Buddy

buddy

me, Megan, my parents somewhere in the Southwest

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Today, my dad would have been 102. He was born in 1913, in an obscure town in Illinois, the son of immigrants from what was once Yugoslavia. He had two sisters and two brothers. The younger brother, Glen, died young, in WWII. Joe, the older brother, joined my dad in Venezuela in 1937, escaping the depression in Oklahoma, where they were living at the time.

He traveled to Venezuela on a seaplane, a trip that took thirty plus hours in those days. He landed in Lagunillas, a booming oil town on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, where he went to work for Creole, a subsidiary of Standard Oil/Exxon. He was a single guy, there were a lot of single women – mostly nurses – from the U.S. And for a while, he dated an American nurse.

When the war broke out, he returned to the U.S. and enlisted. On one of his breaks in 1945, he met my mother in Tulsa. She, too, was from a large family – the next to youngest among five siblings. Within six months, they were married and he ferreted her away to a continent which, in those days, was a wilderness of oil fields, a wild west to the Midwestern mindset.

My dad was an eccentric, a chess whiz, a math whiz, a member of Mensa, a loner whose universe was his family and his explorations of the unknown, the undiscovered. In time, he and my mother settled in Caracas, where I was born, and then later in Maracaibo, in an oil camp where my sister was born. When I was ten, we moved back to Caracas, where we lived until I was nearly 17. By then he was an accountant for Creole.

There’s much about my father that remains a mystery to me. He never went to college, his family couldn’t afford it, but he made sure that my sister and I were both educated through graduate school. He and my mother were both joggers, who pounded out their miles every week, six days a week without fail for years. As they got older and their knees began to hurt, they turned to swimming. All this physical exercise is probably why his heart rate and blood pressure were always low and why he was so rarely ill. He and my mother were health-conscious.

I recall that when he got bursitis in his elbow, he went to traditional doctors, who didn’t help, and finally wrote to nutritionist Adele Davis, whose bestselling book, Let’s Get Well had impressed him. Davis, for a modest $50 fee, recommended a certain nutritional program that included Brewer’s Yeast and within three days, his elbow had returned to normal and never bothered him again. That experience convinced him that traditional medicine wasn’t where the answers lay.

In 1963, as the political situation in Venezuela worsened, he took early retirement from Creole and we moved to the U.S., a major shock for me. We settled in Boca Raton, Florida – Rat’s Mouth is the literal translation. I hated life in the U.S. The cultural shock was so extreme that I started looking for answers about why I was where I was and what it meant in the bigger scheme of things. That’s when I discovered astrology.

I used to sit in my room at night, after I’d done my homework, calculating the complicated math for erecting charts – and then would take it to him to check my math. He didn’t have a clue about astrology but confided that his mother, a woman who had died before I was born, was an astrologer.

I also used to sit in that room and write and when I told him that was what I was going to be, what I was going to do, I never heard the usual line that unpublished writers hear: C’mon, no one makes a living as a writer. Instead, he said, Go for it. So I did. And when my first novel was published in 1985, he started a scrapbook. He used to check the royalty statements that Rob and I received – and found errors.

Because of him, Megan learned to play chess at a young age. By then she called him Buddy – the name he’d chosen for himself as a grandfather.

Somewhere in the mid-1990s, my mother developed Alzheimer’s and my dad struggled to care for her. Rob, Megan and I lived nearby and helped as often as we could. But by late 1999, my mother’s condition was so dire that we had to place her in an Alzheimer’s unit. My dad moved in with us, and Megan gave up her bedroom and lived in our living room. Not long afterward, we moved to our present home, where everyone had a bedroom. My mother passed shortly after we moved and every night for the next year Rob and my dad played chess in the evenings.

It’s difficult to have a parent living with you at this point in your life. But Buddy was so easy to live with, so unobtrusive, that our situation persisted to August 2001, when I walked into his room one morning and found him pulling a plastic bag over his head. I freaked. I completely lost it. Even though I understood his desire to die, I couldn’t imagine my daughter walking into his room and finding him a suicide. We later realized he had forgotten to take his Parkinson’s meds that day.

Not long afterward, we moved him to an assisted living facility in Georgia, where my sister was the head nurse. It felt like a good compromise. He was 90, Parkinson’s had robbed him of his ability to walk and care for himself, but my sister was a nurse who specialized in the elderly. Every few months for the next two years, I flew to Georgia to visit him.

On one of those trips, I took a CD that Carol Bowman had sent me, about a 20/20 piece that had been filmed on James Leiniger, a little kid who recalled a life as a WWII pilot, a case Carol has investigated, the best case for reincarnation in the western world. At the end of it, my dad turned to me, tears streaming down his sunken cheeks, and said, “That’s the best evidence I’ve ever seen for the continuation of the soul.” Up until he had watched that CD, he had been a skeptic that anything anything survived death.

Four months later, he released his tenacious hold on life and died. I’m convinced that the Leiniger case facilitated his death, that it convinced him he would not be annihilated, that it erased his fear of death.

So on this day, Buddy, on what would have been your 102nd birthday, I want to  thank you for all that you brought to my life, for everything I learned from you. And most of all, I thank you for never discouraging me to follow my heart, my dreams, my soul. That is the ultimate tribute from a parent to a child.

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28 Responses to Buddy

  1. c.j. cannon says:

    When I was going through my Mother’s things and reading her journals, I found an entry in one of her journals that she had written two months after Dad had died. She had put a title to this entry ,”MY FINE FEATHERED FRIEND”. In it, she related that throughout the Sunday that would bring his transition, a tiny bluebird sat on the windowsill outside his hospital room window. It was pouring down rain, but the little bird sang on that windowsill all day long. There was a roof over the sill. Mom talked to the beautiful bluebird who continued to sing, and then, at the moment of his death, the bluebird flew away. In her entry….in her words to the tiny creature, she wrote:
    “You left and he went with you, didn’t he ? He left on the wings of your song. Sometime in the twilight you will come and tell me, because I look for you all the time, my fine feathered friend”. On the bottom of the page several months later,
    Mom wrote: “…..for a bird of the air will carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter. Ecclesiastes 10:20.” From time to time I read her entire entry….her conversation with the precious little bluebird, and it never fails to bring me to tears. Mom began to collect porcelain and ceramic birds of all kinds, and her collection grew and grew. Many of her birds are displayed here in this room, that our family calls “The Bird Room”. That which hath wings shall tell the matter………….

  2. Wow, Trish, your parents went to a lot of trouble to get you born in Venezuela. What a beautiful life review of you and your dad. I’m so glad you had his support and encouragement, and I’d count on it still to get this latest book published. Maybe he’ll send you a sign about it. May it be so!

    • Rob and Trish says:

      I guess they did go to a lot of trouble for me to be born in Venezuela! Never thought of it like that.

  3. Carol Bowman says:

    Trish, That is a beautiful tribute to your father. I’m sure he is smiling on you and your family now. I didn’t know your grandmother was an astrologer! Very interesting…

  4. natalie Thomas says:

    Yep tears here too! A beautifully written tribute to your beautiful dad. Imagine how proud he must be of you, Trish. xx

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Thanks, Nat! Ironically, today I got the second rejection on my new novel.It disappointed me, then ticked me off, then during Rob’s yoga class this evening, during the meditation part, I asked myself, What would Buddy say?
      “Forget it and keep writing.”

      • Why not consider the “hybrid author” status and self publish this one? The business model is a bit different than you’ve know through your career but it could be fun. I know a few people who’ve liked the challenge and been pleased by the results. LOL!

        • Rob and Trish says:

          I may end up doing that, Terri. But the problem is distribution. Fiction is tough to sell on late night radio. Will have to see how it all shakes out Thank you for the reminder!

      • natalie Thomas says:

        Keep writing, Trish! Of course keep writing! You are wonderful and bring so much, to so many. That is the point. xx

  5. Nancy says:

    August 29th, 1987. That’s the day I lost my Dad. A true American cowboy, one of a kind, man’s man. When I told my friends he reminded me of John Wayne, (the actor part), no one disagreed. We still miss him. One of my girlfriends who recently lost her husband cited my father as a role model for her husband, who always had another place at the table for an errant kid needing some TLC.

    A good father is a gift to a woman – she reaps the results of his love all through her life. You obviously had a good one, Trish.

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Well said, Nancy. So your dad passed not long after the Harmonic Convergence, if memory serves. I think that was a little earlier that August.

  6. Laurence Zankowski says:

    Trish,

    My mom passed away 30 years ago in upstate NY. I never got to ask her the question every boy should ask his mom when he finally figures out how important she is.
    Never can say i had a supportive father. You beautiful story makes me ache in my heart.

    Such a rememberance and a honorarium to a much loved father.

    Be well

    Laurence

  7. c.j. cannon says:

    P.S Yesterday, 10-19-2015, was the anniversary of my Mom’s transition to the Other Side. Sometimes it seems forever. Sometimes it seems like a week or so ago. We never forget, and that’s so important, I think. The Coming In and The Going Out….both are “birthdays” to me….stepping from one room into another.

  8. Shadow says:

    You honour him by living as he believed you should, your way. He sounds like a great man.

  9. karen algrim says:

    Beautiful tribute Trish! Happy would be birthday Buddy.

  10. This marks ten years since my parents passed too, so I thank you for the lovely tribute to your dad – and sharing the robins visit!

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Both of your parents died in the same year, Terri? That must have been difficult.
      The robins: it kinda blew me away. Haven’t seen them since.

      • My mom had been in the hospice program for years and deteriorated very slowly while retaining total mental clarity to the final moment – after being a polio quadriplegic for 46 years. She died the day before my birthday.
        My dad, after being her primary caretaker for those years, didn’t do well in the first months after her death then was returning to his health and humor. He decided to visit her grave site and left a message on my brother’s answering machine that he was “going to see mom” and drove past the cemetery that day and died in a car accident.
        It was the day before my husband’s birthday.
        We were leaving for a 25th anniversary trip but instead – there are many more layers to this story and now at the ten year mark I know a little more about how to tell this story. I’ll probably self publish it so I don’t have to try to homogenize it…

        • Oh yeah, Robbins were a big deal to my mom… Cardinals were her first favorite because they are red and she loved red, and they didn’t migrate away from the snow. Robbins were her second favorite because they were the symbol of spring after rough winters in the snow belt of Lake Erie.

          Dad built a special wheelchair accessible room for mom on the back of the house in 1962 and it included huge windows so she could watch the birds in the yard. He also crafted a variety of “squirrel proof” bird-feeders to hang in the apple tree over the decades. When Mom was admitted to Hospice House in 2002, one of the first things he did was cut down that apple tree.

          One of my nephews bought their home, and last month he finally removed the ramp from the back of the house…

        • Rob and Trish says:

          That’s a lot of synchronicity around those 2 deaths, Terri!

  11. c.j. cannon says:

    You look very much like your Mom, Trish! And what a blessing to have had such a Dad! I, too, was blessed with a loving, nurturing, supportive Dad who never failed to be there for me until he crossed over when I was 18 and he was only 42. This year he would be 99. I miss him every single day, and often stop and gaze at his portrait in our hall family picture gallery, speaking to him. Thank you so much for sharing this uplifting and very intimate story of a special relationship between you and your Dad.
    And how wonderful, that before he passed he realized he would continue TO BE!

  12. That was beautiful Trish. I must be getting soft as it brought tears to my eyes.

    “… the ultimate tribute from a parent to a child” how right you are.

    He sounds a remarkable man – how lucky you are to have such a father.

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Thanks, Mike. My sister texted me this morning and said it was hard to believe he has been gone for 10 years. Just as I was telling her to check facebook, a pair of robins appeared outside my window, a male and a female. They rarely migrate this early. My first thought was that my parents had dropped by to say hello.