Tuesday, July 6, 2010
A Life Well Lived
Shaped by his forty-four years of service in the Marine Corp, he was man of structure and routine. He was early (by hours!) for every appointment he ever had. We used to joke about his need to make a 'dry run' before any new appointment so that he could measure the mileage, traffic conditions and length of time it would take to get there. Even his leisure time activities, stamp collecting and crossword puzzles were evidence of his love of structure. Prior to his death, he organized and labeled every document and phone number he thought we would need to take care of all the necessary details.
He was self sufficient and independent to a fault. He hated to ask for help of any kind. When advised of the need for surgery for his prostrate cancer, he called to let me know the details. I told him I would drive him to the hospital and take him home. He was adamant that he would be able to drive himself and only after his doctor advised him otherwise did he allow me to make arrangements. He was most proud of his ability to undergo chemotherapy without any side effects of nausea or weakness. When the cancer spread to his bones causing multiple falls at home, he refused to tell his doctor or agree to go to the hospital for evaluation.
He was generous. Although he hated to accept help, he loved to give it. He was handy around the house and made all kinds of repairs at my home. He was always busy completing chores or a special project. He wanted to pay me every time I gave him a ride somewhere and he never forgot a birthday or special occasion.
He was an humble man of service to his country. In his forty-four years in the Marines, he fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was a recipient of the purple heart. Yet he never had a big ego or really even talked about his military career. He will be honored on July twenty-third with a military funeral which will include a bugler, an honor guard and a twenty-one gun salute. I can almost hear him asking me what all the fuss is about.
He loved life and lived it with gusto, making the best of even the worst situations. Every meal I ever fixed him was "outstanding!" and he ate it all with relish. His favorite breakfast? Black coffee and burnt toast! I guess that doesn't say much for my cooking...
He was social with a great sense of humor. He generally charmed any new acquaintances and my kids still remember some of his favorite expressions. "What do you think I am, chopped liver?" he'd ask and my children would crack up even though they had no idea what he was talking about. He would sing bits of old timey songs to them. My daughter's favorite? "I was walking along, minding my business under an orange colored sky. When flash, bam, alakazam, wonderful you walked by..." They'd ask him to sing it over and over. One of our favorite quips from him was during my daughter's wedding last fall when he surveyed the festivities and confided to my other daughter, "I didn't know white people could have so much fun."