A month ago today, when last we spoke, we exchanged handshakes and snappy salutes. I noticed again that afternoon, as I always do, your silver U.S. Army Infantry ring, worn and smooth from the decades of wear, never imagining the next time I saw it, it would be surrendering it to accompany you in your urn.
Supporting Mom during those first days after our last salute kept me busy. Just as our family always has, we took care of business first. Mom and I went through your briefcase and pulled out the important legal documents and tried to figure out which bills would be coming due and when. Don’t worry, though – all of us got Mom squared away so that she’d continue to have income without interruption. Really, you saw to all of that through your prior planning and dedication. For me, it was just phone calls to the Army and the Railroad Retirement Board. No sweat. Gotcha covered.
The hardest thing I had to do – ever – was to leave you behind in that beautiful place you chose for you and Mom down in Dayton. I was fine through it all up until I had to leave. I rode out with the family to the entrance, saw them off, and got back in your car (which I’d been using, and yes, I filled up the tank when I was done) and went back up to see you again. I walked up, perfectly composed and stood near the temporary marker. Yeah, it was cliché, but I came to the position of attention and saluted you one more time and started walking back to the car for the two hour trip back home.
Yeah, I lost it then. Pretty badly, too. I sat in the car for a time and struggled with the understanding that I had to leave and the anguish of leaving you behind. But what’s done is done, I suppose. I finally put the car in gear, took one last trip around the grounds and headed home in silence, except for the few phone calls I made to let people know that it was done.
I’m lucky that we got to talk in the hospital, albeit briefly, and even luckier that at various points in my life, I’ve stopped to tell you that you’d raised all three of us right. That I was proud of you. And I admired you. All three of we offspring feel that way, you know. Just sayin’.
You’d be horrified to know that I’ve been posting photos of you throughout your life on the Internet. Yeah, that computer thing you keep hearing about that you wanted no part of. So yeah, you’re getting your dose of the internet now in spite of your revulsion for computers and technology.
I’m doing it anyway because I’m still proud of you.
Even with all the accomplishments I’ve enjoyed, the one thing I will never be is as good of a man – as good of a person as you were. You wrote the book on leading by example, not by intimidation. Cooperation, not confrontation. Thanks. I ‘preciate that. Your sterling example has served me well over the years, even though I know I still fall way short.
I have been telling people for years that when I look in the mirror or hear your words escaping my mouth unexpectedly, that I’m turning into my father.
Just so you know, I’m perfectly OK with that.