Saturday, October 22, 2011

Man of the Hour - Reprise

My dad passed away two years ago today. Permit me to share with you once again the short tribute I wrote and posted then.

Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away
A snowflake falls in May.
And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out
Cause the man of the hour is taking his final bow
Goodbye for now.

This is not what I planned to write this week. I was not sure what I would write, but then I listened to Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam singing "Man of the Hour" and I knew what I had to say. There are times when life throws you a curve and this week was one of those times. My dad passed away in Florida after a lengthy illness. It was not entirely unexpected. He lived a long and interesting life spanning 85 years. Still, one is never really prepared for a life’s final chapter . . . especially when it’s your dad. So permit me this very brief reflection on a life now ended.

Ralph C. Rogers was born in Decatur, Michigan on June 24, 1924 and lived there for the first 18 years of his life. He played varsity basketball at Decatur High School and eventually attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Drafted into military service during World War II, he served in the 104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division in General George Patton’s Third Army during the northern European campaign in 1944-1945, including the Battle of the Bulge. His unit was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for its participation in the liberation of that country. After the war, he returned home, married my mom, and attended the Georgia Institute of Technology where he earned Bachelor and Master degrees in Industrial Engineering. Then it was off to Chicago in 1950 to work in the engineering department at Montgomery Ward, the job he held when I was born the following year. He later worked for the Chicago-based consulting firm Stevenson, Jordan & Harrison for several years, a job which took him and his family around the country. In 1958 he took an engineering position with Champion Paper Company, in North Carolina, for almost six years. During that time he served in various professional organizations and taught at Western Carolina University. He ended his professional career with J.C. Penney where he moved in 1968 and where he was engineering manager for the catalog division until his retirement in 1984.

After retirement, Dad and Mom moved down to Florida’s Gulf Coast where they lived until 1994 when they moved to Ohio to be closer to family and friends. It was a family history that followed the trajectory of so many others of their generation. But it would not last. Things began to come apart and my parents divorced shortly before their 50th anniversary. Dad moved back to Florida where he eventually remarried. I did not see him much after that, certainly not as often as I had hoped. His life, for whatever reason, took a new direction. I was happy, that he was happy, or seemed to be, but I missed the time we should have spent together in these final years. We talked on the telephone occasionally; it just wasn’t enough. I never doubted his love for me, or mine for him. We just had a difficult time showing it.

I did spend more time with him during his final illness, but these were visits to the hospital and the nursing home where he lived the past couple of years. It was tough to watch him wither away. And now he is gone.

And the road
The old man paved
The broken seams along the way
The rusted signs, left just for me
He was guiding me, love, his own way
Now the man of the hour is taking his final bow
As the curtain comes down
I feel that this is just goodbye for now.

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