Location: Bend, Oregon
I knew this day was coming. When your parents get to a certain age, there is a growing sense of dread that accompanies every phone call, thinking this is the one when you get the news you’ve been fearing. The other day I couldn’t reach them on their home phone or their mobiles, so I feared the worst. It turned out my dad was on the phone with their internet provider, trying to sort through his email issues and he chuckled at my paranoia. On Friday night, we called my folks and shared a laugh about Trump’s gaffe about the protection of the airports during the Revolutionary War. David read some of the satirical letters that had already popped up on the internet (“My Dearest Rose, … my flight has already been delayed a fortnight and the airplane will not be invented for 6 score and 7 years from now.”) and my dad laughed heartily. On Saturday morning, Hannah called her grandparents and had a nice chat with Papa, as the kids call him, about her gig as a ghost tour guide. That afternoon, he died.
The death was a shock, as sudden, unexpected deaths are. He and my mom had lunch and played their customary rounds of Boggle, and then he took a nap. My mom went to sit outside and read but then came back in to check on him and they were cuddling and chatting when he suddenly stopped talking and took his last breath. I am comforted knowing that his wife of fifty seven years was beside him, that he was able to die at home, that his death was quick and painless, and that he retained as much dignity as one could hope for a man who has lived nine decades. I am hopeful these facts will also comfort my mother as she grieves the loss of the man with whom she traveled the world and had more adventures than most people can imagine. But I know that feeling relieved about the way he died does not undo the fact that he is no longer with us, and knowing this day was inevitable does not diminish the grief I feel now that it is here.
Because I miss him already. I will have to ferret out my own news stories to read and articles of interest now that he will no longer be sending them to me. I will have to think and regroup every time something happens politically that I want to discuss with him or vent to him about and have him blow me away with his recall of historical events and political figures that I couldn’t keep straight even if they were all written down in front of me. My dad’s intellect is something I will always treasure and feel so grateful that it remained intact right up until the very end. I used to worry that his memory or his ability to write pithy and witty commentaries or his way of recounting a story would be compromised as he got older, but it wasn’t. His body had started to show the signs of aging, and he was tremendously frustrated with the fact that it was no longer cooperating with him. He gave up driving and started using a walker, both tremendous concessions for a man who prized his independence. But his mind was sharp and did not show any signs of aging, and my talks with him are something I will greatly miss.
I also credit my dad with my love of writing and my ability to express myself through the written word. My dad was a prolific writer, authoring two books and many articles and letters to the editor that were published in the Bend Bulletin, often presenting the liberal voice to counteract the clamoring for gun rights or isolationist foreign policy. His many years as a Foreign Service officer and consultant (something I am also grateful for because it gave me a childhood filled with travel and cultural enrichment) led to his doing several lectures on world events at the local community college, resulting in one hysterical blunder when the local newspaper forgot to include Afghanistan in the tile of his lecture and simply said that Arthur Lezin would be talking about his troubled past and uncertain future.
Eliza lamented to me that she is sad that Papa will not be able to see her graduate from college or be at her wedding. What I told her is how I am also consoling myself. There are many more days I wanted with him, but I am so grateful for what we got. He was able to see his three children happily married and thriving. He was able to get quality time with his four grandchildren (he is pictured above with his youngest, my nephew, Theo, in a photo I love because it is my dad in his element, sharing what he knows) and he took such pleasure in spending time with them and hearing about their pursuits and accomplishments. He delighted in Noah’s political career and loved hearing the voicemail message Governor Evers left for Noah congratulating him on his most recent victory. He was in awe of Hannah’s and Eliza’s musical talents and stage presence and the fact that they were fearless about performing. And I know he was proud of me too, whether it was my ability to host a dinner party or talk about my cancer journey or, most recently, write this blog. He was genuinely delighted with the post I wrote in honor of my parents’ anniversary in May, and I am so glad I was able to do that and publicly declare how much I admire and love him.
And I am grateful that I wrote him a heartfelt card on Father’s Day. He uncharacteristically talked to me about it, telling me he hoped he was half the man I seem to think he is. He knew he was loved, and that is what matters. He knew he mattered, and that is what I love.
So you all know this, but I will say it now in my dad’s honor. Hold your loved ones close and let them know they are loved. It is not just important for the living, but it turns out to be quite comforting for those left behind. I love you Dad.