How Do You Say Goodbye to the First Man You’ve Ever Loved? [PHOTOS]
This is probably the second most difficult thing I've had to write as an adult -- next to writing my dad's obituary.
My dad, Dennis Gentry, passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Oct. 6. He was nine days shy of his 66th birthday.
He'd battled issues with his pancreas for the past nine years. He almost died with the first pancreatic attack, but after months of recovery, which included not being able to eat food directly -- only with a feeding tube -- he returned to his normal, active self. He only needed to take enzymes when he ate.
Four years later, he suffered another pancreas issue. It resulted in what should have been a four-hour surgery, but ended up taking nine hours. Acid bile from his first pancreas attack had melted his internal organs together. The doctors had to separate each organ in order to figure out what was what. They removed a piece of dead pancreas, his spleen, a piece of his colon and gall bladder. But he once again recovered and returned to his active self.
At this time last year, he started having issues again. He had a stint placed near his pancreas. A few days after the procedure, his heart started acting up, so I took him to the ER, where they discovered he was in a fib.
It's been a yearlong battle with having more stints placed, removed and his lungs filling up with fluid because his body couldn't process fat. Finally he was put on a nonfat diet. He lost an extreme amount of weight in the last year. Before his death he weighed around 120 pounds. My dad is taller than I am and I stand 5-foot-9. He's a good 5-11.
I was in Las Vegas the morning my dad passed away. My brother had to make the phone call to me. I just remembering sobbing. I couldn't say anything.
My dad was with his sisters, my aunts Bonnie and Karen, when it happened. My aunt Karen travels from Arizona every year at about this time, and they had rented a cabin in Oak Harbor. My dad ate huckleberry pancakes for breakfast that morning. That's what he was about -- family, spending time in the mountains, huckleberry picking, hunting and trying to find mushrooms.
My dad loved singing and playing his guitar. One of my favorite childhood memories is of me sitting on his and my mom's bed while he played the Eagles' "Take It Easy." I love that song to this day.
He fostered my love for baseball. I remember sitting in his red Chevy pickup listening for hours to Mariners games. I would curl up next to him on the bench seat. Usually, I would fall asleep at some point. My 9-year-old self didn't know at the time that the voice I heard was Dave Niehaus.
He scarred me for life from wanting to have anything to do with hunting. I think I was around 5 years old when the movie "Bambi" was released. I remember crying when Bambi's mom was shot by the hunter. I remember my mom telling me that I couldn't go outside and play one day. She didn't tell me why, just that I needed to stay in the house. Well, what happens when you tell a child not to do something? They do it. I sneaked outside without her knowing. I remember heading toward my swing-set and seeing a deer hanging from my swing-set. I screamed and started yelling, "Dad killed Bambi! Dad killed Bambi!"
My dad sang the song "Butterfly Kisses" at my wedding, which made him more nervous than me when he getting ready to walk me down the aisle. He was worried about crying while singing. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, but he managed to keep it together -- barely. There was only one part where his voice cracked a little.
He did lots of stuff with his grandkids -- took them to baseball games, the speedway, fishing and hiking.
His birthday was Sunday, Oct. 15, so it was only fitting that we celebrated his life on that day with a party. My dad may not have had a lot of money, but he had so many people that loved him.
How do you say goodbye to the first man you've loved?
I loved him beyond words, and I don't know how I'm going to get by without him.