My father was an intelligent, humble, loving and giving man who tried his hardest to be the best father that he could. As I said at his funeral, “he wasn’t a great father but he was a good father”. While we had our differences (and arguments) when I was younger, when I look back, our confrontations are almost laughable as my father was stubborn and frustrated in not being able to impose his wisdom on me and I was arrogant in thinking I knew what was best for me. We both should have been more open-minded.
Over the years, our respect and quality time together grew and by the time he had his stroke in 2003, our love and care for each other was solid. That was a good thing because after his stroke, he was never the same man again. My father battled for 18 months before he died. He was a very tough man; in fact he was in bad shape for years before the stroke and still managed to live to 73.
During the Christmas holidays in 2005, I was enjoying a relaxing evening in southern Sweden with my in-laws. We had a great dinner and were carefree and content. I hadn’t checked my emails in a few days so I got online. I immediately saw Don Jr.’s email about his father (Don Sr.) getting a sudden illness. My heart sunk as I knew this was serious. His email was frank, to the point and left no doubt that his dad was fighting for his life. The joy of the day evaporated and all I could think about were both Don’s.
When I received the news that Don Sr. had died after getting sick only 8 days before, I was very sad. To add to this tragedy, Don Sr.’s youngest son Rick was to be married a few days later on New Year’s Eve; now suddenly without his dad. The wedding proceeded as planned and I cannot imagine the bittersweet emotions of that day. Being in Sweden, I couldn’t be there for the funeral the way Don Jr. was for me although I really wanted to. We did have a good conversation on the phone and I sent him some loving words.
Don Sr. was a genuine, fun loving, kind and decent family man. He always had a smile on his face and after being in his presence, one immediately felt better. He adored his wife and family and that was evident when talking with him or watching their interactions. Don Sr. and his wife Janet welcomed me with open arms from the moment I met them as a young teenager and the last time I saw Don Sr. was no exception; he was smiling and asking about my life and talking about his grandchildren. Don Jr. and I had some memorable times at his parent’s house growing up; moments I still think about and will cherish forever.
As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens up”.
The door that closed on us was the death of our fathers in 2005.
The door that opened up was the birth of our sons in 2007.
It was my first child and Don Jr.’s third after having 2 girls. The families came together the following Thanksgiving and enjoyed a terrific brunch!
The two people on my mind every December are my dad (his name is Don as well) and Don Sr. This past week is significant because my dad’s birthday is the 27th and Don Sr. died on the 26th. I am grateful to have a father who along with my mother, provided for me and gave me opportunities to soar in life. I am thankful to have met Don Sr., his wife and their family. Both Don’s had a love and respect for each other unlike any father/son relationship I have witnessed. I always admired their tight bond.
Although Don Jr. and I see each other infrequently since we are countries apart, we do communicate via email which we enjoy. He is one of the most interesting, wise, fun and witty men I know. There is never a dull moment when we communicate or are together. In addition, he “chose wisely” in marriage and has a lovely wife named Kim.
He couldn’t attend my wedding in 2003 as his wife was pregnant but he did send this original note which was read at our wedding:
Give me a dollar.
I know that no guest listening understood or even laughed at what is our inside joke and something that we say to each other all the time! It made me laugh and kept a smile on my face. At the time I thought, only Don could and would be bold enough to pull off a message like that. His comforting spirit sparkled brightly on my biggest day.
We may have lost our dads but we have two beautiful young sons that have helped to ease the pain of our loss. What a blessing! Don Jr. would consistently tell me how wonderful it would be to have a child. He was right; the joy and love for one’s child is mind boggling. My enduring friendship with him inspires me and gives me strength knowing that I have such a trusting and loving friend to rely on. We needed each other in 2005 and we will need each other again.
Everyone should be fortunate enough to have a friend like Don Jr.
Happy Gswede Sunday!