
There was a time in my younger years I might have agreed, but instead I told him, ” You paid for me to get my degree. When I got my first job, you rented a U-Haul and packed all my stuff while I sat around crying. You drove me to my new place and helped me get settled. When I was on bedrest while pregnant, you and mom came to our aid. In my most desperate days of depression you got me help and did projects around my house. You and mom have been such an important part of my sons’ lives. You are all that. You did all that, and that was just for me.” I have two siblings and there are many grandchildren and great grands. “You and mom have built a family of love.” He gestured toward my mom in the kitchen to say, “It was her. She did that.” His larynx had been removed more than 20 years earlier to treat esophageal cancer, and I was very familiar with his meaning now; it was his response every time the topic of our familial love and appreciation for it arose.
My father’s legacy is far more than his financial success as an entrepreneur allowing him to retire at 50, which impresses me so much now that I’m in my 50’s. Invictus was his favorite poem, and he was the determined master of his fate. His legacy can be found in the loved ones left behind. It’s generations of our family imbued with his positive attitude, honesty, friendliness, and love for each other, and him, above all.
Invictus Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. William Ernest Henley