I hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving. I am sad to say that I did not. My day started out with my mother calling and telling me my father had died early thanksgiving morning. I was so utterly shocked that the only thing I could think to say was “I’m sorry to hear that.” My mother probably hung up the phone thinking I could have cared less.
But that is far from the truth. My father and I may not have seen eye to eye on many things, but if I can be said to value reason and logic over blind faith, it is because of him.
My father was an engineer for the Department of Transportation in Ft Myers, Florida. He was responsible for overseeing many of the large bridge construction projects for the FDOT, including such projects as the rebuilding of the Sanibel Causeway, the Edison Bridge, and the Punta Gorda Bridge. He was mostly a very practical man. He wasn’t into theories or esoteric ideas, he was only ever concerned with making things work. I helped him build several houses over the years, and there was very little that my father could not figure out a way to do. He drilled his own wells, cleared his own land, and laid his own foundations. He was a precise man, a firm believer in measure twice, cut once, and exceeding the minimum safety requirements. He taught me to look at world in terms of problems to be solved, and to find a solution with what you had on hand instead of wishing for something you might never get. He was everything I am not physically, gifted with tools, the high school star athlete, he even rode bulls as a young man. He taught me to shoot, hunt, and dress an animal, to never shoot what you don’t plan to eat, and to appreciate nature.
And I am sad to say he was also very distant, because I was never what he wanted me to be — a carbon copy of him. I hated sports, hated hunting, hated camping. I learned how to do it all, but I could not share his passions. My father was a man of the past, a frontiersman to the core, and would have been perfectly comfortable as a pioneer. I am not. As an artist, a writer, and a technophile, we were almost diametrical opposites, and I am quite sure he still thought of me as a failure. And to a large extent that is probably my fault. I couldn’t be the son he wanted, and I knew he would never accept me as a daughter, no matter how much scientific proof I could have shown him for the genetic mixup between my body and brain that makes me transgender. I could never tell him why I could never be the boy he tried to make me.
But I still loved him, because he was my father, and I am angry that in a day and age in which the technology exists that could have saved him, he instead became just another statistic to mark off of some insurance company’s records. You see, unlike Steve Jobs, my dad couldn’t afford to pay his way to the top of a donors list. He died because he needed a lung, and he didn’t get one in time. I am angry because my father didn’t have to die. I am angry because so few years remain before he wouldn’t have needed to wait for a transplant, nor endure a continuous treatment to ensure the new lung wasn’t rejected. I am angry because he didn’t get the time he needed to become the strong energetic man I knew as a child again. I am angry because I will never have the chance to tell him why I couldn’t be his son, or ever have the chance to be accepted as his daughter. I am angry because there just wasn’t enough time. I am angry because he would never listen to me about cryonics, and all that is left is ashes.
And I am sadder than words can say that I will never again be able to watch him take a random collection of odds and ends and build something functional from them. Because, like me, my father was an artist. Where I use pen and ink, he used steel and stone and wood. He was a maker, a creator, and above all else, an engineer. He taught me to look beyond what was to what could be, to see the David within the slab of rock. I can only dream of what he would have done with the tools I have so often described, and the marvels he will now never create.
And I will never forget everything he gave me, no matter how many years or centuries I may live.
Good Bye, Dad. I love you. And I’m sorry.