This morning, my dad died.
Paul Swain was kind and gentle, generous not just with material stuff but with his time. He was loving and knew crazy amounts of everything about everything, but was quiet and you’d never know he knew everything unless you engaged him. He loved gardening and woodworking.
The product of really bad childhood abuse, he made the conscious choice to be the antithesis of his upbringing.
He worked a factory job to support his family. When I was in little league, he sponsored a team so we could have uniforms; when I was in scouting, he volunteered as a wigwam leader and handcrafted “commando belts” for all of us, belts that we could put together to make a longer rope, and he took us snipe-hunting on camping trips. There was never a day that he didn’t have time to throw the ball around in the back yard, even after a full day’s work. He would pull to the side of the road on the way home from work to pick wild flowers for my mom and my grandmother.
He loved cats. My mom and dad fed every stray in New Mexico.
My parents were together for 55 years.
My imprisonment troubled him deeply, and he worried about me, felt powerless to change it. His last words to me, days ago, were, “I love you.”
He died in the hospital, days after triple bipass. As crushing as this is to me, I know my mom is taking it much harder. I worry about her.
He didn’t want a service. So, my mom will sit with him for a few hours and then he’ll be cremated, as he wanted. Very simple. No fanfare or nonsense. Then she’ll take his ashes home.
I want to look through pictures and remember, but I don’t think I would be able to hold it together. I’ll table that for later.
I am grateful to have had such an incredibly decent human being as my dad in my life. I have always aspired to be like my dad, to maybe have an impact on those around me that he had. I carry him with me. I know that if I were to ask him how I could honor him, he would say, “Live a good life. Be kind. Help people.”
I hope to do that.