One Sentence

by james mathias / 2011 / personal

My dad died. He was 57, he fought cancer and cancer won.

The Reno Gazette gave him a single sentence. One sentence. Fifty-seven years distilled into a single series of small facts. Surely this is not what becomes of us after we leave our bodies. Just a small inconsequential sentence in a small paper in our current town.

He wasn’t the best man to ever live, but he was nowhere near the worst, and so I thought I might give him a few more words in remembrance. And you gentle reader, if you could be so inclined, maybe you could say a small prayer for the man, so that he can rest in peace and move onto the next.

Dale Allen Mathias, was born in Germany, on a US Army base. He lived in Kentucky for a time. California most of his life, Arizona for a short period and he died in Reno Nevada. He had a younger brother Glen and an older Sister Lee. He attended high school in Oakland California about which he once told me, as one of very few white kids at school, “You put your stuff in your locker, look both ways and run.” This was the man’s humor.

He met Michelle “Mik” McClain in a pool hall in the 1970’s. Together they had me James Allendale, then married. After they moved out of Oakland and into Quincy, California my sisters Magdalena Ayn and Sarah Adalea followed. I went to kindergarten in Quincy, I fell down the stairs with my mom, broke my nose in the backyard, I cried as hard as my mom did on my first day of kindergarten and I remember my dad left me a note about how proud he was of me and that he loved me. Back then he was my hero.

He loved fish. He loved science. He was strong and capable and brilliant. He once saved a fish from certain death, by preforming surgery on it, he made the papers, he was the Fish Doctor. He was funny, though often crude. He always provided, we weren’t rich, but we were fed and clothed and always sheltered. He loved us. I loved him.

He wasn’t the best dad. He had flaws and anger issues, he was an alcoholic and drug addict, he spent time in jail and rehab. I hadn’t spoken to him in nearly ten years when I found out he was sick.

I called him, he answered and he told me about how jail had changed him and he was clean, he sounded proud, I was happy to hear it. He was on his way to get some Angel fish, he loved fish.

I told him I forgave him, I said to him “I miss you old man.” He choked up and returned the sentiment.

You see, even when I stopped speaking to him, even when he did bad things and wrong things, even at his worst, he was my dad. That hero from thirty-two years earlier, the man that always carried a recent picture of me in his wallet, the proud grandfather that never treated my wife with anything but love and respect. The man that took my entire family in, providing shelter, and food and money for not just me, but all three of us when I had my own personal demons surface at twenty-four.

My Dad taught me to be a man, through example. He taught me work ethic, responsibility, and how to provide. He taught me to learn everything I could, how to b.s. with the best of them. He taught me all kinds of bad habits and traits as well, but without them and him, I certainly wouldn’t be the man I am today, and I know at least four people that really love the man I’ve become.

Dad, I never stopped loving you. And I will always miss you, and I hope in our next lives we get to hang out.

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.

Salvador Dali circa unknown