Sunday, June 26, 2005

Bob Kramar, from Hommasassa: Good night!

Well - it's June 25th, 2005... it's hard to believe that my Dad passed away on this date seven years ago, at the age of 65 - relatively young these days, but he probably lived harder than a lot of people who live longer. None-the-less, I still miss him.

My Father's health had declined rapidly during the last 5 years of his life. He was a complex man - an electrical engineer, with a passion for poetry, photography, and many bohemian excesses of those with an artistic soul, he lived a rather rambling lifestyle - and a number of factors probably contributed to his death. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but I don't really think that was what took him. He had a voracious appetite for alcohol my entire life - very few thoughts can come to my mind that are not related to how my father's drinking affected his life and all those around him, alienating many including me. On the flip side, my Dad was one of these guys whose presence could be so affable and charming that you tended to forgive them for whatever made you so angry at them - until they did it again.

At the same time, he had a disease called "Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia", or HHT for short. This is a relatively rare disease, and if you have it, researchers really want access to you and your family these days - but no so much when my Father was younger. (My Grandmother Alice and my Uncle Jac had it also).

Basically, the disease is this: people with HHT don't properly develop capillary blood vessels, and so the blood takes its own path through the skin and organs - shunting its way without the benefit of a protected vein. The result is that blood pools and collects in the skin and organs - they look like little red dots. If a "dot" breaks, there's no blood vessel wall to constrict and stop the blood flow, so it puts people at risk of hemorrhaging. But that's only one part of the problem. Many of these "dots" occur in organs like the lungs and brain... so if a blood pool develops inside the lungs, this can actually allow airborne bacteria to invade the bloodstream because they can pass freely into it. In the brain, in addition to blood pooling and making a blood abscess, bacteria can get to parts of the brain and compound those abscesses. Surgery is required when this happens, both in the lungs and in the brain. That's HHT in a nutshell. It's a tough battle that lasts many years - you can't be cured since it's genetic. I lucked out - I did not inherit it.

My Father had surgeries in his lungs, his stomach and his brain from the disease - yet, he kept on keeping on. He moved to Florida after my parents divorced, and remarried a woman named Carol in the mid 1980's - we did not keep in close touch.

My last visit with my Father was in February 1997 - I stayed at their house in Hommasassa, as I headed home from a trip out to Arizona. I had left Philadelphia 2 months earlier to get my head straight after my marriage had collapsed earlier that summer - I was in a terrible state of depression.

Meanwhile, my Father's health had declined terribly - he was unable to walk, barely able to communicate, and apparently pretty out of it most of the time - he would normally stay in bed for weeks.

Carol told me he really perked up when I arrived. He used his walker to come out of his bedroom, wearing a snappy plaid robe; he insisted on getting dressed and wanted to go outside for a walk! We shuffled down the street to a playground - as we passed the sliding board, he insisted on stopping... he eyed the 10 ft ladder, shuffled over to the ladder, set his walker aside and climbed up the sliding board. At the top, he looked down, grinned and slid down the board - this amused him greatly, and surprised me as well - the old guy still had spunk! He said "Don't tell Carol..." (since this was clearly not allowed behavior), and I kept it as our secret until a year and a half later at his memorial.

By all rights, that is where I wish I could leave the story - but I only stayed for one evening. I was overwhelmed by my Father's condition and my own depressed state of mind, and had the terrible urge to flee. The man I knew was no longer the man I knew, and I could not deal with the change right then. If I were in a different period of my life I may have been able to stay and spend another couple of days. When I look back at that, I feel sorry that I did leave, selfish in my flight. As I backed my car out of the driveway, my Dad and Carol invited me to stay - I declined, with a promise to visit later - my last sight of my Father is of him waving forlornly from their front porch. I think I may have broken his heart, and for that I am truly sorry.

Later never came - I missed my opportunity, and my Father's diseases finally took him.

If I could make time run backward, I would return to Hommasassa and stay another February evening.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

It is October of 2010. I don't know if you will get this. I just stumbled across this blog. It hit my heart. For your information, I have HHT also. I have have approx 50coils put in my lungs to stop the blood from going where it is not supoposed to.

Depression has plaqued me too. (most of my life) Mostly when I was a teen & especially when Jac, my dad died of suicide. I am much better now. Mostly because of my wonderful husband, Duke & the 2 boys.
Hope to see you at PJ's wedding in a week or so.


8:51 AM  

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