On April 19, 2013, Ron West was taken by (or, from another vantage point, finally broke free from the clutches of) the same illness that took Jacques, Lewy body dementia.
My God, Ron was only 70. I’m just realizing that right now. I didn’t know him, but his wife of, now, 48 years, Marianne, and I met virtually in an e-mail support group that has been a lifeline for those of us taking care of spouses with “Lewy” (yes, we have been known to break into a chorus of “Lewy Louie”). We’ve witnessed one another’s struggles, provided practical tips and vital information, permission to be human and lose it from time to time, sources of faith, strength, and laughs . . . and most of us have stayed in touch even after “graduation.”
That’s how I found out Ron had passed, and that’s how I got to read this magnificent word portrait of him by his youngest son, Doug. I asked permission to share it here because it is just the essence of what you want a father to be and how you would hope to feel about your father. It just makes you love and admire the man, wish you’d met him, and feel that you have. Sail on, Ron. Thank you, Marianne and Doug.
* * *
You taught me the real meaning of Honor by living it every single day of your life and holding yourself to a higher standard than to where our world tries to tear us down. Honor is the most difficult when dishonor has become fashionable.
You taught me Compassion by your actions towards all the things that needed that little extra helping hand; especially that tiny, awkward and misshapen runt that had choked on a piece of big-dog food. I watched you furiously fight to remove the blockage and then breathe life back into its limp form. You named him Lucky when you set him down on the ground and he wobbled over to stand on your shoe. That very same puppy you had rescued a few days earlier, along with its brothers and sisters, when the wood shed flooded from a terrible rain. With lightning striking, you laid yourself down in a pool of water and reached under the wall of the shed to pull out pup after pup, refusing to give up until the entire litter was safe.
You taught me Patience, Forgiveness, Wisdom and Worthiness, by taking the time to be sure that I knew precisely what I did wrong, why it was wrong and how it can hurt others, but most importantly ourselves. It wasn’t until I was long grown that I was able to look back and remember those two to three hour long lectures and see that you spent the majority of any free time you had available striving to being certain that I knew right from wrong.
You taught me Love by hugging me tightly every night and never being afraid to tell me you loved me every chance you got. I remember the many times while I was in chronic pain, you would sit with me, my head on your lap and your strong, callused hand gently rubbing my back. At my darkest moment, you turned a two hour distance into less than an hour, just to sit with me. I don’t even think we said ten words, but your presence drove away the darkness.
You were never boastful and you were never cruel. You were a lion facing our fears and a lamb facing our sorrows. You could thunder wrath, crack your quick wit and smile whenever we were nervous or frightened and nothing could ever hurt us.
You were the oak that stood strong during all of our storms and your roots will hold our ground together forever.
Thank you for being my Dad! I will love you always!
~ Douglas West (Colorado Springs, CO)
There’s something wrong with this Internet life. I can’t put my finger on it. That’s the problem.
Living in fantasy instead of reality is our biggest problem already, why do we need to make it bigger? Now you can argue (and I’d be forced to agree with you) that there’s no such thing as reality. We each construct a subjective universe and the world is made up of these overlapping, but not interpenetrating, interpretations, perceptions . . . fantasies. So what am I talking about?
Matter is a corrective. Matter exerts a resistance, a counterforce, like wood to a carving knife or water to a ship’s keel or air under an airplane’s wings, that paradoxically enables us to get somewhere by making it more difficult. The Internet is a sensory deprivation tank. It somehow has the exact specific gravity of a human brain, so that it cancels out the heavy, reminding tug of our bodies. It deceives us that whatever we can imagine is not only possible, but already sufficiently existent without the salutary work and frustration that is matter’s accursed blessing. Our minds are crumbling like the bones of astronauts who have lived too long in weightlessness.
Many people have had, and many more will have, unpleasant awakenings from this dream.
So, I was chatting with our bloggeress who mentioned she had rented a Honda Odyssey, and I wondered aloud why Honda had not made the Honda Iliad while they were at it….and we took off from there….
but why limit it to cars?
I apologize for not responding sooner. Randy’s main email account was lost soon after his passing in March and we could not retrieve information to send details to friends online. I know you and the others he met online/in person were a great part of his attempt at recovery from the cancer. You helped to make his final months as he wanted – to continue to experience life on his terms.
I certainly understand the need for closure. Randy accepted his passing with courage, grace and love. He was surrounded by his family and close friends and was himself until the very end. In fact, the Monday before his passing he was sitting at the kitchen table discussing with my son what to do with the investment account they created and how to prepare himself for entering college this fall. Randy was always enthusiastic about listening and sharing with his neices and nephews. It brought him great joy to know he and my son shared the same keen interest in investing, architecture and Asian art.
Thank you for your making our brothers’ life so rich.
Keep the faith,
On Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 5:46 AM, Annie Gottlieb <email@example.com> wrote:
Many of us love Randy and need to know about the last months and weeks of his life. We have heard absolutely nothing.
If this e-mail address is still alive, please make contact. Karen, who met Randy and his mom in Vermont; Annie, who hosts the blog “Ambiance” to which Randy sometimes contributed, and about a dozen more of us need — I hate the word “closure,” we just need to know.
. . . along the lines of “Basic English.” With these simple blocks one could rebuild a lot.
- how people behave themselves, and
- how they treat each other.
I don’t care:
- where they come from,
- what they look like,
- what they have in their underwear, or
- whom they choose to share it with, or even
- what they believe.
Basic building blocks of behaving oneself are:
- Courtesy, and
- Keeping your word.
- Everybody who wants to be an American should learn English, and
- Everybody should study a second language in school.
(Note that the requirement to “behave oneself” cunningly qualifies the “I don’t care”s: certain ways of looking would violate courtesy; some sexual conduct would violate self-responsibility and keeping one’s word, not to mention courtesy; beliefs that had noxious behavioral consequences would disqualify themselves, etc.)
What have I left out that can’t be derived from these?
Below is a dialog between Annie and me. It took place during the three days after the election. I am leaving it largely unedited, though some changes are being made for clarity. I am leaving out some of the more intemperate remarks on my part.
This mostly follows the title. A couple of digressions have been put in towards the end. This two digressions are, as best I can manage, the only things taken out of order, and even those occurred near the end, as here. I could scare up links for some of it, but if you care enough you can look it up yourself. I have only included one link as that was all I included in the exchange.
Anyhow, what follows is roughly 4500 words. I’ve said enough so don’t expect me to hang around in the comments, should any follow.
Annie posted this on FB.