It's been a rough week.
My stepfather Terry went into the hospital midweek. He was having a number of problems all related to his sense of smell getting messed up. Everything smelt, and eventually tasted, terrible. He didn't much eat or drink as a result, and he wasn't by any stretch a young man. All the stresses added up, and before a couple of days had passed, his body gave out. He died very early on Thursday morning, when the sky was just getting light and raindrops were on his hospital room window. It was a peaceful death--what a little mercy that is, as if it makes up for dying.
I had a good number of fathers and father figures over the years, and Terry was by any measure the best of them. My stepfather for a decade and a half, he was a profane, foul mouthed, dyed in the wool union man (the ILWU: International Longshore and Warehouse Union). He never had much time for (or liking of) reading, but he was proud that I was a writer. Mostly he fooled around with his Mustang (the longest love of his life, at more than 40 years) and fussed with his house, and both loved and annoyed my mother, as a good partner should. One of the first times I met him, when we had a moment alone, he shared a painfully funny story that is perhaps too dirty for common audiences, and so I'll leave it be except to say it was probably not the sort of thing you should tell your lady-friend's son on the second occasion of meeting him. (It didn't involve my mother at all, but rather an entirely different woman decades earlier.) It set the tone of our entire relationship, and it was wonderful.
The last couple of years, he was getting old. Actually old, not just in numbers. He was on a lot of different pills for this and that; he'd had a stroke; both of his shoulders were shot from years of hard work. He was, sad as it is to say, less than he had been. We all expected that he would continue on in his slightly cranky, slightly bemused way for a good number more years. That wasn't to be.
No matter what had happened, he still loved me fiercely, much more, I think, than my actual father ever did. And I loved him very much. He was a magnificent bastard, and I will miss him.