My Father’s Farewell Tour
by Edmund Lis
My father and I had a special bond that was different than what he had with my siblings or with other people. I know now that we were more alike than I ever wanted to admit while he was alive.
As adults, those similarities brought us closer together, but as an adolescent I strictly adhered to the natural law that “Like Repels Like.” When I was a teenager, I can truly say that I hated my father and he really didn’t like me much. Now I know that it was because we were both stubborn, headstrong and always thought we were in the right.
I was 21 and he was 49 when I first realized my father was mortal. When the phone rang I was expecting it to be my father but instead it was his wife and the first thing she said was “your father had a heart attack.” In that instant, I thought he was dead. She then told me he was in the hospital and I just started to shake and cry. I don’t ever remember having felt that kind of fear and anguish.
That day was the first time in many years that I remembered that I loved him. That was also the day that in my father’s eyes, he stopped living and started dying; I guess he also realized that he was mortal.
From then on, Nitro was in his pocket and death seemed just around the corner. For the next 24 years, he and I spent way too much time worrying about his mortality even as our lives went on. I got married, he got divorced. He moved to Paris, I eventually moved to California. He had a couple more heart attacks and bypass surgery, I just got older but not much wiser.
As time went by and his health continued to deteriorate, he often talked about suicide, but the reality was that he loved life — he just hated getting old, and as I get older, I can totally relate.
Over those years, we learned to trust each other more, communicate openly and honestly, and we were able to talk about almost anything. And talk we did — every couple of Sundays he called all his children and even though to most of my siblings it was kind of a joke and pain in the butt, I really looked forward to his calls.
We would talk about what was going on in our lives, about his health, world politics, about the state of society, and about how messed up the world was. In the last year of his life (post 9/11), he became very pessimistic about how the powers that be were ruining the world; he worried about his children, his friends and family in Argentina, and especially about how his grandsons were going to survive.
In the fall of 2002 when he was 73 years old, my father did what I now call “The Farewell Tour.” Even though we didn’t know it at the time, I truly believe that he did know the end was near.
He came for a week’s visit and got to see most of his kids and grandkids, my mother (first ex-wife), and one of his best friends from Michigan who was visiting the Bay Area. He and I then went to L.A. for the day, where another of his very good friends was visiting his children there.
During this whole time, my father was not doing all that well. His doctors had been trying to get him to put in a pacemaker, but he steadfastly refused. He was also joking (so we thought) with all his friends that this might be the last time they saw each other as they were all getting old.
Anyway, this visit ended like normal, with him heading back to Paris. A month later, my father went to a bioenergetics conference in upstate New York, there he got to see a bunch of his old friends and colleagues.
That evening, he called his younger brother in Argentina just to check in, and after breakfast on the second day, he took his newspaper, sat down under a tree and died.
It’s been nine years since he died and every Sunday morning I still wish the phone would ring. When some geopolitical event happens, I want to know what he would have thought. When I see or read some reference to France or Argentina, I think of him. There are so many unexpected things that remind me of him and I know he will always be in my heart. Even though I didn’t always appreciate him, I know he loved me and was a bigger part of my life than I ever realized. I will miss him for the rest of my life.