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Boots

My dad said on Wednesday, “There’s a time for a changing of the guard. I’ve lived a good life.”

Dad is dying. He is surprised by this. He’s surprised by it even though he has half a

heart functioning, bad kidney function, bad liver function, edema, diabetes, congestive heart failure, a pacemaker/defibrilator, severe osteoporosis and a small fracture in his back because of it. He can’t walk or even sit up on his own, and he only this weekend came to the realization that all of his bullets were gone. Right now he’s Davy Crockett at the Alamo and Santa Ana and his army are at the gate.

He has survived an appendix rupture and surgery in 1945 at tiny Fletcher Hospital. That couldn’t have been a slam dunk surgery. He survived Korea, and in the 70s a car he was working on fell on him and crushed him. He managed to pull himself out from under it in spite of his upper body being completely broken. He has been hit by lightning three times, beaten cancer twice, raised Bill, Sissy, and me. (I was the easy one of that three and I didn’t think one of us would leave high school alive. My younger three are all pretty good.) In 2007, his heart rate sped up to 250 beats a minute and he just sat on his porch and took an aspirin before being told he needed to go the hospital. This gave him a helicopter ride from Buckeye, West Virginia to Roanoke. He nearly checked out on the lip of the Grand Canyon being shocked by his defibrillator 6 times before getting another helicopter ride from there to Flagstaff.

So you can see that he’s stared into the eyes of death and said over and over, “Not yet.” Death didn’t know what kind of ass kicking he was in for when he came for Boots Rhodes. Nobody looks good dying, but you can do it right and he is doing it right like so much else he endeavored. When I was a kid I heard over and over, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” He lives this to the end because his body is kaput, and we’ve seen evidence of it for years in his wardrobe.

He and I like numbers, and we find symbols in them and we make memories of these numbers. They’ll be ours, but we commented and acknowledged when this year we doubled up in age 86-43 and so he’s had half his life with me and now I face the half of my life without him. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit.

I hate that. I hate it so much. I’ve hated it for at least 12 years since he should have died on that porch in West Virginia. I am ready though even though I don’t want to be. I once wrote somewhere that I never thought I’d be a full man until my dad was gone. If that was the case let me be a boy forever, but I am that man. I am that man shaped in many ways by him and he is a giant, and I am glad and proud to have been so shaped.

My best friend Jamie made sure to tell my dad he loved him and that he meant a lot to him. My dad said they don’t make them like Jamie and you any more. I replied, “They never made anyone like you at all, Pop.”

I'm getting by on family, adrenaline, Norm Macdonald, Waylon, Willie and Billie Joe Shaver. When I knew his heart was gone this came on and I just can't get it out of my head. Enjoy

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