Well, I have no living father to send a card to or have dinner with, so this is the next best thing. The influence and memories live on, but hey, almost everyone with a deceased parent knows they are missing something.
My dad, James C. “Jim” Burns, passed on in 1982, of a massive heart attack. He died with his boots on, so to speak, at age 48, while working at a job-related convention in downtown Atlanta. He went out his way, as his work was his life. That was an era when people went to work for one company for their entire careers. In his case, General Motors was the choice; he made his way up from picking parts in a warehouse in Birmingham, AL, to district manager for GM Parts, covering a wide area in the Southeast out of the now-shuttered assembly complex in Doraville.
He would NOT have enjoyed seeing the current state of his employer, or the US auto industry as a whole. Like me, he was one to stew a bit over perceived unfairness. The ascent of foreign competition in the US auto industry in the late ’70s and early ’80s annoyed him in that it took jobs away from Americans. That’s not to mention his own job security. At the time of his death, his sales ranking with his peers was not high. Coupled with the fact that his mother had died a few months before and — yes — his smoking and lack of exercise, his angst was not healthy.
A case for minimizing such depressing incidents is what he missed out on by dying at such a young age. Here goes:
— Visiting California. Yours truly lived in San Diego and Orange County from 1985-2007. My mother and sister made several trips, but he never got a chance to stick his toes in the Pacific Ocean or have his pic taken with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. I remember him saying in my younger years that when he finally worked up to three weeks’ vacation, that he wanted to go to California — “just to see it.”
— Electronic gadgets: He never got to use VCRs, DVDs, or pay per view movies. He never got in on the fun of emailing a friend in another part of the country, or using a cell phone to call home to say he was running a little late. He never got to “tweet.”
— Retirement: No male in my immediate family has ever made it to retirement age in good health. Smoking, of course, was part of the culture in years past, so the peer pressure is understandable. However, good health is priceless. Take care of yourself, folks.
— Local sporting events: He missed out on the Atlanta Braves’ incredible success of the ’90s. He, like other Atlantans, suffered through the mediocrity that came before, when a Hank Aaron homer was usually the only reason to pay attention. He also missed out on the history that was the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the Falcons’ only Super Bowl trip, after the 1998 season.
— Grandchildren: My sister was about to be married when he died, and delayed the wedding just to let everyone catch their breath after the traumatic event. She now has two college-age children (one of each) that he would have enjoyed.
So those of you with living fathers, please tell them that there’s always something interesting down the road. And enjoy them while they are here.