Today would have been my father's 100th birthday. That's hard to believe. He passed away at 73, still in possession of a full head of dark hair. (Everyone used to tease him about painting it with shoe polish...) It's hard to picture him as super elderly or most importantly, as belonging to the past.
He'd had a couple of bad heart attacks and we knew he was on borrowed time. He lived out the end of his life in his own way. He died while he was out fishing, on a beautiful day in May, in his favorite place in the world--Allegany State Park in western New York State.
There are worse ways to go.
The saddest thing about losing him--sadder than the idea of no more of his beautifully written letters, sadder than the loss of the warmth of the great pride he had in me--is the fact that he never knew my kids in any meaningful way. My daughter was 2 1/2 when he died--her only image of him is standing laughing behind a big window while he threw snow at her from out on the porch. And he died just about exactly 7 months before my son, who carries his name, was born. He would have been so pleased with their lives and with the kind of people they've become.
He grew up in a family of sportsmen--they hunted avidly, fished enthusiastically, kept an ongoing herd of pointers, oiled and polished their firearms collections.
Yet he was a gentleman's gentleman, a keen observer of nature, both human and otherwise, a spiritual man, full of love and pride in his family. He took great joy in tallying visitors to his bird feeders. And no one loved a picnic the way he did.
Picnics have never been quite the same for me since he died.