This is another one of those posts I never intended to write; I hadn’t even thought about it until this morning.  But then it occurred to me what the date was & I posted a little note on Facebook.  Then I thought to myself ‘maybe I should do a little blog tribute too’.  So I let that thought marinate as I tried to develop an outline for a story in my head.  I failed to come up with an idea I liked, so I decided I won’t do anything here.

But here I am, a few hours later and I decided I should just write…so let me see where this goes…

This is about my Dad, Frederick Charles Bohmer 5 September 1935 – 13 August 2011.

Dad at 6 Months

One year ago today, on 13 August 2011, my Dad died.  Six weeks later I left for Afghanistan.  There was an awful lot going on during those 6 weeks, so I didn’t have an opportunity to adjust my ‘normal’ life with the new normal of not having him around.  That means I don’t really understand the void that his death has left in my life.  It will be one more thing to learn how to get used to once I return home.

I grew up in the typical big American, Midwestern family.  There were six of us kids with less than 8 years between the oldest & youngest, three boys and three girls.  I was the fifth, with just one brother younger than me.  When I say typical I do not mean in the wholesome Saturday Evening Post or Leave it to Beaver mold.  I mean there was plenty of weird and dysfunctional crap going on, but kept fairly well hidden like everyone else around us; giving somewhat of an appearance of a wholesome existence.

By the time I hit my teens my relationship with my Dad could probably best be described as strained.  I was a lot closer to my mom than my dad; which invited a lot of teasing from my siblings.  I was completely unlike my older brother; I wasn’t nearly as naturally talented or interested in building, fixing and other mechanical things.  It made it harder for Dad & I to relate to one another – at least that is how it seemed from my mind.  I was stubborn and independent too (as was he), which of course only increased the chasm between us.

The older I got the more I was convinced he hated me and so I withdrew from him even more.  Naturally, that only strained our relationship more.  He worked out of town, usually only home weekends.  I remember doing my best to avoid him when he was home.  I think there were some weekends we wouldn’t even see or talk to one another.

It was my older brother who finally got through to me about what an idiot I was.  I do not remember the exact time or circumstances, but I am sure it involved beer…everything involved beer, always…even though I wasn’t old enough to legally consume it; I did anyway.  That was just the way it was back then.

Anyway, as I said, I do not recall the exact circumstance, but I will never forget how mad my brother was; which scared me into listening because he never got mad or at least never showed it (like I said – my polar opposite).  I am pretty sure that is the only time in my 49 years I have seen him lose his temper.

I think I was 18 years-old and being my typical difficult, self-indulgent, obnoxious punk self.  I remember him really laying into me about what an ass I was to treat Dad the way I did and he was sick of it.  He pointed out everything Dad always did for me, even though I never recognized or appreciated it; let alone deserved any of it.

I know I didn’t just immediately become a better person overnight because of that, but I do know it made me seriously reevaluate they way I saw my Dad and how I interacted with him.  Of course we still had our moments, but I will always believe that ass chewing was a major life changing event for me.

I have thought about it a lot over the years, but I don’t think I have ever talked about it with anyone.  I am certain Tim has no idea the difference he made…so it is 30 years late, but thanks Tim, I owe you a lot…

After I got married and started having kids we became pretty close and stayed that way.  For the last several years I developed a routine of going out to Mom & Dad’s every Sunday morning for a few hours.

Mom & Dad’s wedding picture

The only thing that interrupted that routine was when I was out of town.  Sometimes I would end up helping them with something that needed to be done, but usually it was a simple visit, hanging out in the kitchen talking about nothing important.  It was nice and I looked forward to it more than I am sure they realized.

Dad had been in poor health for several years and so I thought I was prepared for his death.  I now think that is something you can never really prepare for.

Let me clarify, when I say he was poor health, I do not mean he was nursing home bound or anything like that.  He was as active as he could be, despite missing one leg with the other one well on it’s way to amputation; his kidneys were essentially completely ineffective (he did dialysis for a while, but decided the cons of dialysis outweighed the benefits so he stopped despite the protests of everyone); his eyesight was failing and his back and hips were so arthritic he was in constant pain.

I last saw him on Sunday, 31 July 2012 and he was doing as good as could be expected.  In fact my little brother was up & he had the Model T out and we drove it around a bit – I have some video, but no pictures…bummer.  Anyway, the following weekend I was off doing Army stuff when I got the call on Saturday, 6 August 2012 – Dad had gone to an auction (he loved auctions) and had fallen, breaking his hip.  Not good news as the chances of a real recovery that would allow him to walk again were pretty slim and he knew it.

I made it back home and to the hospital on Sunday.  He was scheduled for surgery that night…maybe it was the next morning, I don’t remember.  He made it through the surgery just fine and initially things looked pretty good, but then he slowly started to deteriorate.  By Thursday it was pretty clear he probably wouldn’t leave the hospital.  By Friday afternoon I wasn’t sure he would make it through the weekend, but when I left the hospital at around 7 that night I never thought he would be dead before I got back in a few hours.  My little brother and nephew had stayed, so at least he was not alone.

Dad was never a fan of funerals and had always said he didn’t want one.  We abided his wish but decided we would have a celebration for him – one last birthday party.  The year before we had a nice party to celebrate his 75thbirthday and he really enjoyed it.

Dad at his 75th birthday party

It was the first time in several years all eight of us had been together and you could just see the sparkle in his eyes and the joy on his face because of it.  So, exactly one year later we had one last party for him.

A lot of people came by to share their memories of the over-sized character that was my dad…and the eight of us were together one more time…Rest in Peace Dad – thanks for all you were.

Thanks for reading!

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66 responses »

  1. free penny press says:

    Wonderful …Even though there is the underlying feeling of sadness here, your love & respect shine through big & tall.
    I love that picture of him and the Party hat!!

  2. I never know how to offer condolences to stories like this, I always sound condecending and false and saying that I understand your pain wouldn’t be true either because I don’t think that I can consceptualise the loss of a parent, I know what my wife went through and still goes through after losing her father so I know it’s tough and I can also relate to not seeing eye to eye with your father in your teens, because I never did although we are far closer now.

    sorry I’m rambling, I’m sorry for your loss and empathise greatly even if I don’t truly understand your pain, I do understand the sentiment behind this post.

  3. That is a great tribute, Dan. And well done for swallowing your pride and putting “issues” aside with your family, I could learn a lesson or two from you.

  4. 40isthenew13 says:

    Really a touching post. So much of what you said reflects my own history with my dad… sometimes distant and disapproving (especially in the teen years), but ultimately a strong, supportive and loving relationship. This makes me realize how lucky I am to still have him. Please consider the next hug I give my dad a small tribute to the memory of your father and what you’ve expressed here today.

  5. aFrankAngle says:

    A wonderful tribute!

  6. artsifrtsy says:

    Nice tribute – our relationships with our parents are a journey – thanks for sharing yours.

  7. Mustang.Koji says:

    I raise my glass in toast to his glorious life and his dedication to you and family. Well written, sir.

  8. Janet Bohmer says:

    God Bless you!!!!!! Your Dad was proud of you!!!!!!!

  9. kathruth says:

    That is a wonderful tribute to your Dad. So glad you shared it with us.

  10. sorry for your loss what a beautiful tribute

  11. Jude says:

    What a lovely man, I love the photo. And I’m sure he was so proud of you.

  12. jules says:

    Very nice tribute to your dad.

    Six kids in eight years! Oh my! Sounds like you had the typical family growing up pains. We, as kids, generally don’t see eye to eye with our parents and it’s not usually until we have our own kids…that the shoe is on the other foot per se. I have to admit that I too was a poop when I was a kid…and sometimes still can be! We didn’t get along even though I was his favorite. My mom often says.”You’re JUST like your dad…stubborn!” Never EVER heard the words,”I love you!” or saw any type of emotions from him until I moved to NY at the age of 48. He cried literally…..

    Now we Skype every week…mom says he sits by the computer all day waiting and he says I love you at the end of our conversation.

    The bottom line is……….they do their best as there isn’t a parenting manual to follow, they may not show their emotions but no matter how old you are you’re still their kid and they will do everything possible for you….an unconditional love. Dads just have a different way of expressing it.

    Rest in peace Mr Bohmer!

  13. Dan, what a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man from a beautiful man. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Blessings to you as you remember your dad.

  14. K-Dubyah says:

    Dan, I offer my condolences as well. Coming from a large family myself, I laughed at your ‘dysfunctional family’ comment. I think all families have some of that issue. We have always said “We will always rag and pick on each other, but I’ll be danged if anyone else gets away with it” I also think that men from that era your dad and mine were raised in had a different mindset, different than mine or yours. My dad had difficulty in expressing his feelings to us kids. Doesn’t every generation?
    I’ll stop rambling and just say…cherish your memories of your Dad. If we’re lucky enough, they know or knew how much we loved them.

  15. gladys bohmer says:

    Dad said he never could take credit for all the great accomplishment you have done and are still doing – He always said the kids done it on their own -Love You and miss you – Mom

    • danbohmer says:

      thanks Mom – love & miss you too.

    • jules says:

      Mrs Bohmer,

      Mothers and Fathers provide the foundation where upon their children build their structure. Without a solid foundation…the structure will fail. Take credit where credit is due. Great job!

      Cin and Jules

      • danbohmer says:

        Mom – I would like to introduce you to Cin & Jules, the nice older Jewish couple from New York 😉 that are the reason I have been able to enjoy pizza in Afghanistan…(it’s an inside joke, Kate can fill you in)

        Kate & I hope to visit them someday.

      • Gladys Bohmer says:

        Thank You – The children learned at a early age – money was not plentiful -hard work -setting goals and completing them would put them where they wanted to be – they found jobs and went on to be hard working honest and respectable children – Dad told them when I go – your mother will need you -take care her – He would be so proud of them because they have not let him down – Dad worked out of town for week or more most of the time I worked full time and sometimes a second part-time job – I think many times, of times we failed them, we are very proud of all of them and the great addition of the grandchildren – dad very seldom missed a graduation, birthday party, confirmation or just something the grandchildren would be involved in-He loved to be the big umbrella that protected them all- Thank You for taking care of my son – we were married in Ithaca, New York in 1956-

      • jules says:

        Nice to meet you!

        I “met” your son by chance…looking for information on how long it took care packages to arrive in Afghanistan. He was craving pizza so I sent him the fixings to make his own…and some Mt Dew for his addiction.

        Our home is always open to Kate and your family.

  16. Dan. very well said. I actually do know how you feel, and how you’ll feel in the years to come. My Dad died in 78, and our relationship wasn’t all that different than yours. There’s a lot of bad sides to it, which you already know but, there’s good too. He’s no longer in pain, and you’ll find that he’ll be sitting there on your shoulder for the rest of your life. It’s a joyful burden. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • danbohmer says:

      thank you. Although it was hard to watch him go, he was done and ready to be free from the suffering. I even told him that selfishly I wanted him to come home, but I understood if he just couldn’t fight any more.

      • Yes, there comes the time. I watched my dad laying unconscious from a stroke for 4 days, he was due to move to the nursing home the morning he left. I always thought he knew and said no. Still bugs me and I really do feel for you.

        I missed it when he left, His GP called me from the hospital at 0400 and told me to get there quick, it was 15 miles and I didn’t make it. Still bugs me occasionally.

  17. Wow… what an incredible tribute. I don’t want to speak for your father… but I’m sure he must have been so very, very proud of you. You’re a good man, Dan, and an inspiration to not just your own children but to all who read your words.

  18. What a wonderful tribute to your dad, sometimes it is hard for men to show effection to other males even their own sons……………I am pretty sure he was proud of you………..

    • danbohmer says:

      yes, and even though I knew I was, and he honestly never said or did anythoing to make me feel otherwise, I always felt I was trying to be ‘good enough’

  19. Inga says:

    Telling this story is such a great tribute. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Tinman says:

    Really lovely tribute to your Dad, and a description of family life that is a lot more common than you realise. I’m so glad you became close to him later in life.
    The selection of photos is lovely, finishing with the great one of him at his party.
    II’m thinking of you, while you’re thinking of him.

  21. As I get a little closer to the close of my life I begin to understand many things in the past in a whole new and different light. My father was a distant man who although he never once told me he loved me, I never doubted it. He worked incredibly hard for over 50 years to take care first of his own siblings (my Dad was only 12 when his father died and he quit the the 8th grade to work in the tobacco fields) and then to provide food, shelter and clothing for Mom and me. I was the resentful, rebellious hippie kid growing up and choose an altogether different road than the hoped for by my parents. By the time I came to my senses they were gone, but their prayers for me eventually bore fruit.

    One time, in a moment of clarity, I asked my Dad what I could do to repay him for all he had done for me. He looked off in the distance for a moment, then he said, “You can’t. Just pass it on to your son.” Well, I’ve tried.

    Be encouraged!

  22. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I’m so sorry for your lose, and I loved reading about him

  23. Dan I just read what you wrote about your dad. It is a profound work in my opinion. My brother could be a real pain when he wanted tobe. but he was well respectied by hundreds of people that he met over the years. be it through work of just goofing off. he was a smart ass, as some would say, but I think that was his way of hiding the pain he felt from his own growing up years. You did wonderful, and Im so glad you kids are taking such good care of your sweet little Mpm.

  24. This is a stunningly beautiful memory. Honest and raw. Thank you for sharing. I haven’t been brave enough to really talk about my mother. She’s alive and I have a certain “persona” on my blog. We are not close, but to tell the world would devastate her.

    I admire you.

    So thank you for the follow because now I’ve found you.

    And I hope you are home in 1 month.

  25. Very touching Dan. It’s not easy writing about a parent especially a father. It does something to you. On the one hand you feel good about it, the other, your guts are strewed all over the place. I liked what Janet said, how proud he was of you.

    I also noticed how many goils you have on your like list. Hmm.

    Loved the piece, will read it again.

  26. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for sharing this moving tribute!

  27. dilipnaidu says:

    Beautiful thoughts for a wonderful father! Good wishes to you.

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