Thursday, April 24, 2008

Remembering Warren ... Remembering My Dad

So, my wife and I were watching re-runs of one of our favorite shows, HBO's The Wire, last night when the phone rang. After checking the caller ID and seeing that it was my mom calling, I had a feeling that she wasn't calling at close to midnight her time with good news. And, when she told me she had gotten word that the only man I'd ever called Dad had died, my feeling was unfortunately confirmed.

As she sat there and told me all the particulars of how Warren had passed, all I could think about was the last conversation I had with him well over a year ago. Even though Warren was not my biological father, he was the only man that raised and cared for me from the time I was 7 weeks old until I was ready to graduate from High School. And, just like most father-son relationships, we had our ups and downs as the post-High school years progressed. For various reasons, we didn't stay in touch as often as we should have; nevertheless, the last time we spoke was, fortunately, when we were on good terms.

It had been at least five years since we had last spoken, so I didn't know what to expect from him or his wife. After an awkward initial few minutes, his wife, Shelia, and I started to catch up on the last years; it was a refreshing and pleasant conversation. Before giving the phone to Warren, she told me that he had had a stroke and was paralyzed on his left side, which caused his speech to be slurred. "He has also lost a lot of weight and is confined to a wheelchair now," she went on to inform me right before handing him the phone.

After hearing Warren's slurred speech and barely audible words, I was glad that she had warned me. I couldn't help but to have the image of a frail man, sitting in a wheelchair with a blanket across his lap to keep his legs warm, and it bothered me. While Warren was always an average sized man in height and weight, he was strong as an ox! My brother and I use to joke that he had that "ole' country" strength. Or maybe it was all the times he said he spent wrestling bears and fending off 6 foot fighting cocks in rural Virginia.

No, seriously guys, Warren was pretty strong. He would often lift my mom, who outweighed him by at least 30 lbs, to his shoulders and basically do a sandbag-style squat with her. I loved to hang from his flexed bicep as a kid because it was like swinging from a tree's branch. It was no wonder that he had strong arms because of all the arm wrestling he would do with my uncles, brother, and me. Working in the basement of the Washington Post for 25 years, moving barrels of ink and huge reams of paper, forged an iron like grip too. And, I 'm sure that being a stocker in the back room of a liquor store for just as many years, as a second full-time job, was the reason he was strong without ever touching a weight until he was in his 40s.

I should know because I was the reason he actually tried doing a bench press. Being the proverbial "chubby" kid in the neighborhood gets old really fast. So, I bugged my mom enough to buy a Sears plastic covered, sand-filled, barbell and bench set one Christmas. It was such a poorly constructed bench that I'm surprised I didn't kill myself trying to look like Lou Ferrigno (Sorry Arnold, I loved the Incredible Hulk). One day, I was trying to bench way more than I could, but I thought that I needed to challenge myself. So, there I was with 110lbs pinned on my chest, and all I could do was barely squeak out a "help" when Warren was there to pull the bar off of me, laughing the whole time.

"It's not funny Dad! I bet you can't press it!" was the first thing that I said to him while he puffed on his Kool with a big grin on his face. So, he lies down on the bench, and I show him where he should position his hands, etc. Well, I thought I would need to spot him, but he told me to back up. He pressed it like it was nothing and told me to put more weight on the bar. Well, this went on until I had all the damn weights on the bar (around 200 lbs). Hell, this was more weight than my older brother could do at the time, so when Warren pressed it as if it was only a bit heavy--since he actually took the cigarette out of his mouth for this rep--I really thought that maybe he did wrestle a bear or two in his youth.

Although I wasn't sure if he could understand, I tried to bring him up to date on all that has been going on with me in California over the years we hadn't been in touch. He sounded happy to hear from me even though I could not make out everything he was saying. I was able to tell him that I loved him and to let him know that I would be out there soon to visit him. I never made it out there to see him and never spoke to him again. And, in an interesting way, I'm OK with that.

I'd like to remember Warren . . . to remember my Dad as the strong, peaceful, and simple man that he was.


Amy Dungan (aka Sparky's Girl) said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Thanks Amy.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Here's a comment from my brother:

I'm Mr.LBF's older brother and I can tell you everything he said about Warren was true. He was a very simple country boy from a small town in Virginia...I mean so simple he did not eat anything that wasn't chicken, steak, peas,green beans or corn. He would buy pizza for us, but looked at it with as much disdain as we did brussels sprouts.

I thank Warren for my work ethic because I saw how he worked two jobs and never complained. As long as there was plenty of coffee and cigarettes and the Dallas Cowboys on was good.

Although our Mom and Warren separated many years ago, I still respect him for how he treated our Mom, which truly is the reason I treat my wife of 22 years so well.

Good Bye Old Man and God Rest Your Soul!!

Roy and Hazel said...

What terrible news. Draw strength from your memories as you reflect back. I'm really sorry. Best wishes Roy

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Thanks Roy and Hazel ....

Lowcarb_dave said...

HI m8!

I've just caught up with your blog.

I'm sorry to hear about your father.

I believe he will still keep in touch beyond the veil.


Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Thanks LC Dave; I guess you felt my vibes because I was thinking about you the other day. I hope all is well.