Eleven Years ago today, my dad died (seated on the right with me on his lap). I refuse to say, “I lost my dad.” I know exactly where he is. His death was unexpected and shocked my entire family.

An eleven year anniversary isn’t unusually memorable or remarkable, but I noticed that the calendar matches exactly for 2002. March 20 was a Wednesday then, as it is now. Dad’s funeral was on March 25 which, like this year, was a Monday. Most notably, the Sunday after dad’s burial was Easter, like this year.

It was shortly after dad died that I first entered the Erma Bombeck Writing Contest (she was born on my dad’s first birthday). That first time I entered the human interest division rather than the humor division. Naively, I submitted what I felt would be the obvious winning entry. Evidently the judges didn’t agree.

I’ve continued to enter the Erma Bombeck Writing Contest and even won an honorable mention one year. I wrote a column in the Springfield News Sun for almost five years, but the first submission will always be special to me because it is a tribute to my dad.

I share the piece again for some, for others this will be a first:

Communion and Confirmation

     My family congregated around my father.  We had just been presented with the most formidable decision of our lives.  How would we ever reach consensus?  My mantra developed from previous gatherings where our diversification was evident: “I’ll bet none of us would eat a bologna sandwich the same way.”

There were no special orders in my mother’s kitchen.  Bologna, costing only 59 cents per pound, was efficiently folded into bread-and-butter menus.  Mom prepared sandwiches as if on assembly line.  White bread spread with oleo was the foundation for the meat and condiments.

None of us would use margarine or butter now.  White bread isn’t in my culinary repertoire.  Cathy drowned things in catsup.  Mustard was anathema to Jack.  Bob welcomes variations of breads and condiments.  Sue hasn’t even said the word “bologna” since leaving home.  The parental role seemed to be lost in this rumination.

It never seemed odd that each chose different professions.  After 30 years in the business world, my calling became teaching students with Learning Disabilities in a suburban school. Cath taught for over 25 years at the parochial school we had attended.  Bob transitioned from Bank Manager to Loan Originator after a “down-sizing”.  Sue was a Systems Analyst.  After graduating with a degree in Engineering Technology, Jack opened an auto salvage yard.

My bologna logic demanded that our dietary requests remain constant though other parts of our lives had not.  The nuances of our personalities affected even our religion.  Two retained the Catholicism of our upbringing.  My spiritual road detoured through Methodism and made a stop in the Lutheran Church.  The youngest two appeared to have no church affiliation, though one’s marriage vows were exchanged before a Baptist minister.

Now the five of us, with our mother, encompassed the rudder of our family.  My laconic father, whom I often compared to the mighty oak because of his stature, had been felled by a cerebral “accident”.  His 6 foot 4 inch frame was stretched diagonally across the hospital bed so his feet wouldn’t hang over the edge.  He was still bleeding into his brain while he was hooked to a myriad of machines.  The doctors informed us my dad had no brain activity.  We were gathered to decide my father’s fate.

What I might have previously considered an inconceivable solution came to me very quickly.  This would not be my father’s concept of living.  Surprisingly, the rest of the family had the same insight.  We were unified in our decision.  As he had once given us wings, we had to let dad go.

The differences were inconsequential.  Our hearts were the same.  That core would nourish us longer than any bologna sandwich.

Godspeed, Dad!