Honor Thy Father

“Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”  ~ Richard Bach, Illusions.

My father was born in Brooklyn April 1, 1925, son of a devout Irish-Catholic mother and an English dad who was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Ronald Coleman Greene was a good boy; he was honorable, happy and respectful. His military family moved a lot, including a stint in Southern California, which he loved. So he returned to San Diego when he was mustered out of the army after the war, and that’s where I was born.

Dad boxingRon was a little guy, but he took up boxing in college and his amazingly-quick reactions earned him the prestigious Golden Glove. His trainer wanted him to go pro, but he declined. Fast forward a few years and you’ll find him managing a car wash, and every night when he comes home his three munchkin kids grab his legs and shout, “Daddy, how many cars did you wash today?”

The car wash gig put food on his family’s table and him through school and into his own business. He became a commercial artist and opened a sign shop, back in the day when signs were hand-lettered. He was good, and his accounts included the fledgling real estate company Coldwell Banker. He craved the autonomy of that vocation because he never did cotton to having a boss … um, something I inherited from him.

My father had patience beyond measure. He was a man’s man who could tease my mother’s friends while their husbands all held him in high esteem. He was the best dancer ever, a fact that made my mom fall in love with him first, I think, along with his sense of humor.

He retired early and took up a new hobby; building remote-controlled model planes. A million years ago my nephew and I told him that when he died we’d load his ashes on his favorite plane and fly it out over the ocean at Point Loma – where his parents were laid to rest – and blow up the plane over the deep blue sea he loved.

“All right,” he said. “I guess somebody better learn to fly the plane.”

But when he passed late in 2012 we didn’t follow through, of course; we barely had strength to deal with our grief.

For months before that my Dad’s body was declining, but his mind was sharp and intact. His kidneys began to fail and he grew more fragile week by week. He was testing the veil between this world and the next. I imagined him shedding his body at night and flying around the bedroom, trying out wings that would soon enough carry him away. He was evolving into an angel before my eyes. That vision made it easier for me and happy for him.

Together, my parents moved through the inevitable final process with grace and dignity. They still had the ability to laugh. They showed no fear, no anxiety or drama. I’m deeply grateful for this lesson: While my father was dying, he taught me how to live.

Julie, Molly and DadMost days I practice acceptance that’s he gone and relief that he will find his heavenly body strong again. My heart tells me he crossed over to find a waiting crowd. I imagine my childhood dogs and cats there to meet him, standing beside his own mom and dad, long gone now and probably more than eager to see his face again. I see him laughing with a host of good friends who passed before.

Bea is there; I bet she was thrilled to see you. Judy and Ken. Mr Goertz and Michael Holderer. Hug them for me.

Thanks Daddy, for your infinite patience. Thank you for the days and years of toiling without complaint on all the horrid distressed properties I’ve bought and repaired and sold. But most of all, thank you for holding me while I cried. So many plans have not worked out the way I’d hoped, but the challenges helped form the woman I am, and I hope you’re as proud of me as I am of you. You were a good son, a good husband, a good friend and a good father.

Dad and Molly on the beachWhile my Dad was fading away, all I could do was watch and love him and wish him well on his journey. And let him go.

All I could do is let go, and wonder: Who will I be without my father in my life?



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42 Responses to Honor Thy Father

  1. David April 1, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Wow – powerful story. Thanks for sharing that. My dad was well respected but passed when I was very young. He still had a major influence on me, but more by reputation and standards. You were blessed to have him in your life and able to be as supportive for so long.

    And your opening quote is more than hope. I have met mine again since and we’re occasionally in touch. It’s a long story, but I’ve found that life is more like a chapter in a much bigger saga we share with many of the same players. Love is a bond that connects long after someone may seem to leave.

    Who will you be? Who you’ve always been. 😉

    • Molly Greene April 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      You are such a good guy, David. It was hard for me to write this. And yes, I do believe that this physical life is just part of an ongoing saga, and that we “hang out” with the same souls over and over again. Thanks for reminding me!

      • David April 1, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

        Thanks, Molly. Hard to write, yes, but healing for yourself and for readers.

  2. Lorna April 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful post about your dad, Molly:-) Sorry to hear about his passing. Sounds like he was a great dad. My dad passed away in September 2012 and I still miss him everyday. Sending hugs and prayers your way Molly…

    • Molly Greene April 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      Ah, my heart goes out to you, Lorna, because I have a really good idea how you feel. Hugs to you too, my sweet friend.

  3. Wendy April 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Quite lovely. And touching. Reminded me of the death of my Daddy when I was just nine years old, with less true memories w

    • Molly Greene April 1, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

      Thanks, Wendy! Like David said, I was so lucky to have my father as long as I did.

  4. Larry Crane April 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    A fine tribute to a fine man, Molly.

    • Molly Greene April 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      Thank you so much, Larry!

  5. Katherine Carol April 1, 2013 at 4:32 pm #


    I loved this story and the pictures are wonderful. You closed it up with a haunting question which most of us ask and I suppose, we eventually find the answer.

    Celebrating you and your dad.

    • Molly Greene April 1, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Thanks so much, Katherine. It takes some rethinking, doesn’t it? We all know that everything changes in this lifetime, but some changes are harder to navigate than others.

  6. Lucy Lit April 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    What a beautiful tribute! Makes me want to go hug my dad who is getting up there in years & who I see declining in health. As to your final haunting question, you will be a living testament to the love and influence of your dad. Continue to make him proud!

    • Molly Greene April 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

      Lucy, go hug your Dad! life is fleeting. And thank you so much for the lovely comment!

  7. Debby Gies April 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    Thanks for sharing that Molly. I can well identify with you as I lost my dad 23 years ago, he was only 55 and died suddenly and while he was on vacation as if the death alone wasn’t enough. I can certainly feel your writing. I love following you and all your work you put forth and always look forward to your next articles.

    • Molly Greene April 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Debby, my condolences about your father – I was lucky to be able to say “good-bye” to mine … and thank you so much for your support!

  8. Tony McManus April 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    I was so very moved, Molly. You’re a sweetheart and I thank you so much.

  9. Amy Kennedy April 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Thanks Molly. You have wonderful memories to hold him close. Those are dear. And I’m glad you’re thinking of the people he’s with now.

    • Molly Greene April 2, 2013 at 8:28 am #

      I’m blessed in many ways – thanks, Amy!

  10. Belinda Pollard April 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Molly, I can’t believe our fathers had the same birthday! My Dad was born 1 April 1931 — 6 years younger than your father. My Dad had a cheeky sense of humour, and always delighted in being an ‘April Fool’.

    We were very close, and I lost him suddenly in 2008. Months of dehydration followed, with all the tears I wept.

    The edges on the grief do soften as the years pass, but it can still reach out and grab you in strange ways. When the Aussie chocolate company that made Dad’s favourite dark chocolate ginger went broke last year, I had a ‘grief attack’ that had little to do with confectionery… it was like losing one of the remaining connections with my father. They’re weird, those little grief attacks, and you never know when they’re going to ambush you!

    I’m glad you had such a good father (so many people don’t), and it makes me give thanks again for the wonderful father I was blessed with. May you be healed and comforted, and thank you for sharing your special relationship with us today. 🙂

    • Molly Greene April 2, 2013 at 8:30 am #

      See, Belinda? I knew we were sisters in another life – sounds like our Dads were very much alike, as well, and we were lucky to have had them. I’ve been thinking about you lately, hope all is well on your side of the world, and thanks so much for your lovely comments!

  11. Pat April 2, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    Molly, what a beautiful tribute to a remarkable, self made man. I see where you get your feisty spirit and spunk. You have reminded me once again of my fortune being raised by a good man. Your post makes me want to hug my father.

    • Molly Greene April 2, 2013 at 8:31 am #

      Patty, go hug your Dad for me!

  12. Cindy April 2, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    Molly, I hope I have as much grace and grit as you do when my dad starts to slow down. He’s still burning rubber in his red Corvette!

    • Molly Greene April 2, 2013 at 8:32 am #

      Cindy, one thing I didn’t mention in my post was that my father had a soft spot for cars. So glad to hear your Dad is enjoying his!

  13. Ellen M. Gregg April 2, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    A lovely, poignant tribute to your Dad, and to you. Blessings to you both.

  14. Laura Zera April 2, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Simply beautiful, Molly. xox

  15. Holli Rioux April 2, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    This was beautiful! I am truly inspired by you!

  16. James L'Etoile April 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Molly, what a beautiful tribute. You were very luck to have him in your life, and he would be very proud.

  17. Hannah Fielding April 3, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    Dear Molly,

    My heart goes out to you. What a beautiful tribute; it brought tears to my eyes as I thought of my darling Daddy who passed away ten years ago and left a big emptiness in my life. God bless you both and be happy, that is what he would want for you. Hugs.

  18. S.B. Stewart-Laing (@sbstewartlaing) April 3, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    What a touching tribute. Your beautiful prose really did him justice–I’m sure he’d be proud.

  19. Emily April 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    This post brought tears to my eyes. My mom has been in the hospital for the past week and a half and she’s been fighting cancer for a few years. Her bravery and sense of humor throughout this battle have left me in awe of her. As I watch my father hold her hand and tell her how beautiful she is in the hospital each day and talk about the trips they have taken together, I have realized that I am witnessing not just true love, but a model for how to confront life’s challenges. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your father.

  20. Meagan Frank April 4, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    Grateful to have found your site, and your writing. I have no doubt your dad would be touched and proud.

    • Molly Greene April 4, 2013 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks so much, Meagan.

  21. Margarita April 4, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    Love is eternal, Molly. It never fades. So sorry for your loss…

  22. Rob Gard April 4, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Lovely. Beautiful. Touching. Most of all, strong and respectful – just like your father seemed to be. This is what writing is meant to lead us to – the parts of our lives others can connect with on an emotional level.

    • Molly Greene April 5, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Rob, thank you so much! Means a lot coming from you and I appreciate it.

  23. Robbie Cox April 6, 2013 at 4:33 am #

    Thank you, Molly, for sharing such a touching part of your life. My parents are still with me and the thought of losing them are hard to bear. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your family.

    • Molly Greene April 6, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      Spend as much time with them as you can, Robbie!