He was Jack every day of his life.
But John Ellis was his given name, as it is, at least in part, mine as well. Eldest sons on the Coe-side of our family have bounced around in naming between Percy and John, Ellis and Taylor, for many a generation.
Like all good dads, he was full of stories. And lessons. Patience. And advice.
He died yesterday. Peacefully. In my mother's arms, his wife of 52 years. It was beautiful. And so sad. The way death should be.
And he had everything ready. The bills. The insurance invoices. The bank statements. All of it. We weren't surprised by this, as we looked through his desk. But we shook our heads and smiled,
"Somehow, he knew."
"He had to have known."
It was like him not to have said a word.
I'm going to miss him terribly. His stories. His advice.
His dirty Saturday T-shirts. His well-worn, deeply imprinted backyard flip-flops. The scent of his cologne. His Brylcreemed hair. The way he said, "John," whenever he got on the phone with me. How he always seemed so genuinely pleased to spend any amount of time with my wife and, most especially, our daughter. His compulsion to talk to his dog. The way he never really needed to be with anyone other than my mom. How he mourned forever the loss of his old Corvette. The way he would perseverate over the clarity of the water in his pool. And speak broken farm-hand Spanish to the crew who cut his grass. Or select just the right song for a given context, and sing with great accuracy every word of the lyric.
Wise men say...
I aspire to be a dad such as he was, and hope to be remembered by my own kid when my time comes to shuffle off, with the same sort of sincere affection and abiding, poured-out sense of loss that I feel for him.
He said to me, in a private moment during his recent hospitalization, "You know, John, my story may not be ending the way any of us would like it to. But don't forget, it's a happy ending, nevertheless."
Here's to happy endings, Pop.