Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Yesterday morning, at 9:30am, with his family surrounding him, a man I really adored died of cancer. He was 66 years old. He was everything I like in a man: big, strong, funny, challenging, sarcastic, headstrong, steady, steadfast, loving and kind. He was the father of six girls and one boy who did not live past childbirth. He left behind the girls, now women, his wife of 47 years and twelve grandchildren, ten boys, two girls. He was the father of my best friend in New England. He was a man's man.
He was a Massachusetts State Trooper. He had great stories. Man, he could tell great stories. Two Autumns past, I had the great good fortune to spend five days in Nantucket with him and his wife and my best friend and her husband. The days and nights were filled with his stories of growing up on Cape Cod, learning to fish, police anecdotes and the like. He was a character out of a novel such as Richard Russo would invent. A real guy. He had his faults, plenty of them. He was away from his wife and daughters for long stretches of time during their youth; they were raised without the constant presence of a man, which they sorely needed. There was disappointment and resentment toward him as the girls grew up and he tried to re-instate his influence. His daughters, you see, are as pig headed as he. It was bound to happen.
His cancer diagnosis came too late. He was mis-diagnosed for two years with lower back pain. He had prostate cancer, something we've come to believe is easily contained if caught in time. By the time his was discovered, it had entered his bones. But he fought it all the way.
His family rallied round. His wife took him for the almost daily radiation. His daughters took turns helping out. He lost 80 lbs right away; then more. He wanted to stay in his home til the end and he did, surrounded by the things he had helped his wife collect and build during their long relationship.
In the end, he was with the people he loved the most, his family. They spent Easter weekend at his home waiting for the end. The day before he let go, he told one daughter to pack his things... he was "going fishing."
"Are you going to Cape Cod," she asked.
"Are you going to see Gramma and Grampa?"
She said he smiled and was happy. Fishing was the great love of his life. It was his passion.
I picture him now, standing at surf's edge, with his line in the water, a cigar in his mouth, waiting for a bite.