He had a heart attack at forty seven. I was twelve. He was unloading his semi in Lincoln at the time. It just of easily could of hit him somewhere out in the wilderness and that would have been that. There was a trucker on the interstate near North Platte once who had a heart attack, crashed through a fence on the side of the road, and deep-sixed himself and his rig into a nearby pond. Two days before they got him out. The press were told that he probably died instantly. Dad quit smoking after the heart attack. Still eats like he thinks he's a tiger.
Two days after Dad got out of the hospital we were helping my Aunt Sue and Uncle Tim load a U-Haul van for Arizona. Tim has asthma compounded by several allergies so his doctors advised him to move where nothing grows. You'll be glad to hear that he's much fatter than Doc Holiday.
My father of course was extremely weak and of little help to anyone. It was early May, unseasonably hot. My mother has some condition where she doesn't sweat enough so she had to sit down quite often. It was my cousins and I who did the bulk of the lifting.
My father complained all day about being unable to help my mother and not being a man. Toward the end of the day she saw mom straining to help my cousin Richard carry a bookcase to the van so he stood up to help her. He had to be restrained by several family members and it took several minutes of being yelled at by mom before he sat down.
The fact that he had a penis was more important to him than the fact that he had had a heart attack. So far as he was concerned, the fact that my father had a penis instead of a vagina was automatically, unquestioningly, the most important detail in all situations, sexual or otherwise. I remember feeling a deep sense of shock when I realized this; shock and, in spite of myself, a good deal of disgust.
This was the day I learned that the traditional masculine ideal is suicidally moronic and insane. The biggest lesson that my father taught me was completely accidental, in fact the exact opposite of what he intended to teach me.
This is perfectly common and good. My gratitude is sincere.