One year ago today, at 12:23 pm, my dad was taken off life support after six hellish weeks of being poked, prodded, intubated, tested, and drugged. At 12:30 pm, he was pronounced deceased. It took a mere 7 minutes to go from life to death. With every breathe he struggled to take on his own, I was hoping praying it would be enough to jar his body back into living. It was not to be.
All the I’m sorry’s and let’s start over’s and I love you’s were gone forever.
After he passed, my sister and my dad’s wife left the room. I stayed with Dad for awhile and in anguish, washed his face with my tears. I couldn’t get close enough. I couldn’t say I love you enough. I couldn’t say I’m sorry enough.
My father was a complicated man. And while I consider myself to be simply complex, we lived on opposite ends of the spectrum. We sparred often. Then we’d come back together for a moment or two. But it was never long before the gloves came out again.
Through it all, through all the good and the bad, no one on this earth has influenced my life more than my dad. Even through this year without him, he remains a very strong presence in my life. Every. Single. Day.
I hear him scold me. I hear him praise me. I feel him grab my hand like he would do when we walked together. No words spoken. Just reaching for my hand was all I needed to know. I cherish those moments.
My dad taught me things that I didn’t understand at the time but are becoming clearer as my life goes on. Right or wrong, he never pushed us kids to be successful. He pushed us to be happy. If something wasn’t right, fix it. And he knew not to wait on life to happen. Dad went out and made it happen. He was strong like that.
Once upon a time, Dad wanted a horse, so he got one. We couldn’t keep Buck at our house so he was boarded. Once Buck was broke, Dad would ride him to our house. Dad and Buck eventually entered pole and barrel competitions. The announcers never got Dad’s or Buck’s name right. Okay, so our last name was easy to mispronounce, but how do you mess up Buck? “Denny Schwartz riding Buick!” The only name they ever got right was Denny.
Dad wanted to play the guitar, so he did. He focused on that until he conquered it. Then he moved to something else that intrigued him. He learned and moved on from one thing to another. Always dreaming, doing, learning, and growing. Such an inspiration in that respect.
I think one of his greatest conquests was the sea. After he and my mom divorced, Dad bought a sailboat and lived on the Atlantic for a couple of years. He had lived in Midwest USA for most of his life yet he went out and conquered the sea. Just him and a sailboat named Dire Straits. Dad even made it through the Perfect Storm. Not that he was directly in it but he was on the outskirts.
My dad was strong and determined, yet he was not without his own demons. Demons that created this complicated man and followed him through life. A pain we can only surmise knowing so little of his early life. It all died along with him so we will never completely understand him. At least not me.
Through all the anger and heartache in our troubled relationship, I wish he was still here. Maybe I could have tried harder to understand him. Maybe he could have been more compassionate toward our differences. Maybe…
What I do know is that my love for my dad runs tremendously deep. More-so than I ever imagined. His strength I will carry throughout the rest of my life. I will make life happen instead of waiting for life to come to me. That’s one of the best and most important lessons he ever taught me. I just need to let go of fear and apply it.
I truly miss my dad. ♥️
October 10, 1941 – March 29, 2021
Photos: 1) St. Pete Beach sunset; 2) Dad and me in Italy (I wear his necklace now.); 3-5) Dad and Buck; 6) the Dire Straits; 7) Dad in Italy; 8) my sister and me with Dad
My dad….a little Colonel Sanders, a little mafia, and a little Einstein. 😊