April 23, 2003
(For me the calculation is a little weirder than that, since I have this odd theory that I wasn't fundamentally who I am now until sometime during middle school. It's a self-serving rule of thumb, makes me feel less close to "middle aged" than I am.)
He was sick for 14 months before his death (though, tellingly, I first estimated it at 2-3 years)...Spinal Meningitis that knocked his nervous system, made him half blind and left him with extremely poor coordination and difficult speech. (It also took out his sense of smell...and having been trained as a nurse, his first professional diagnosis was "huh, when you get spinal meningitis, your farts don't smell!") He had been on a road of slow recovery, regaining the ability to walk, relearning how to read, when treatment for a tumor on his left gave him a setback from which he couldn't recover. The saddest moment I know of, my own personal "what to think about if I need quick tears for a stage role", came a few weeks before his death. Word of my grandmother Eva's death had arrived that morning (and, historically, they had not always been on super friendly terms, ever since he managed to polish the anniversary numbers off of her silver--) and I had just gotten up and walked by his bedroom (he was bedridden again) and he was there weeping and weeping. Weeping for Eva, and with a likely foreknowledge of his own passing. Trying to put myself in his place there gives me a sense of horror and foreboding that's hard to comprehend.
He was generous too. He thought it was important for a guy to have a little "scratch" money on him, and would often slip a little something into letters to some of his nephews. Another sad and horrific yet somehow beautiful thing I remember is when he had first gotten ill, had suffered these grand mal seizures, was in the hospital bed, he urged my mom to give me a little money, a five or something. Because of his slurred speech it took a while to understand what he was saying, about how what's supposed to happen is a son goes up to his father, says he needs a little money, and the father takes it out of his wallet and gives it to him. And it took me even longer to get a deeper understanding of what he meant by it.
|Favorite Photo Pose|
I guess some of my biggest regrets are not being able to interact with him after I grew out of my graceless adolescent phases. So much of what I'm proud of in life (getting my act together in school, going to a good college, pulling off neat technological tricks, things I've written and websites I've started, finding and wooing Mo, stumbling into a decent career, settling into my sense of humor, such as it is) have happened since early freshman year in high school... (this ties into that "life begins at 13" theory of mine.) And who knows, maybe if he had been around, I might've been a bit more culturally attuned, not quite the barbarian I am now.
Sigh. More than sigh.
James Edward Israel, 9/9/1949 - 10/10/1988.