By Larry Peterson
My Dad died suddenly during Christmas Season of 1965. Yes, a long time ago, December 30, to be exact. Due to that, I have carried a “regret” inside me for my entire life. I still want a “do-over,” but it can never happen. Sometimes you do not get a second chance. And then you live with, “if only—.” I have been doing that “if only” thing for a long time.
Our Mom had passed on a few years earlier. She had just turned forty when leukemia killed her. Dad was crushed and began drinking, It took a few years, but his body rebelled, and he had an acute attack of pancreatitis.
I was the oldest of the five kids and, at the age of twenty, thought I was a lot smarter than I was. I had to put college on hold and had been working in construction since high school. We needed the money. I had gotten home from work about six o’clock to find out he had been taken to the hospital that morning.
My sister, Carolyn, who was home with our younger brothers during Christmas break, had been there. She and a neighbor had taken him. When I walked into our apartment, Johnny, who was the youngest at six, started crying and blurted out, “When is daddy coming home?” I told them all to take care of each other, and I would be back very soon.
My father was on the third floor in room 317. I was stunned at what I saw. He had a tube coming from his nose that went down into a large bottle on the floor. Brownish red gunk was draining from inside of him into that bottle. It was disgusting. My gag reflex kicked in. I could not walk over to the bed.
A doctor came up behind me and introduced himself. He was taking care of Dad, and he gave me a quick rundown. I was hardly listening. He knew I was nervous, so he said, “Walk in with me.”
I did, and I have no idea what I said to my Dad. The doctor began feeling Dad’s belly and looking at his eyes. My father had sky blue eyes, and they were fixed hard on his oldest child. He must have been wondering why his son was standing about five feet away from the bed. I could not speak because I was trying to be grown-up and not puke.
The doctor left, and he just kept looking at me. He was scared, and I could see it in his eyes. But I had to get out of there. I said, “Okay, Pops, I gotta go. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Walking down Arthur Ave. to the bus stop, I turned and looked up at his window. I began to cry. I realized I had never hugged him or said, “I love you’ or anything. I had just left. The doctor said he would be home in a day or two; everything would be okay. I could have gone back, but I did not. I could have stayed and sat with him. I could have at least gave him a damn hug and said some encouraging words. I could have told him, I love you, Pops.” He died at 3 a.m, scared and alone.
There it is; therein lies my regret; never having said, “I love you.” one last time and leaving my father to die scared and alone in a strange place with strange people. Is that pathetic or what? He had just celebrated his 53rd birthday.
Once again, it is Father’s Day, and I have some advice to all of you who still have your father’s living. Forget the past; make sure you tell them you love them. If nearby, make sure you hug them. If far away, make sure you call them; no texting and no emailing. The day will come when you have no more second chances. You do not want to live with an “if only…”
There is a crisis of “fatherless” children in America. Next to the disrespect and disregard for unborn life, this could be the most dangerous threat to our society. “Fatherlessness” is an ongoing tragedy that can find its roots planted when Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. When the destruction of human life was “legalized,”, the downward spiral of respect for life followed.
For more info about our journey as ‘orphans”, Click on the book cover of The Priest and The Peaches located in the right column