Surviving a year to the day after his beloved wife’s death, my Dad died when he was 76. All these years, and I’m sometimes still ambushed by overwhelming sadness that he’s not at the other end of the e-mail or phone. I miss him, and the empty bench in this picture represents the empty place in my life without my Dad.
Dad was my hero, but not in the tired cliché of heroism embodied by the noble courage of the troop member who sells the most Girl Scout cookies. His heroism is better described as anti-heroism. Dad was a classic flawed hero. Larger than life, heroic except for the eponymous tendon in his heel – the flaw of his barely controlled impatience and temper. Dad suffered fools, but only grudgingly, and with great effort.
In his last, lonely year, I believe that Dad finally came to terms with his chronic impatience, and found a sort of peace perhaps barely distinguishable from exhaustion. I also believe it was his faith that allowed him to finally face the conclusion of his life without struggling against what Warren Zevon called the vast indifference of heaven. I think his faith was so strong because it was tempered with intelligent reservations and honest doubt.
As Tennyson said, Jack “beat his music out” to the end, true to his faith, despite any remaining doubts. And for that he will always be my hero.
Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds
At least he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.