Dad Can't Even Hold His Own Cigarette
The six foot, two inch, 195 pound frame that I remember growing up, was now 130 pounds of gray hair, skin and bones. He didn’t have long now. The last words we heard the day before Dad died were these: “Dad is so weak; he can’t even hold his own cigarette.”
Just a few weeks ago, in the year 2011, an old lady who knew my dad commented on how handsome my dad was. Where was that handsome man of my childhood now? Dad died all alone. No wife nor children nor grandchildren near his bed to say their last goodbyes. He was fifty.
Where were the winos and drunks that professed so much love and adoration for Curt Kroshus? Oh, we heard over and over from them what an outstanding husband and father our dad was for fathering five children. We spent hours upon hours waiting and sleeping in the car, at all hours of the night and day, for Dad to take us home. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. Dad invested most of his life with his friends at the bar.
Where were they now in his great hour of need? One of two places, dead, or at the bar. I’m sure many of them cried their eyes out when they realized their drinking buddy would never be there with them again. It must have been a somber few moments in Joe’s Tavern in Hawthorne, Nevada. Curt Kroshus, their confidante and friend, had tilted his last Bud with the boys. Oh how they missed him. I can still hear them admire their old friend, who could drink any two of them under the table, on any night of the week.
As Dewey, Ceril, Skillyboo, Tex, Al and KO sat around the bar reminiscing about all the good times they had with Curt, one by one, they all shed a tear or two for the best friend a drunk could ever have. Dewey began the toast by saying, “To Curt: a true friend; it didn’t matter what Curt had to do at home or what event his children were involved in at school, we always came first.”
“Here, here,” said another. “I’ll drink to that.” Then all the beer bottles were raised in honorable remembrance. Skillyboo came next in order. “To Curt: there never was enough money to feed all those kids he had, but he always had money for Bud! Here here!” they shouted, as bottles were raised once again. Ceril spoke next, “To Curt: a true friend. Curt and I had an argument over an incident involving him and my wife, so I let all the air out of his tires. I shouldn’t have done it, but I was angry. Well, Curt forgave me, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Here, here,” as bottles were raised again.
Tex was next; he said, “Holidays were always special with Curt. Year after year, we would just be getting into the holiday spirit on Christmas Eve, when Shirley and her bratty kids would try to get Curt away from us.” He would say, “Hey, guys; I will be right back.” “Curt would leave for fifteen minutes, go home and ruin Christmas for his nagging wife and selfish children, and then be right back with us. What devotion, what kindness, what loyalty. He never left us for long, and if he did, his heart never did.”
This statement really hit home with each of them. After this, they could barely speak; they were too emotional. One began to cry openly, then another and then another, until they were all sobbing together and hugging each other, saying how they would miss Curt and how they loved each other.
I walked into my sister Judy’s house, and Billy, my nephew, said, “Grandpa died.” I asked, “What’s for lunch?”
Author’s note: I wondered if something was wrong with me. I thought about it for many years. Why was there zero emotion at the news of the death of my dad? Someone said that relationships are like bank accounts: we make deposits into them over our lifetime. If we make sufficient deposits early, there will be funds to draw on later. Because real life requires extra deposits, we cannot expect to continue to withdraw from an empty account. There are always fees and unseen charges. You’ve heard about living off the interest. Some people are lucky when able to do that, few experience that blessing.
My father had made so few deposits in our favor, that when it came to his death, Dad had bounced a rubber check in our emotional bank account. On the other hand, his friends mourned him the way his family could have, if he would have sacrificed for us, the way he did for them.
Emotional deposits of love need to be made on a regular basis into the bank accounts of loved ones, throughout their lives. One often wonders why marriages go into emotional bankruptcy. The Good Book calls it “the law of the harvest”.
In short, if you are a lazy farmer, get another job. If you don’t do the work, you and your family will starve.
Your relationships are like tender plants that grow and thrive with love, kindness, tenderness and the sacrifice of your time. They shrivel and die with neglect.
I stopped berating myself about feeling guilty over not feeling any emotions regarding the death of my dad. My sisters accused me of being bitter. I felt no bitterness for my dad. I had to finally allow my dad to be the one responsible for the lost relationship with me.