My father always said he was going to live to be 100

I sent this card to my father for Father’s Day a couple of years before he died. It’s one of the few times I ever wrote to him. So I’m not sure why I actually took the time to send this to him. I guess it was a sentimental streak in me. When I was a kid, my father used to regularly paint versions of this painting at these church services, as part of his gig as a Methodist minister.

My father used to always joke that he was going to live to be 100. And I guess I believed him. Because I never thought about the possibility that he might die. Until I suddenly got the word from my older brother that he only had a couple of weeks left to live. He was only 86 so he didn’t quite make it. A cancer that he had beat years before, had suddenly returned. And due to his age there was nothing the doctors could do about it. So he was on hospice care at his home, waiting to die. As bad luck would have it, my cell phone had recently broken. So I spent several days frantically running around trying to buy a new one, thinking: Just my luck, my father is gonna croak before I get a chance to talk to him on the phone. I figured if I got to talk to him, maybe there was some kind of chance I could get “closure,” or whatever that shit is. . . . Finally (!) I got ahold of him on the phone. It was the first time I had talked to him in 20 years. His voice sounded different, it was higher pitched, like he was on helium or something — I guess it was all the morphine they were pumping into him — and his voice was halting and much weaker than before. But I could tell it was good old pops. We chatted for a bit, mostly just small talk. There wasn’t much point into getting into anything heavy, because he didn’t have any energy, and I wasn’t even sure if he was all there because of all the pain meds he was on. But at one point I asked him how he was holding up, dealing with his “situation.” He just sort of shrugged it off: “Oh, it’s just part of life,” he said. In his duties as a minister he had been at the bedside of countless dying people. So I guess that helped prepare him for the inevitable. . . At one point I said: “I love you.” I’m not sure if I really meant it. But for some reason I felt I better say it, that I would feel worse if I didn’t say it. . . Near the end of the conversation I said: “I’m gonna miss you.” But I only got part of it out. “I’m gonna miss y—– ” before I choked up and started crying. That silent crying thing. I had to turn my head away from my cellphone for a couple seconds before I got my composure back and went back to talking to him. . . I’m not sure what exactly I was going to miss. Because I never had much of a relationship with him in the first place. I guess I would miss that I never had a relationship with him. And now it was final that I really would never have a relationship with him. . . We made small talk for a bit after that. I told him I’d call him back in a couple days. And said goodbye. . . He died shortly after that.

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