No one could never fill his boots, you know. He was the roughest of the rough and the toughest of the tough. That man could just smile and wink, and the fight was on. Literally. He could pound a man to within an inch of his life, pick up a beer, take a swallow, and pour the rest of it over the head of his opponent. Then he would help the guy stand up and buy him a beer.
Funny thing about it was, everyone liked him. Oh, they respected the heck of him, but he was a fun fellow to be around. He was known for his temper, but usually when he got into his brawls, he was doing it for a reason. You didn’t disrespect a lady in front of him. Ever. You still don’t. You also don’t mess with kids or old folks.
He got knifed once, I hear. Lost quite a bit of the use of his right lung. As he lay on the ground, he told the guy he was fighting that he still thought he could win, if the guy would just lay on the ground beside him.
He’s old now. Has heart problems, liver problems, high blood pressure. They just recently put him on hospice care. Took away all the drugs that were keeping him going. They are waiting for his body to give up and waiting for what will happen then. I learned today that he is on morphine now. I don’t want to know that. I don’t want to know that this tough, fun loving, soft hearted, mean as the dickens man is at that point. But his choice is to let go. He can’t eat what he loves, he can’t drink anymore, all the things that defined his younger self are taken from him now.
I have said in the past that I love the old man. It’s true. After all, he’s the father to my husband, and was one of my dad’s best friends. He was right there at my mother’s side for many years, she was one of the people he protected from an abusive spouse (my step-dad), and he was there at her funeral to say goodbye.
He outlived his first wife. She was just as tough, and just as tender, as he is. He told his son that he had ruined a good woman with his wild ways. He raised some pretty tough boys into manhood, and they will be there, hats in hand, to send their father on his way. He taught them to respect the same things he did, and they are all fine men.
And I will be there. It will be a sad passing. A very, very sad passing. An era is gone. A legend is leaving this area, and it will never seem the same. Tales will be told over and over by those that know him, some softened a bit, some exaggerated a lot, but there will be truth to ninety percent of what will be said.
And many tears will be shed.
The passing of my friend and father in law on Sept 7, 2008 has me going back and revisiting this work once again.