Monday, December 15, 2014

My Dad

Our quickly approaching departure on our Thistle adventure has me pondering life.  You know, death, aging, family, health, all those easy topics.   So I got to thinking about my dad.

My mom and dad's wedding photo

In all the years my dad has been gone from our lives, I've never written about him.  I think about him, often, and yearn to have a conversation with him, but I've never written about him.     I miss his quick intellect and his gentle wise ways, and how, after a day in the garden, he'd squat, watching his plants grow, coffee in hand, cigarette dangling from his mouth, content.

George J. Abel, 1965

It's that darn cigarette that probably killed him.  That and those  poisons used in gardening back  then.  When he was young he worked as a commercial landscaper, spraying without washing his hands or face afterwards, never mind a mask.  And, those cigarettes!  Both he and my mom enjoyed smoking together and alone and all the time.  Pack a day folks, they were.   Unfiltered Camels.

When my dad was 59 he and my mom took leaves from their jobs, purchased a little Airstream, and headed out for a six month trip deep into Mexico.  On their return they were ecstatic,  delight was everywhere -- faces, postures, voices.

Working, saving, working, waiting, they had finally found a life that stimulated and pleased them both.   Then my dad started coughing.  A raspy, persistent cough that wouldn't go away.  My dad became very frail, my mom very frightened.  

Horrible news of lung cancer, emphysema and a long-ago damaged heart were all found during tests.  Surgery, Cobalt therapy, hospitalization and death occurred quickly.   He was dead in six months.  Gratefully, as he suffered so.  

I miss my dad.  I miss talking gardening.  I miss that he missed Brad's life.  I miss that Brad doesn't remember him.

Brad a year before my dad's death

I miss that Ed didn't meet him or know him.    I've wanted to share so much with him over the years but he died much too soon.  He told me he wasn't afraid of death only that he was sorry to leave us.  

So here I am, on the eve of our travel adventure, thinking about my dad.  Remembering how vast and deep he read -- Krishnamurti, Hesse, T.E. Lawrence.  And then there were the well-studied plant books, flowers pressed in the pages, smudged, dog-eared and broken down with hard use.   When hiking the Sierras he took a photograph of each wildflower he saw.   When my sister and I were young, my folks loved to go for  Sunday drives.  We'd all pile in the car and head for the hills.  It was back when facial tissue was dyed pastel colors.  Time-after-time, jerking suddenly to a stop, we'd jump out of the car, just to view another  rumpled-tissue "wildflower". 

At the end of the day, he loved nothing better than to gather around the fire pit and talk philosophy with family and friends.

My dad far left, me far right and my mom center.

There is so much more I could say about my dad.  But this is a blog, after all, not a memoir.    


"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature."  

~ Antoine Francois Prevost


  1. Oh Fran, this is so sweet, and makes me realize -- again -- how much I miss my father, who embodied many of the same qualities and characteristics as yours. They even had similar hair!! Yours was a gardener, mine was a farmer. Hard work, chemicals, and smoking for both. How sad they're both gone.

  2. Our fathers, so important to both of us. How lucky we both were to have such wonderful men as our fathers, our teachers, our inspiration.

  3. Your parents are beautiful, Brad look likes his grandfather, Handsome! Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Thank you Yessi. You and Brad have brought together two very special families.