My father died yesterday of respiratory failure due to sarcoidosis. I am still under the influence of that soul novocaine right now -- the feeling that everything is just the same. I can even say "my father is dead" out loud... nothing. My emotions have taken a holiday.

Why am I writing this here? For pity? Sympathy? I know only one noder in person, through some classes we took together at UIUC. The rest of you are collections of writeups to me, through which I can decipher a bit of your personalities, but even those may not be real. So why do I write here? Do I walk down the street, greeting everyone I pass with "Good morning, my father died yesterday, how are you?"

Maybe I should. My aunt says she wants to shout it out to the whole world, to every person she passes. "Hello, did you know John Lindsey? No? Well, you should have, and here's why..."

My father was not a genius. He didn't make any groundbreaking discovery, or rescue a litter of kittens from a burning building. He only finished junior college, and worked as a field support engineer in the telecommunications industry. He was a jack of all trades, something of which I have become too.

But my father read to us when we were young. He set me up with my first computer, and challenged me to learn everything about it despite the fact that we had no manuals and only a collection of buggy BASIC programs and DOS batch files to learn from. He could be damned annoying, blasting music at 8:00am on a Saturday so we would get up to do our chores, but he tried to teach us responsibility through his actions.

He was a photographer and a fisherman, a boater and a model railroading enthusiast; but he rarely had time for those things because he was our plumber, electrician, carpenter, and landscaper too, and that's just for starters. I did not learn nearly enough from him. I always thought there would be more time.

My father was fifty-one years old when he died. His sarcoidosis was probably exacerbated by the fact that he refused to go on a steroid regimen, because he hated what they did to a person's body. We always knew this might be the eventual result of his disease, but everybody expected we would have another ten or twenty years, at the least, before this. My mother has been robbed of the chance to retire and grow old with him, and that is the cruelest joke of it all.

My parents own a cabin up in the North Woods of Wisconsin. We will travel there this summer to scatter his cremains over the lake, where my mother will eventually be too. That cabin will never leave our family; for generations to come, it will be our refuge.

So why am I writing this right now, for a bunch of strangers? Not for pity, or sympathy, or angst, or any of these things. I am writing this to let everyone know who he was, and what an impact he has made upon this Earth. He may not have been famous, but there will be over two hundred friends and family at his wake, and that is the mark of a great man.

Update 3/14: It looks like I underestimated... by a lot. When we counted the signatures in the guest book, we found that over five hundred people attended that wake, and when you add people that did not sign, we estimate the total number at over seven hundred. We are told that people stood in line for over an hour, outside in the falling snow. The line stretched out the door and down the block; people had to park three blocks away. The wake was supposed to run from 2:00pm to 8:00pm; the last people did not leave until 10:30pm.

Now that is the mark of a great man.

A man pulled a knife out on the train back from Paris today. I'm still shaking and my cheeks are still flushed. We looked up from our conversation when we heard a man shouting about some other passenger for not giving him a cigarette. It escalated until it became clear that the shouting man was not well. He lost control like I've never seen anyone lose control. The striding, the flailing of limbs, the screaming. I thought, "how fascinating that he's mixing at least three languages together in his rage". There was "Je vais te couper le visage, putain" followed by "Suck my cock", and then words which were neither French nor English, but some African or West-Indian language or creole.

Then I came to, and thought, "His venomous spit is landing on my face, he's so close." I stared at my scarf, and whispered to Miriam to do the same. The man kept striding up and down the aisle. When his back was turned, I suggested we should read something, because staring fiexdely at a scarf is not subtle. All we had to look at was the brightly-coloured collection of postcards we'd bought at the National Picasso Museum. Picasso. He's the kind of artist that draws attention to a person.

Eventually he stopped moving his legs, when he was parallel to us - so close that my ears hurt with his shouts and I was speckled with his saliva. He had been pushed so far that he had begun to fumble around in his coat, looking for something. In a flash, I realised that if he found it and whipped it out, its arc would be interrupted by Miriam's face. The two young men in the carriage stood up and I took that as his, and therefore our, cue. I shouted "Go, and duck". Or maybe Miriam did, or maybe neither of us did.

We ducked and went. Pushed past him. I don't run, but I think I must have been hurtling, because the next thing I remember is seated people's faces flashing past me. For carriage after carriage, until we couldn't go any further and collapsed into seats and each other's arms. We could barely get a grip, we were trembling so much.

We finally arrived at Mantes, and saw a sight through the window that somehow calmed us. There were about eight gendarmes standing in a circle around the man. They were listening to him. They were giving looks that gave the impression they understood him, and would let him say his piece. They seemed to understand, as Miriam and I did despite our terror, that he needed help - not to be locked in a cell for a night.

I can't see the funny side of this yet, but when I do, I think it will have something to do with never refusing a cigarette to anybody.

We arrived here at Kuwaiti Naval Base around noon, and the more of this place I experience, the better I feel. It's so relaxed here, and the amenities so abundant, it makes Al-Asad seem like a po-dunk hole in the ground. Which it is. And really so is this place, it's just a form of culture shock, I guess, coming out of the field for so long, spending so much time in horrible little Marine Corps FOBs.

Life is good.

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...or, 'My Final Gift to You is Immortality'

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing."
--Benjamin Franklin

I could write a thousand things about my father that mean so much to me, that have formed the way I view him and how I perceive his value in my life. In thinking this, though, I have come to realize that those thousand things would not give anyone even the vaguest idea of who he was.

Was. The past has such finality, and I never ohgodohgodohgod, never thought to use it concerning my father, not when I am 22 and he isn't even 50 and there is still so much more for us to share. Not on a Wednesday night in March on his way to bowling. Not three months before my wedding and ohgodohgodohgod I was supposed to have 10 more years, 5 more months... one more day.

I feel compelled to write about him, tell his story, try, damnit, try to give more than the vaguest idea of who he was.

While my father wasn't a writer, he certainly did things worth writing about. And I am torn as to what I should write about, or even if I should be writing anything at all. Is there a node about how e2 is not a therapy website? I don't know, and I feel too apathetic to either care or be dismissive.

Lord knows I've written a few biographies during my time here, but how can I use that as a guideline? 'On November 15, 1956, Michael Dennis Wilhoite was born in South Bend, Indiana to Beatrice and Robert Wilhoite. Early in his life...' blah blah blah. Who cares. It occurs to me that I would rather be remembered for something important, like being a wonderful parent or a passionate, involved citizen, than for winning an Oscar award.

My father lived an example to others. He came from a dysfunctional background with his sense of self intact. He endured what no child should ever have to endure: The shattering of trust in people who are supposed to love and protect you. And when he graduated at 18, barely missing the draft, he joined the United States Army. Within 9 months, he became epileptic and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Well, you see, brain surgery in the 70s in the military... mis-mapped his brain, nicked an artery, clamped it off too long and he had a stroke. And on top of that, his tumor was in the part of his brain which controlled movement on the left side. At the age of 19, my father became hemiplegic.

He was expected to die. He didn't.
He was expected to need a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He didn't.
He was expected to live a half life. Guess what?

"Do not squander time - for that is the stuff life is made of."
--Benjamin Franklin

My father married my mother when he was 24. My older sister was born 14 months later. I was born less than a year after that. And since my father couldn't work, and instead received a pension, my mother worked part-time and he watched us kids. I had a stay-at-home dad before it was popular. Did I mention he was also a trendsetter?

I wonder, idly, if the things he did that I will remember for the rest of my life help this description at all. He couldn't drive a car when I was young, so instead he had a tricycle of grand proportions with a basket on the back to cart us around in. We would go to the park. We would feed the ducks. We would eat donuts and wrestle and laugh and hug.

And then he and my mother bought us a house with an upstairs and a yard. And when I was six, my little sister was born. When I was eight, my little brother. And so finished our little clan. and ohgodohgodohgod they are only 13 and 15 and what are we all going to do?

My father volunteered at museums. He participated in after-school kids programs. He helped tutor older people wanting to get their GEDs. He fought for respect for veterans and their rights. He supported people trying to make their lives better.

He loved the world.

He was tall, so tall. And he was funny. He collected handicapped jokes like they were treasures, because 'if you can't make fun of yourself, you might as well just lay down and die'. He was handsome. He was crazy about strategy games. His favorite subject was history. He thought that America's ideals were something worth fighting for. He sang to all the country songs on the radio and always came in too early.

He loved life.

He came to all of my basketball games just to watch me sit on the bench. He came to my choir concerts, my band nights, my plays. He chaperoned all my school field trips. He told me I was beautiful. He was there for me when I was hurt. He hugged me when I needed support. He gave me confidence. He went without so that I could have more.

He loved me. and ohgodohgodohgod why didn't I show him the same more often?

His life was a lesson in giving, in persevering, in hope. A demonstration of living love.

"That which resembles most living one's life over again, seems to be to recall all the circumstances of it; and, to render this remembrance more durable, to record them in writing."
--Benjamin Franklin

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