D is for Dad’s Death

Les Green was the first black registered auctioneer in the state of North Carolina.

Rescuing a bird

Hmm. I said to myself, “Self, do I really want to do this?” I had a whole ‘nother blog post planned for today. but it IS the anniversary of the death of my father, Les Green. Moreover, it’s the 10th anniversary this very day. You know how those round numbers often hold special significance.

Top picture: Oui, c’est moi de l’enfant.

I wrote about the circumstances of his death five years ago. Here’s the peculiar thing: I misremembered the date that he told us he had prostate cancer! I wrote that he informed us in January 1998, when in fact it was January 1997, during the same trip we had the conversation about spanking.

How could I forget that detail? Easy: as I said before, he was SO cavalier about it. It was as though he were discussing twisting his ankle. No big deal.

And I suppose maybe that’s what he thought. As the Mayo Clinic put it, “Prostate cancer that is detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment.”

In many ways, my dad was pretty remarkable. He graduated from high school – barely, by all accounts – went into the Army in 1945 and 1946. Eventually, he had a number of different jobs, from florist and sign painter to a vice-president of a large construction company. He was rather the epitome of the “self-made man.”

He also played guitar, largely self-taught, and sang. He billed himself locally (Binghamton, NY) as the “Lonesome and Lonely Traveller”. He described himself as a “singer of folk songs”, rather than as a “folk singer”, because his repertoire was not limited to the one genre. Eventually, my sister Leslie and I performed with him as the Green Family Singers for a time.

My back, my dad to the left, at my Grandma Williams’ funeral.

One insight into my father’s behavior involves cigarette smoking. For years, he smoked Winstons; he used to send my sister Leslie and me to O’Leary’s, the store at the corner, to buy them. When I was a teenager, he developed emphysema
and quit smoking. When the disease went away, he returned to smoking, to my transparent dismay. Then a few years later, he just stopped smoking. But he said that he didn’t quit; he preferred the notion that he just didn’t happen to have one for almost 30 years.

Did I ever tell you how my parents met? He delivered flowers as a teenager, and he was supposed to make a delivery to 13 Maple Avenue, but went instead to 13 Maple Street, on the opposite side of town. Apparently, my mother was smitten by this guy bringing flowers, even if they weren’t for her, and he was likewise taken by her.

When he made waffles, he made a big production about how to suss out their doneness. He told tall tales about cooking for George Washington and other historical figures. Whatever leftovers were in the fridge he could turn into a quite delicious concoction he called “gouly-goop”, undoubtedly a variation on the word goulash, though I don’t think I knew that at the time.

My father was very much involved in the civil rights movement in the area. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., there was violence in a lot of American cities, but not in Binghamton, in no small part because my father helped keep the peace.

Les Green was gregarious and personable, but not always at home, which is probably why I ended sending him a pair of letters. Still, I believe that it made things much better between us afterward.

My father always had a plan to get rich. Some of his ideas were workable. Did you know that Les Green was the first black registered auctioneer in the state of North Carolina? But he had, by my mother’s estimation, about 39 different businesses from the time he moved to North Carolina until the time he died in 2000, selling everything from prepaid phone cards to home alarm systems, many of them arguably pyramid schemes. All of his kids rolled their eyes when he signed all three of us – at $700 a pop! – to be distributors of one of his products, without our knowledge. He was lousy at keeping track of money.

He kept asking me – I’m smart, I work at a Small Business Development Center – to find him a way to get rich quickly via the Internet. I kept telling him that he ought to go to his local SBDC, so THEY could tell him the deficiencies of his more quixotic plans.

Probably the best time I ever had with my father, certainly, as an adult, was when I went to the ASBDC conference in Savannah, GA in the fall of 1998. He drove down from Charlotte, NC, and just hung out around town with me and three of my female colleagues, with whom he shamelessly flirted, as was his wont.

At Carol’s and my wedding reception, May 1999. Dad did the floral arrangements.

We have a small tribe, and his death made me the alpha male. Heck, with the exception of my niece’s husband, the ONLY male, and has been an interesting evolution in my life. My sisters often send me Father’s Day cards, which initially took me by surprise.

His death at the age of 73, now a decade ago, sometimes seems surreal. I’m STILL looking for an audiotape that my father made a few months before he died where he claimed that he was going to explain to the family what was going on with him, a dialogue with his doctor. I heard a snippet of it when I was down in Charlotte a month after he died, I set it aside, and then it disappeared.

I’m sure this was disjointed and rambling, but such was the relationship I had with my father. I should mention, though, that I love and miss my dad.

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

54 thoughts on “D is for Dad’s Death”

  1. Roger, this was so lovely – and it certainly pulled a chord with me. It is approaching the anniversary of my own Dad’s death, August 13th. It was the Wednesday he died – so tomorrow I will be tracing the events of the day. Like you I loved and miss my Dad. (((Hugs)))

  2. Roger,

    What a heartfelt and warm tribute to your dad. Thanks for sharing both the photos and the words. Someone once told me when my mother died that when a parent dies it changes one’s place in the universe.

    ABC Wednesday Team

  3. Well done, Roger. Yes, it’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years….I miss him and love him too. Thanks for sharing about our interesting, intriguing, intelligent, talented, gifted, caring, flirty, fun, mysterious, wonderful father. He truly was a man before his time, and what a rich heritage he left us. We were truly blessed to have him as our father,lovingly referred to as “Dear Old Dad”, our mentor, and later..our friend. His spirit lives on in us, and all the people he touched, and there were a lot. And I am sure he is still organizing some group, or some project or Chairperson of some Board in “That Great Gettin’ Up Morning”….Thanks again. Love, Leslie

  4. This was a wonderful tribute to your extraordinary father. Very interesting and touching all at once. Neither of my parents are still living and these anniversaries do hit hard. In some ways for me their birthdays are when I am the hardest hit by loss.

  5. This is a beautiful tribute to your father. I enjoyed the stories. Especially the not quitting smoking, but just not having one available. Funny guy! Your father lives on in these wonderful memories 🙂

    Have a great rest of the week!

    Hood Photo Blog

  6. Roger, a heartfelt tribute to your father.. thanks for sharing.. he was an extraordinary gentleman i think!

  7. A beautiful and wonderful tribute to your wonderful father and, like Carver, I found it interesting and touching as well. I guess I always feel a little wistful when I hear children speak so lovingly of their parents as I was never close to either of mine. I was an only child and felt as though they continually looked at me as though wondering where in the hell I’d come from. Fortunately, my own children don’t feel that way about their Dad and I and for that I’m extremely grateful! Thanks for sharing this with us today! Have a great week!


  8. Thanks for being transparent and giving us a glimpse of your life and your Dad’s.
    Its a touching tribute to a very complex gentleman. I’m glad things were mended and you have tender memories.

  9. This was a very touching tribute to your Dad. It also reminded me that my son died six years ago. It is always so sad when our family members die, they may be gone, but never forgotten. Nice D post today.

  10. A moving tribute in words and pictures of a full life. My father has long gone but I still miss him.

  11. Wonderfully put, Roger. Interesting that I always look forward to your posts and today find out your sister’s name is the same as mine. My Dad died at noon September 21, 2007, with only me there. I felt very privileged but it was also a very hard moment. About a month later, I was out for a walk when the presence of both my parents came to me (I know it sounds weird, but it did happen) and I think it was just to let me know that they were finally reunited. Have a wonderful day of memories. God bless.

  12. Wow, what a nice bunch of memories- I hope it was a positive catharsis for you. I find the best way to keep a person “living on” is to share them with others- and I appreciate you sharing your father with us 🙂

  13. Roger, thank you for daring to share this with us! I loved hearing every single morsel of the story of your dad. My mother died in ’97 (terrible year, I say) and I STILL miss her to this day. My dad is still alive, but the clock is ticking. Each moth that goes by, I am surprised and delighted to not have received ‘that call’. I DREAD that day.
    Your dad left quite a legacy behind!
    I hope you find that audio tape. Perhaps your dad was instrumental in hiding it.
    Here’s to 10 years gone by.

  14. Memories are such a comfort, Roger, and you have many warm and touching memories of your Dad that must make you appreciate your great life with him. He sounds like a very attractive and loveable person…

  15. Thank you for sharing this intimate insight in the life of you and your dad. And even though it’s been ten years: sorry for your loss!

  16. Aww, so sorry for your dad … but whereever he is now I’m sure he’s the proudest dad ever … but what is more interesting is that how they met … wow same name of street … the only difference was the avenue and the street I love that ….

    My ABC Wed here

  17. Oh Roger, this was not rambling…this was such a precious tribute I almost feel I’ve met your Dad. Thank you for sharing so from your heart. It’s been over 40 years since I lost my Dad to the same decease. I still miss him.

  18. Hi Roger. Well I didn’t expect this for the D week. When your blog opened up and I read “D is for Dad’s Death” It surely hit a cord with me. My Dad just died. I did read all of your memories, and looked at all of your photos. Thanks for sharing this.

  19. An undeniably wonderful tribute to your dad. Poignantly beautiful. I’m glad you chose to write this, it somehow helps to know that others miss their dads as much as I miss mine.

  20. What a talented and versatile man your father was. Such a wonderful portrait of him that you painted for all of us.

  21. My dad past away when I was 18. It was his birthday last Aug 5th. Somehow your post reminded me of my dad… thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  22. I’m glad you decided to share this Roger. A very touching tribute to what sounded like a wonderful man. My thoughts & prayers are with you today.

  23. Hi ROG!
    Thank´s for sharing this with us. It’s a subject we like to avoid otherwise. I miss my father to ….

    Annelie E
    ABC Wednesday Team

  24. October 28, 1999. You never forget do you? My dad was 73 and there had been little or no sign of any ill health (other than the natural sort of winding down that happens at that age) when he died of a massive heart attack.

    From the photos, and what you’ve written, I think your dad must have been a wonderful man to know. Thanks for sharing a little bit of him with us.

  25. Hi Roger! This is the greatest tribute ever written to a father! He must have been a great personality! He was the same age as my husband, who was born on 23rd 1926 and died on 9th November 1999. He also had cancer. I am sure that your dad will be missed as much as my children miss their dad.
    Thank you Roger for telling about your dad.

  26. From a guy I know (in blogland) and respected whom I don’t know and meet in person this tribute to your Dad is remarkable!! I so love it and it makes me teary eyed. I also loss a Dad 21 years ago and I know how it felt to missed one. Thanks for sharing! Happy Wednesday!

    ABC Wednesday~D

  27. Thank you and Leslie for sharing your father with all of us. I hope we all join him “in that great gettin’ up morning.” Wish I could’ve heard you all sing it!

  28. Your post was both touching and uplifting. Never an easy gig to lose a parent and then there’s that ole’ anniversary reaction to deal with every year. Nicely done–take care.

  29. What a loving tribute to your father. What an interesting man he must have been!
    I lost my dad 38 years ago and I still think of him often, especially so on those important dates. Just like today is my Mom’s birthday – she died 2 years ago.
    thanks for sharing such a caring triburte.

  30. What a wonderful tribute to your late dad. Mine passed away almost 30 years ago and I still miss him sometimes. I was pregnant with my first child then and felt sad that my sons never had a chance to meet their gran dad.

  31. He sounds amazing, interesting, actually reminds me of someone I once knew rather well, a self-made man, entrepreneur, always seeing riches around the next corner. Hard to live with, perhaps, but who’s perfect, right? I feel privileged to have been invited into this world. Thank you.

  32. It may be disjointed, but it is heartfelt. I have never really come to terms with the life and death of my dad, the memories of whom grow fainter day by day but return in dreams when I least expect them.

  33. Nicely shared. For all their faults, when a parent dies I think that is when we pause and really take a look at the person they really were. Unfortunately while they are alive, there’s family muckiness that tends to get in the way. It’s not until we miss them that a more honest picture comes to light. My dad died the beginning of December, in 1992. I think of him often and wish he could have seen his great granddaughter!

  34. Aah, what a lovely, loving post! I think many of us have this ‘disjointed’ kind of relationship with our parents, or at least in the emotions surrounding that relationship. My own father died when I was quite young, around twenty – I’m hopeless at dates, and really don’t see the point of knowing exactly when someone died or how old they would have been now, which upsets my mother at times, but there you go, we are so different. I feel that I never knew him as an adult, because I was very immature then.

    You father sounds a lovely man, even if he had some quirks. Full of life, and just plain interesting! Prostate cancer … yeah, it’s a strange one. My BIL died from it, my OH has had it and survived. Need to catch it early, that’s for sure. Sorry you lost him through that.

  35. I got some goosebumps while reading your story Roger….what a wonderful tribute to your dad….thanks for sharing….:)

    thanks for dropping by btw….have a good one!

  36. I very much enjoyed reading the blog about your father and agree with all the wonderful feedback you’ve received. I am so glad I had the chance to meet him in Savannah those many years ago(I was one of the flirtees – is that the correct term?). He was a charming and articulate man. I treasure the sketch – a landscape of sorts – he made for me while we were sitting at the bar during one of the interminable conference receptions. Hold on to those memories….

  37. I loved your blog today. I especially loved that your father was recognized to be a real person, not some perfect ideal, in your memory. My parents weren’t perfect either but they were good people who did the best they could. We all learn to better by our experiences. I’ll go ahead and say it – you look like your father, especially in the younger pictures. And that’s a fine thing – I look like my mother. Wishing you blessings! Pat

  38. I enjoyed learning more about the wonderful man that helped make you the awsome dude you are! thank you.

  39. You have the gift of remembering (even if you occasionally get a date wrong), which helps keep his spirit among us. It’s amazing the small details and memories that come spilling forth over ten years. Amen to Les!

  40. Roger-this tribute to your Dad was beautiful. I remember him mostly with his
    guitar in hand and always singing. He always treated me like family an I did
    not know of his passing until Leslie spoke of it recently on FB. What wonderful memories you all have of him…God Bless and thank you for sharing.

  41. Hey Roger…. Beautiful tribute to your Dad….

    I remember him well. Ironically, my Dad’s included in the picture at your Grandma William’s funeral.

    Dad’s are wonderful and very definitely missed. Cherished memories are what keep them still alive for us, just in a different form.

    Thanks for sharing

  42. Prostate cancer is the leading cause of death in men. It doesn’t matter what treatment you seek out, robotic, surgery, or hifu, at least do something about it before its too late.

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