My Dad is unresponsive, according to my mother.
He's been so changed, for so long it's almost like he's an entirely different person. Or as if he'd left this world, and come back unable to communicate what happened, what was wrong. Lewy Body Disease means that he sees things that I don't. He hears and responds to a whole different reality. So you'll need to accept on faith that my father, my Dad was *nothing* like this skinny man with the rough, knotted fingers that pick at the covers, and his wandering eye. My father always spoke clearly. He was *amused* at people who went on at length. "More full of bullshit than a brass band" he'd say.
My Dad believed people were essentially good. He tried to treat almost everyone politely, in friendly fashion. He believed that experiences were important. I remember him taking me to the ocean. Carrying me down to the water, so that I could feel the water. I never saw the wave coming. It knocked me clean over, and washed over me. For one terrifying second all I could see was water and foam and light. I hadn't had time to take a breath. My stiff arms were waving in the air. Then he came and jerked me out of the water. "All you could see was teeth and arms" he said. It took me a long time to accept that for Dad, making jokes was the only way to cope.
There were things I hated, sure. Getting rousted out of bed on Saturday at almost the same time as a schoolnight so I could do *chores*. Pulling grass out of the orange tree wells by *hand*. Not that it was hard. I was so *bored*. But there were other things. The rides on his motorcycle out into the desert. The times when he'd let me keep him company in the garage, while he worked on his car, and he would talk about..oh, anything. Going for rides in his MG, and feeling the wind rip through my hair. He'd let me wear his sunglasses. The one time before a hell of a lot of surgeries and time'd gone by..when he helped me up, and braced my back against his leg. For the first and only time in my life, I was standing with my Dad.
More than anyone, my father believed that you could recreate yourself. He never went to college. He went into the military, so that I would have the medical care that I needed and that my parents couldn't afford. He went to Vietnam, and he changed a lot. I'll never know what kind of person he might have been if he hadn't gone. But I do know that my dad believed that with enough determination, you could do nearly anything. We went through dozens of moves, surgeries, accidents, emergencies..and my dad *did* recreate himself. He taught himself to fix air conditioners and heaters. He worked for the school system doing that, and he came home with stories of gently teasing new generations of school kids. He was there, for neighborhood kids if they wanted to talk. He had a specially made bike shipped out to England, and he taught me to ride on it. Just so I could know what it was like, to be on a bike like other kids. He loved learning, loved it for it's own sake, and tried to teach us to love it too.
He wasn't a saint. Nobody is all good or all bad. But this isn't the place for me to go into what he did or didn't do right. He tried to teach us how to face the world with dignity. To be unafraid of hard work. To be *alive* to the world. He was at best agnostic. But I think he saw God in human beings.
Thank you, Daddy. For all the drive in movies in our pyjamas, and the hours of lying on the car hood, out in the desert to watch the fireworks. For all the times when you made us lunch. I love you.