Daze of My Life: Take My Father, Please?
Daze of My Life
Take My Father, Please?
Which finally happened, thank God, in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006. Barry Lourie was 87-years-old. He lived 30 years longer than any of his three brothers, all of whom died before reaching the age of 55. But Beez, as he was nicknamed, was the exception to the rule, no doubt about it.
My father was one-of-a-kind, that's for sure. My wife, Dina gave him the perfect birthday card on the occasion of h 65th birthday which the family celebrated at the famous Jimmy's Harborside Restaurant (their favorite), a Boston landmark and institution for 50 years, before it was forced to close a few years back.
We were sitting at the Captains table, a big round table in the middle of the restaurant, reserved for such occasions. There were twelve in attendance, if I remember correctly. Upon receipt of every card he received, my father would open the envelope, hold the card aloft while gently spreading it apart along its fold, shaking it, hoping money would fall it, which it rarely did. But that wasn't his expectation; he loved the entertainment value of it. We all laughed at his antics, that was my father.
As difficult as it is to capture the essence of a particular person with a store-bought birthday card, my wife, Dina succeeded that day. The card read on the front, "When they made you they broke the mold." On the inside was drawn a man covered head to toe with bandages, face all black and blue, one leg in a cast, a broken arm leaning on a crutch, barely able to stand, with the follow-up caption: "And you should see what they did to the mold-maker." Perfect! Boy, did we all laugh at that!
And that was my father; humor, laughter, good spirits, positive attitude, never complained, always encouraged. He loved Henny Youngman (ergo the title of this column); he loved Buddy Hacket; he loved Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies; he loved Benny Hill. In fact, I can still hear him laughing hysterically as I was trying to go to sleep in the adjacent room; it was past my bedtime (I was young) so I never got the jokes or saw the humor, but whatever it was, he sure enjoyed it.
One of my most enduring memories of my father's love and absolute devotion to his children has to do with my having had athlete's feet, the condition, that is. Obviously having some discomfort, my father would tell me to put my feet on his lap, and while sitting at a 90 degree angle to me, he would take his right index finger and proceed to slide it back and forth between my toes, hoping to alleviate my nearly uncontrollable urge to rub it myself. I imagine there were topical creams available even then, but my father was only too happy to oblige, to help me get some relief, immediately.
As was I relieved when my brother called at 6 am on Saturday, Dec. 2 to tell me that my father had finally succumbed to his old age. Maria, my father's caregiver, had called, and the hospice nurse in attendance had confirmed it.
My brother and I had been with my father until 1 am that night, Friday. His condition had gradually deteriorated that afternoon and evening and it became quite apparent to us and the hospice nurse in-house that my father was dying.
From that early evening point on, our task was to try and eliminate his pain, smooth out his breathing and to minimize his discomfort.
We all did the best we could to comfort him; touching his chest, holding his hand, caressing his face. Finally, after hours of shallow breathing and obvious distress, and multiple medications, around midnight, he finally went to sleep, snoring like crazy like he always had. An hour later, we all went home, figuring on another long day on Saturday.
A few hours later, he was pronounced; he was going home, a request he had often made. It was, as our family is fond of saying, "Enough already." He had suffered and he had fought but it was over. My brother and I had lost the best father a pair of sons could ever hope to have.
Thanks for everything, Dad. We will love you forever. 9/23/19-12/2/2006.
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.