So, my dear old dad passed away last Monday at the age of 91.
Let’s face it: that’s a ripe old age. And the best part was that he was in great shape and had a very good quality of life almost to the end of those 91 years, until cancer got the better of him. In the end, it was mercifully quick. He didn’t suffer long. Hospital, and later hospice staff made it their mission to keep him as comfortable as possible. His wife, children and most of his grandchildren surrounded him the last days of his life and in his final lucid moments, he still made jokes and laughed at ours.
You might think I’m biased when I say he was a lovely man. But he really was.
So, as a tribute to my departed dad, here’s a little story…
I always loved horses, especially as a kid. That’s something I had in common with my dad. Some of my favourite childhood memories are of him telling me about the horses he had when he was growing up in Switzerland. There was one in particular that he loved and spent a lot of time with. He taught it tricks, like bowing down on one knee.
During WWII, the military would come around to all the farms and round up good horses for the war. Dad didn’t want his beloved horse being taken away, so he put wine into the horse’s barley mash. By the time the military officials arrived at their farm to inspect horses, Dad’s horse was stumbling around, completely hammered. It kicked or bit anyone who came near. The officials thought there was something seriously wrong with that horse, so Dad got to keep him a while longer.
I never got tired of that story.
When I was a kid, I had a pony named Peppi. She was just a little thing, but then, so was I. I outgrew Peppi, though, by the time I was sixteen, and had to trade her in for a bigger horse. The new horse arrived on the same day Peppi was picked up. It was a quick and almost painless switch, and I was excited about the new horse. But before the trailer with Peppi in it pulled away, I heard her whinneying from inside that trailer and it broke my heart. I silently fled to the house where I retreated to my room for a cry. After a while, my dad came in the room and sat down next to me and put an arm around my shoulders. I don’t remember what he said, or if he even said anything. He was a man of few words. But I’ll never forget that loving gesture from one horse lover to another. He understood exactly how I felt. And it was such a comfort.
I don’t know what happens after we leave this world, but I like to think that we get to be reunited with loved ones that have departed before us. I like to think that right now Dad’s having big laughs with his siblings (he was one of nine, seven of which predeceased him) and with Pete (my oldest brother who passed away six years ago).
And maybe he’ll even get to see that favourite horse of his again too.
(This is my dad with a playful foal, back on the farm in Switzerland where he grew up. As far as I know, this isn’t the horse from my story, but it’s the only photo I have of him as a young man with a horse. Circa mid-1940s)
Tschau, Papi. Bis spaeter. ❤