Funny thing was, just before my sister called me at 5:45 AM with the news, my little daughter had woken up from a bad dream. I put her back to sleep and lay down again: I was dreaming myself: my dad and my brothers all dressed up at dinner in what seemed like a fancy hotel restaurant. My dad turned to me and said, "John, where are the girls? Bring the girls down, too." I started to tell him that my two daughters were still asleep upstairs when I looked down and noticed that both were climbing into my lap.
Then I woke to the phone ringing and my sister who told me he had just passed away.
Twenty years ago, for his 60th birthday, I wrote this for him:
Those early years were marked at onceHe was a great teacher and mentor. And although 80 years is a long life, I wish it could have been longer.
By knowledge great and journeys mild.
A knowledge that - at father's call -
Gave birth to suns and tides and shooting stars,
And all the worth of heaven's store
To my wide and fearful eyes.
And journeys mild -
For in my fright he took the care
To ease the flow of Nature's gifts,
Which else would sure have overwhelmed
My shocked and awe-struck mind.
Thus on morning walks through sandy dunes
In fits and starts - but more than that
My bare and buckling legs could never take -
The world he introduced to me.
And year by year my place grew strong
Until at last the world could speak
To me alone. And though alone
I often walk the shores these days,
When in the deepest thoughts of life
And all its chores - I must recall
My father, as he was when I was young,
Knee-deep in salty waves as he stood before the sun,
And began, when least I knew, the learning of my life.