He was the epitome of what a father should be:
- Stature: He was taller than me.
- Strong: He could lift things right over his head.
- Smart: He knew the answers to a lot of Jeopardy questions.
- Sophisticated: He drank wine, and only sometimes was it in a box.
- Skillful: When anything broke, he could fix it. Car, fridge, bike, anything.
My fondest memories of him were probably picking him up at the airport. My dad would work in other parts of the country, and sometimes other parts of the world, and my mom would count down the days to when he would be getting home. The day he arrived was an event. My brother and I would bring our newest toys to show off, we would sit excitedly on the ride to the SLC airport to pick him up, we would even go past the amazing diorama displaying the layout of the airport complete with miniature planes. We knew exactly where to go and where to wait for him. We had that airport memorized. And all the people would walk off that plane and somewhere never quite in the beginning, and never quite at the end, he would pop his head out of the pack. His handlebar mustache and cowboy hat were always a dead giveaway. He would kiss us all with his prickly chin and scruffy stache, hug us while smelling of some other city on some jacket I'd never seen, and then I would carry one of his bags for him (which wasn't always a chore when it had wheels, that was bonus fun.)
Throughout the years my childhood admiration faded, I grew to know him for who he was and the adult choices he made. He broke the hearts of every member of my family one by one, and sometimes all at once. He abandoned his responsibilities and abandoned his blood relations, on numerous occasions. I can never really describe what he did wrong, it was always more of a matter of how he did wrong. If you look back on all the things he did to make the family upset, it would seem that we are all petty for complaining about such small things, but it was every single instance of every single small thing that ever took place which compiled into the very thing we grew to despise about him over the years; complacency and neglect, not your average father qualities. When I would talk to him on the phone (while he was in another country) he would never try to stop and see where I was coming from, trying to be the diplomat for the stranded family in the states. He would only ever defend himself incessently and never hear a single word I said. I stopped talking to my dad in 2002, fed up with his lies and excuses.
On June 16th I was told my father was diagnosed with Myeloblastic Acute Leukemia. My co-worker looked it up on wikipedia, he said I probably shouldn't read the details. Apparently it can be contracted by coming into contact with high levels of some substance, which I assume (and hope) was a result of years in the tunnel engineering and boring business. I wrote him a (long) letter before he went in for the chemo. Even after all my anger and frustration, I couldn't let him leave without saying something. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of leaving thinking I was ungrateful or misunderstood him. He understood.
He remained in Bolivia, his home since 1999, and spent the last few weeks of his life going through chemotherapy and laying in a bed in a hospital. I spoke to him on the phone, but he couldn't talk back. I could only hear the breathing machines and faint grunts and sobs while I said my goodbyes.
Antony Ivansmith passed away on July 21, in the evening.
So here we are, complicated. I've spent the past seven years or so determined that I would hate him and I would never care if he died, and yet things are complicated. I'm still mad at him for what he did, and I don't imagine I will ever not be mad any time soon, but that doesn't mean I never loved him, I never had fond memories, or that I'll never cry when I think back on missing the father I actually had, the father I wish I had, and the father I wish I still had.