Saturday, May 27, 2006
in memoriam George W. Donkin jr.
Some of you know that both of my parents were admitted into hospice in February. Both had severe emphysema and mom has an abdominal aneurysm as well. Dad died peacefully in his sleep this morning. I got to speak to him yesterday on the phone and assured him that we love him and it was OK to let go, we would see that mom was cared for.
Growing up we had the ambiguous relationship that children often have with their parents. Dad never showed his emotions very well and wasn't there a lot. He was a diesel mechanic and worked hard all of his life. He left for work before I got up, came home, often after a stop at a bar for a beer and talk with friends, took a hot bath, ate dinner, and went to sleep. Saturdays, he slept half the day. Sundays, we went to church and then to my grandmother's for Sunday dinner. Friday and Saturday nights were often cards with family or, for a few years, my parents went bowling. I never remember him missing a day of work for any reason. In his late 30's he had back problems... he wore a brace and went to work and when he came home he could barely stand, I would pull on his legs to relieve the pressure. The next day, he went back to work.
It was later that I began to realize that the hard work was his way of showing love. He understood his role as providing for his family and he did that the best he could as a blue collar worker for as long as he could. He probably should have died a few weeks ago but he hung on because he didn't want to leave mother alone.
When I turned 18 I learned that he was not my biological father. My mother married right out of high school, had my older sister, divorced, met my biological father & married, had me, and when I was 9 months old, he died. George Donkin, in his mid 20's, married Jean with a 6 year old daughter and 1 year old son. Three years later George and Jean had a daughter. My biological father was in many ways a fantasy - he was a first mate on an oil tanker and spent much of his time away at sea. When he was at home, it was all gifts and parties and the realities of living together never intruded. George competed with that image all of his life. I know it was difficult for him but he hung in there.
It wasn't until I was well into my adult years that I began to understand more of him and appreciate his love and the faithfulness with which he expressed it. I hope that I have learned that from him.
I love you, Dad. Peace be with you and may God hold you in the palm of his hands.