"Be still and know that I am God."
Sometimes his demand was even more desperate.
"Just give me a moment's peace!" he'd plead.
At those times, the threatening tone of his voice and likelihood of imminent violence usually did shut us up--at least for a few moments.
Kids will be kids. Sigh.
I ache now with the memory of his anguish and my own fear. I wish I knew then what I know now. I'd given him that moment's peace gladly -- out of compassion, not fear.
Dad loved to fish.
I remember the day I looked out the front window of our apartment and saw him silhouetted against the sun sparkles of the small lake we lived on. He sat there in his beloved rowboat a couple of hundred feet offshore, fishing pole in hand. Dad could sit like that, motionless, surrounded by the stillness of that lake, just peering at the red and white bobber for quite awhile. He seemed at peace. He'd return to shore afterwards, seemingly in a good mood, calmer, quieter, more content.
I noticed. Forty three years after his death, it is one of my strongest visual memories of him.
Yet, those moments were, unfortunately not all that common. My dad worked hard at the factory all day, and then, a single parent, he would prepare dinner before we kids would take over to do the dishes. Beyond that, he kept himself busy with other activites as well. (He was an avid ham radio operator and a boy scout council commissioner.)
Unfortunately, he suffered from atherosclerosis and cardiac disease. He had hit the trifecta. Longevity wasn't his genetic strong suit. His mother, Vera, had died at age 42. His father, Harold, had died of heart disease at age 57. Dad was also a longtime smoker. And, as we saw above, stress management wasn't his forte. He lived "with gusto" -- and was uptight and angry frequently. (Although years of Practice have allowed me to chill out more readily these days, I, myself smoked for nearly forty years -- and had two stents installed in my heart eight years ago. (Oak trees and acorns come to mind...)
After a heart attack, strokes, and uncontrollable high blood pressure, our family doctor had advised dad to retire and "just go fishing." At age 59, he did just that. He bought himself a camper and a trailer, and for much of final year and a half of his life, he traveled and fished from coast to coast.