This is my father. Today is the 30th anniversary of the worst day of my life. March 27, 1981, my father died, 10 days after suffering a fatal stroke. He was 67 years old. I was 21. And my life was changed. It's pointless to say what my life would have been had he not died. I only know what was.
My father was a kind man. He was generous, to a fault. He was hard working and provided the best he could for his family. And it was quite a family. 7 children, 4 boy and 3 girls. I was the last. All of us finished high school. 5 of us went on to college, 4 of us finished. We had a big rambling house with 5 bedrooms. We may not have had the best things, but we were warm and feed and loved.
My father was born on the eve of the First World War. He lived though the Great Depression and served in the Second World War, leaving behind a wife with 2 small children and one on the way. After the war, he and my mother moved from Los Angeles to Grants Pass, Oregon where I was born and where he died.
Daddy was remarkably demonstrative for a man of his generation. He didn't hold back on his love for his children and grandchildren. He adored my mother and we all knew there was never another woman for him.
We were his life. I can't remember him ever saying he "didn't have time" for us or "later". He worked 5 days a week and half days on Saturday. Saturday afternoons he would go by the church and get things ready for Sunday morning Mass.He loved sports of all kinds. Television was a miracle to him. He could watch sporting events from around the world and chores around the house were timed to make sure he saw football games, Indy car races and ABC's Wide World of Sports.
He believed in plain speaking. When I was about 11 or 12, we were watching a crime drama on TV (a genre which I watch and love to this day) and someone was being investigated for rape. I asked my daddy what rape was. A question I'm sure must have started him sweating. But he quickly assessed my age and intelligence and simply said, "It's when a man forces a woman to have sex." It was the simplest explanation and answered my question.
He believed in right and wrong, God and the Golden Rule. He treated everyone with respect and honor. I never heard him say a bad thing about anyone, except maybe Richard Nixon. He was appalled that anyone, let alone the President of the United States, thought themselves above the law. He paid his taxes without complaint. He paid his mortgage and bills. Health Insurance was something we didn't have until I was a young child. He and my mother used to say that the only bills they would always have to pay were Sears and the Grants Pass Clinic. (The Clinic was next door to our house and all the staff knew who we were. Every scrape and bump was treated with kindness and some were probably not even charged for.)
I often wonder what my father would make of this world today. How people are so often discarded as replaceable. How basic care and comfort are not available for all citizens of the greatest country on the planet. How his own wife had to rid herself of every material good of value in order to find a place where she would live out her last days. How his precious grandchildren have gone into debt gaining an education and means to make a living. How his daughter has lived all these years without his unconditional love and support.
My mother said he suffered from depression. And I'm sure he felt that he was not doing everything possible for his family. But he never let us feel it. We saw his love. His joy. His laughter. His tears of pride. His dedication.
I love him now more than I did then. I understand him more now. I miss him more. Now.
Roger Merrill Watt April 8, 1913- March 27, 1981. Husband of Mildred. Father of James, Judith, Nancy, Robert, Thomas, Nicholas and Katherine. Grandfather of Andrew, James, Michael, Christopher, Peter, Nancy, Nicole, Natalie, Margaret, Jason, Sarah, Roger, Matthew, Dawn and Bridgete. Mentor to many. Friend to all.