A Few Words About My Dad

Kacey and I just watched the movie “A Man Called Otto”

Otto is a grumpy son of a bitch. An old codger who is watching the world go to hell all around him, including his own life. 

The film is quite a tear-jerker. Spoiler alert here, but Otto passes away at the end from a heart attack. From a young age, he had a condition where his heart was too big. Which, is an oxymoron in itself throughout the movie. A grinch like situation you could say. 

There’s a scene showing Otto lying dead on his bed. Seeing that, I couldn’t help but think of my dad. 

Dad passed away from a heart attack, alone, and in the comfort of his home 13 years ago now. A sudden event that presumably happened while he slept. Painless. For some reason, I can picture him laying there, lifeless, on the mattress he brought into the living room because his bedroom became a litterbox for his 3 cats. His ashtray on the coffee table next to him and maybe his old yellow coffee mug sitting next to it, stained from the years of use. 

He was 50 years old. Years of smoking, terrible eating habits, unhealthy living conditions, and a mountain of stress finally caught up to him. Yes, he was aware of his heart problems. The doctors even recommended he go on blood thinners. But he didn’t. Dad decided to keep on keepin’ on and change absolutely nothing.

I see where my stubbornness comes from.

Towards what would end up being the last few years of his life, I remember living with him as a kid, probably 13 or 14 at the time, and noticing his eyes. They were no longer a warm and welcoming blue. Instead, they were a cold, piercing blue. I can remember feeling scared when he looked at me. This may sound strange, but from the moment I saw his cold and piercing eyes, after that, I knew he was gone. I just didn’t see Dad there anymore.

Rarely did I see him laugh then. It was like the world had crushed him over and over again and there was no sign of stopping. Almost as if he was being buried alive and there was nothing he could do about it. What, was he going to tell us kids about his life problems? Not a chance. We weren’t even adults yet. What the hell were we going to do?

All this, and he still had to try and take care of my sister and me. A feat of its own, I’m sure. 

I wish I knew where his life went wrong. What happened that crushed my dad and left him so ready to give up? Was it my Mom and Dad getting divorced, or being in debt up to his ears? Whatever it was, man, I just feel like he could’ve tried getting some sort of help. 

I’ve got 22 years left before I hit 50, but god damnit if I had kids I’d be doing everything I could to stick around. 

He wasn’t always like this though. There was a time when I remember him laughing and playing with us when we were kids.

The Class Clown

We were living in our house in Bangor at the time. One of us had gotten a toy for our birthday or maybe it was a random occasion. I can’t quite recall for sure. But Dad would take the rubbery adhesive off the packages and stick them under his nose like he had these long boogers hanging out. We were terrified that if we were caught, these disgusting glue boogers would be wiped all over us. I can remember screaming and laughing so hard. One time, we all crawled under the kitchen table and barricaded ourselves from our dad, the Booger Man. 

At that same house, he pulled quite the prank on all of us. Somehow, tucked away in the oven somewhere, there was this hotdog that was absolutely torched. I mean, who knows how long this weiner had been in there. It was completely black and all shriveled up. 

Well, my dad being the jokester that he was, grabs this burnt hotdog and rests it very suspiciously next to the toilet. You know, making it look like someone had missed the toilet completely and cut a log on the floor. 

All this secrecy unbeknownst to us, he put on his dad voice and yells out to us individually, “Tyler, come to the bathroom right now!” I was shocked and I immediately felt like I’d been gut-punched because I was so nervous. Oh my god, what did I do?!

Walking sheepishly through the bathroom door, my dad sees me and sternly says, “Did you poop on the floor?!”  I swear to God, this man should’ve played poker. He had the straightest face when he accused me of disrespecting our bathroom floor in such a vile way. I legitimately thought that hotdog was a turd. Shakily, I said, “No, I swear it wasn’t me”

He called my sister up at bat next and put her through the same interrogation I had. 

That’s what I remember most about my dad. He was the class clown. Fart jokes and dirty humor were his middle name. He had his extreme moments of disciplinary action, don’t get me wrong. But for the most part, he felt like a funny friend. Never taking anything too seriously. 

An Amateur Historian

Along with his humor, he was the definition of a history buff. For him, anything in history was fair game. Dad would tell me random facts and stories ranging from the pirate, Blackbeard, and his cannonball fuse hat to Lieutenant Spears from Dog Company in WWII and his heroic and impressive military resume.  These stories Dad would tell captured me.

I know, how can history and telling capturing stories go hand in hand. I don’t know, but he mastered it. 

A story, in particular, I can remember was when Dad finished a book about the Six-Day War. For those who don’t know, the war was fought between Israel and the Arab nations of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in June of 1967. Being the curious little nelly I am, I asked him what he was reading. He proceeded to give me an elaborate and passionate recount of the entire Six-Day War. He basically recited that book from front to back. When he mentioned the Israeli tanks roaring through the desert and crushing the opposition, he lit up like a Christmas tree. Being that he was a tank commander in the army, that part really hit home I bet. 

From this story, I heard the motto of Israel for the first time: “Never Again”. This means that the Jewish Israelis would never let themselves be decimated like they were in the holocaust and other wars prior. 

Now this recount of the Six-Day War was probably 15 years ago, at minimum. But it stuck with me to this day. My dad’s passion for history bled through with every story he told. 

A blessing I received from him, thankfully.  

If you couldn’t tell, scouring through history books was his favorite pastime activity. In fact, I can remember seeing him reading for hours on end, and then taking a nice little catnap on the couch. Oh, and he always had his yellow cup of coffee next to him. This was literally every day. 

Now, I know it sounds like I was shitting on my dad in the beginning, but that’s the furthest from the truth. I loved him deeply, and I miss him every day, and probably will until the day I die. I miss his stories, I miss his humor, and, quite simply,  I just miss him. 

It’s saddening to know that he’ll never see Kacey and me get married, or my future kids grow up. I’ll never be able to have him over for a bbq, have a beer or two, and bullshit until we lose track of time. The worst of all, I’ll never get to actually know him.

That’s what I’ll forever miss most of all. 

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One response to “A Few Words About My Dad”

  1. Mariah Bigelow Avatar
    Mariah Bigelow

    This was a beautiful article. Thank you for sharing your story. What a great way to memorialize your dad!

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