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.
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.
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.
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!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.