Inever beat my dad in a foot race.
(NOTE FROM JEFFREY):In celebration of our recent Father’s Day, I am reprinting the column I wrote 12 years agowhen my father passed away. If your father has passed away, please take the dayto remember happy stories and great deeds. If you are lucky, and your father isstill alive, be with him to celebrate, thank him, and tell him you love him.Please.
I said good-bye to my father today. Not just “see youlater,” my dad is on his deathbed.
Death is a phenomena that I believe is controlled by someoneelse. For some it comes in an instant. Others go real slow and painful. MaxGitomer, my dad, has been laying in a bed for three weeks on all kinds of lifesupport. They’ve done every kind of test and biopsy. They put in a pacemaker andtook out several pieces of lung. In the process they cut a hole in his throatto replace the breathing tube in his mouth.
These are referred to as “procedures.” What they do is cutyou open, cut something out or insert something new, and sew you back up. Thenthey heavily sedate you for days and put tubes and wires on every part of yourbody to keep you “alive.” Sound horrible? Looks worse.
Hospitals are not fun at the end of life.
I spoke with one of his doctor’s on the phone who was asmatter of fact as an IRS agent at an audit. He said, “Due to the infection andscar tissue in his lungs, your dad will have to be on some kind of artificialbreathing support for the rest of his life – or he can choose to go on his ownwithout the life support and pass away. That’s about it.”
After being under sedation for three weeks – they intend towake him up and give him a choice of artificial life or death. Which of thesechoices, I ask you, is worse?
I went to my dad’s bedside and told him what was about to happen.Even under sedation, I’m sure he heard me. He kept trying to move as though hewas listening and wanting to say something – anything – a word – a finalstatement. But the machines and the tubes keeping him alive were alsopreventing him from speaking.
So, I began to say goodbye. I called his name and identifiedmyself so he would get a bit of clear from the sedation. He stirred and pinchedmy finger to tell me he was listening. I tried to be upbeat – no crying. “Hey,remember the time you and Arnie played touch football against me and Michael -and you ran around and I couldn’t catch you? That was the last time we raced.You always won.” I started to cry.
I reminded him of visiting day in 1960 when parents came tosummer camp for the weekend to visit their children. The camp counselors playedagainst the fathers. My dad came up to the plate and hit a ball out of thefield of play and over the tennis courts. The counselors gave him an ovation. Iwas so proud. My dad was the best of all the other guy’s dads.
And fathers want the same for their sons. To be proud ofthem. In one of our recent conversations he said, “Sonny boy, the old man’sreal proud of you.” I just said, “Thanks, pop,” but inside I was as fulfilledas possible.
Now in the hospital, I’m by hisside at what may be the last time we communicate. I thanked him for his wit andhis wisdom. I told him it was OK to choose to die, that he would come backagain. All the good ones return in some form. I told him that he had once againtriumphed – bringing the family closer – even when he was helpless – and I washelpless to do anything about it.
I wonder what happens in the last seconds. Is there thisrapture? Does the soul depart the body? Does it rise? Are you judged for yourdeeds in this life and given a ticket for the next? Do you choose?
My brother Josh cleared it up for me. He said, “There are noanswers, only questions.”
Max Gitomer was a master salesman. The kind that madefriends, made people laugh, gave them confidence, and kept people as friendsfor years after the deal was done. He was the best kind of salesman. Max was awarrior. A never quit, never-stop-trying sales warrior. He knew what it took tomake the deal happen, and had negotiating nerves of steel. He learned thoselessons from his dad.
My dad never let me come to him with a problem unless I alsohad my version of a solution. He never actually said I was wrong in my thinking- he would just say, “You got it all figured out, son?” That always meant therewas more thinking to do.
“You know what I hate about your old man?” my buddy Dukesaid to me one day. “He’s never wrong.” Duke loved my dad and hung on his everyword of advice. So did I.
“Don’t offeranything you wouldn’t be willing to accept,” Max would always say after hesealed a deal. I learned a lot from my dad. His ways, his philosophies, and hishumor will forever be intertwined with mine.
Max Gitomer died late last night. No more pain, no moretubes.
The passing of a parent always brings to mind the stories ofgrowing up.
Like the time he drove from California to New Jersey almostnon-stop. Got to my house at one o’clock in the morning and walked in thebasement by the pool table.
We had a pool table in our housegrowing up. My dad way unbeatable.
As kids he would play us formoney, win our allowances, and offer us advances to keep playing. Well, since Igot my own table, I had been playing every day. I was sharp. “Shoot a rack?” Icasually offered. “Sure,” he said. Here’s a guy that hadn’t had eight hours ofsleep in four days. I knew I would finally have my day. Score: Max 14, Jeffrey1. I never beat him in pool either.
I have grown up and become a salesman, like my dad. He gotto watch me make some big sales. Over the past few years I have become a salestrainer and a speaker. Max got to watch a few of my talks. I always did my bestwhen he was in the audience. And now, in his new position as guardian angel, hegets to come to all my speeches.
I am sure that he will be there – somewhere.
Like any 52-year relationship, there were good times andbad. Like any good student, I learned lessons from both. And in the end, I gota chance to tell him I love him and kiss him goodbye until the next time.
I am sure there will be a next time.
And as for this time – my dad was proud of me. What elsebetter can there be? What finer gift could you wish from your father?