My Father worked hard in everything he did. He worked hard, played hard, loved hard. He made more great mistakes than anyone I ever knew. He would smile at that sentence, knowing that the only way to make a good mistake is to stay in the game and to keep your head up. I think Dad would smile at that because he knew that a mistake well made ONCE can be a lesson well learned if you are paying attention. Yeah, Dad was like that.
To respect our privacy, I am just going to say that we had a complicated family. Use your imagination. Yeah, that’s about right. But my Father was the guy who lowered his shoulder against it all and kept trying. When I was a kid, I didn’t see him much because he was working all the time, and I really didn’t like him much for that. When my parents were divorced, I saw him less, even though he lived really close to us. My Dad juggled a tremendous amount of things, emotional, financial things for many people. I never heard him complain. He didn’t shirk his responsibilities, he embraced them.
He wasn’t Superman. He was an Idiot, stumbling around in the face of the mysteries that are relationships just like the rest of us. It’s just that he was an idiot with enormous style. Throughout my adolescence and college years, my Dad was single. He dated some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I greeted that with a mixture of great pride and not a little intimidation. He was a man of extraordinary grace with women.
When I was in college, my father came up to visit me as a surprise. When he came in to my dorm room, there was a big bag of pot sitting on the bed. He took one look at it, and had such an expression of pain and hurt on his face that he had to walk away for a minute to regain his composure. I think it might have been easier to handle had he been really angry at me, had he lectured me. He never said a word. I was shattered.
Years later, Dad said, “Randy, I think if someone doesn’t like you it’s because they don’t really know you.” That’s the way he viewed his sons. He assumed we were wonderful. Part of the reason we are wonderful is because our Father assumed that we are. Again, this isn’t Disneyland. I’m just saying that you can see the wonderful if you look for it. So look for it.
I like to tell my clients that I am always pulling for their marriage. They come to me when their ability to pull for their marriage is severely hampered, or sometimes gone. If the marriage is too sick to be saved, we decide it together, and we pull together for the safety and health of the people involved. Something like that happened with my parents. How painful to have to say goodbye to something you wanted so much to be wonderful.
I could say a lot about his business successes. There were many, and they were really impressive. It just doesn’t matter. What matters are the things that people don’t know about, won’t find out about. I won’t recount them here because Dad wouldn’t want me to, except to say that they exist and they are carried on quietly and without fanfare.
The last time I saw my Dad alive; the ravages of Parkinson’s disease had taken his body and given him involuntary motions, so he looked like he was punching a speed bag. The last time I saw my Dad alive, Parkinson’s had reduced his beautiful voice to a whisper, and his mind was almost gone. The last time I saw my Dad alive, he fought his way up to the surface of consciousness, and he didn’t talk about the pain, or his fear of dying. He didn’t ask for water, or say he wanted something. The last thing my Dad ever said to me was “Tell me about Randy.”
And so I did. Sitting with my Dad, as he punched the air, punching the Parkinson’s that took him away from us, I told him about me one last time. I told him that I am a pretty good therapist, but I think I am probably an idiot husband. He punched at the air, and I told him that I keep on punching too; I keep making mistakes, and I keep trying, hoping they are good mistakes.
Paul Markey died on January 5, 2010. He died at home in the company of his wife as he wished. He left a beloved family. He played hard all four quarters.