I am the son of a rodeo rider
August 3, 2012 2 Comments
A cousin of mine contacted me recently, and sent me some family pictures, and talked for a while about my father and my uncles and aunts.
How remote I have become from my father’s family.
Here I am: a business manager in a big East Coast university. And my father was a farmer, and a bronco buster in rodeos in the Pacific Northwest.
Origins are mysterious and obscure, as a character in the Mahabharata says. Who can say? Who knows where I really came from? Or where my father came from?
I keep discovering new stories about my father. I knew him as a quiet glowering figure, very silent. I have discovered, from others, that he was kindly, and a lover of animals (his boyhood / teenage nickname was “Doc,” because he served as informal veterinarian to the family’s animals), and very generous to his younger siblings, who thought very highly of him. (One of my aunts told me that, one very lean giftless Christmas in the 1930s, he made her a doll. Sixty years later, she still remembered it with a smile.)
And he won blue ribbons for rodeo riding. Specifically, for bronco busting.
(I bet your father never did that.)
Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1975. His last year was painful. Cancer treatment was unsophisticated in those days; the doctors gave him radiation therapy, which burned him horribly. He had to stop eating everything he loved. He had to stop smoking. His quality of life plummeted to near-zero.
Then, around Easter 1976, he began to eat whatever he liked.
We knew what that meant: he was tired of living in perpetual misery. He’d chosen to eat some ham, and maybe smoke a cigarette once in a while.
He died about a month later. He was sixty-two years old, only seven years older than I am right now.
Origins are mysterious, and so are endings.
Rest in peace, Dad.