We’re preparing for the inevitable fact that my father-in law is slowly passing on. For the past few days he’s not been eating and his pain has become so unbearable that his radiation treatments have been suspended. Since his cancer has been so widespread for some time now, the only reason for radiation therapy in the first place was to alleviate the pain. Clearly the pain hasn’t subsided enough. As a result, I wasn’t totally prepared for what I was about to see today.
In the almost ten years I’ve known Dad, I’ve come to realize he’s as big a sports fan as there is. His favorite sport above all others is golf. In fact, he himself was a very good golfer back in the day (He still has a trophy recognizing his hole-in-one back in a 1960s tournament). And he also has a deep appreciation for the great pro golfers. From Ben Hogan to Arnold Palmer to Jack Nicklaus, Dad has seen them all play. And while he marveled at the play of all three in their respective primes, nothing compares to the awe of watching current phenom Tiger Woods. No matter how obscure the PGA tourney, Dad would watch every hole from Thursday thru Sunday if Tiger was a participant.
When we went to visit Dad in the hospital this afternoon, I was shocked at how gaunt he looked. His face was blank and sunken in as he struggled for each breath. I certainly didn’t want to express my shock in front of my wife and mother-in law since they were having a tough enough time enduring this whole ordeal. So I thought I would inject a little levity by talking about golf. “Hey Howard”, I said enthusiastically. “Tiger won again today!!” And would you believe it? His face went from an ashen state to his eyebrows being raised and his eyes lighting up. With all the energy he could muster, he said with a faint whisper “He did??!!” My mother-in law practically fell over, as that was the first words Dad had uttered in several hours. Heck, it was even the first response of any kind all day.
There will be a lot of things I will miss about Dad once his time on Earth is done. But the one aspect of his personality which has always stood out is that, despite his many prestigious accomplishments in his 77-plus years, he always had sheer enjoyment of the simpler things in life (i.e. sports, playing cards, etc.). That has to be the number one thing I’ll miss the most.