Five years ago today, my dad died, at home, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. He was 92 and had lived a long and full life. And it had been his decision to stop dialysis after 7 years and mounting health crises.
He knew it would only be a matter of days after his final dialysis session, so he waited until the family could gather, so he could say goodbye. He died, as he lived, on his own terms.
My father wasn't always a patient man (he was a NY business man, after all!), but in his last years, found a kind of acceptance and gratitude and quiet wisdom that enriched everyone around him. And while he grieved for my mother after her death in 2012, he also made deep friendships with his neighbors in the senior living facility where they had moved to in 2010.
5 years on, and there isn't a day where I don't miss him.
He married my mother, after a long courtship in the 1950s. They were both considered old - they were in their 30s. They had their first child - my sister - a year later. Then my mother had a series of miscarriages and wasn't able to have another child. After years of being told they were too old to be adoptive parents, they were finally able to adopt me as a 5 day old infant in 1963.
My dad - in his early 40's - flew by himself from NY to San Francisco to bring me home, while my mother stayed home with my older sister.
This was the "Mad Men" era. Fathers, as a rule, didn't do much childcare, certainly not fly cross country on their own with a tiny infant!
My sense is that he was not daunted by it, not even for a minute. He was utterly devoted to my mother, my sister, and me. And when his 3 grandchildren came along, he adored them and his role as grandfather.
He died before I found my birth family a few years ago, and I think he would have been thrilled for me to have made those new connections. He was a man who understood love to be expansive.
His pragmatic wisdom continues to be my guide and over the past 5 years since his death, I often dream of him and am always comforted by it.
He was many things in his life - short order cook, stickball player, sonar operator in WWII, a business owner, a gardener, grill-master of summer barbecues, a crossword puzzle aficionado, a baseball fan, a teller of tall tales - and my beloved dad.