My father passed away this summer after a long, valiant battle with a Parkinsons-like illness. He lost so much and endured great suffering, but I can’t help but think the hardest thing for him was the loss of his ability to use words.
My dad wasn’t a writer, but he was the greatest lover of words I’ve ever known. Every morning started with a cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle and most nights ended with a scotch old-fashioned and another crossword.
Growing up, we had one of those ancient, unabridged dictionaries on a bureau in the hallway. Sometimes, I’d find Dad standing hunched over the enormous book, thumbing through pages just for love of the words.
He was kind of like a walking dictionary. If I ever came across a word that interested me or I didn’t know the definition of, a quick call to Dad was all it took. Without a hint of hubris, he would rattle off the definition and usually the root and origin of the word.
As his illness progressed, the words would often get stuck somewhere in his addled brain before they could make it out of his mouth. It was supremely frustrating for Dad, but he handled it with grace and his easy-going laugh, and would usually find another word to get his meaning across. But even that got more and more difficult for him to do, until he was unable to say much of anything.
I think he would roll his big brown eyes at this, but I’ve been thinking of words to describe him: elegant, optimistic, intelligent, reserved, circumspect, steadfast, devout, kind and fearless.
He would probably know just the right word to describe how much he is missed, but I can only feel it in my heart.