This I Believe

Jonathan - caro, Michigan
Entered on March 13, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: death, family
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the value of ambiance.

I don’t know how other grown men who are just one of a set of four brothers spend the hours of their days, but I know how I spent mine. I spent them like a popular comic, Ron White, once described his own temporal passage… living like a banshee. I have greedily wrung the juice out of living in ways that were both good and awful, and in ways of which I am both proud and ashamed. The toll I paid was collected by my father.

The make of a man as seen through his own eyes is best rendered in the colors of the love he craves from his father. In my own case that love has always been measured in the metrics that were my three brothers. I must admit that “enough love” from my dad has always been selfishly idealized by me as just a hair more than that which he felt for the other three of us. I also freely admit that I never felt I lived up to that. The fault of that was never in the giving of the father, rather it was in the deserving of the son. My living grayed my father’s jet black hair and streaked his beard, and worried lines into the flesh at the corners of his eyes.

I was lucky to have been around my father as he was dying. My father recently died as the result of bad luck plus a list of simple functions gone horribly wrong all at the same time. The last time I saw my dad was on a recent New Year’s weekend in the front room of his house. He was a flesh colored shadow of himself stretched out on a rented sick-bed and swaddled up in starchy, hospice linens and course white blankets. We spent the whole day together, him slurping popsicles and thickened water, watching hours of old cowboy movies on a cable channel devoted to the ways of the wild, wild west. We talked some, but not a lot, as was normally our case. Dad’s ten o’clock bedtime rolled around and he balked at my mother’s orders to get some sleep. He said we two were going to drink some beers and wait up to see in the new year. We watched the ball drop together, Dad sipping his beers thickened so that he could swallow them.

On New Year’s Day I kissed my father goodbye for what turned out to be the last time I would ever see him alive. As I turned to leave him he said, “Jon, we don’t talk much and that’s okay, because we have ambiance.” His love bullseyed me. His goodbye silently signaled that his love for me had never been about being more or less than that for my other brothers. It was instead some exotic brand of love that was distilled with a father’s craftsmanship exclusively for me. My father died a short time later and when we memorialized him I mentioned this experience to a roomful of people who were there loving him as much as I do.

My father is dead now, but he is alive in my life. I think about him daily and keep him treasure-boxed in my mind like a favorite cat’s eye shooter, an Al Kaline rookie card, or a hot new Beatles forty five. Priceless and precious litle boy stuff. Our connection remains silent and strong. How could it be otherwise? We forever have our ambiance.