Bidding farewell to The Admiral

12 03 2012

Seen here in a 2007 photo from my wedding on the bridge of the Enterprise at the Star Trek Experience (formerly located at the Las Vegas Hilton) is my father, Red Holloway, wearing Starfleet Admiral’s garb as he gives my hand over to my husband.  It was a wonderful day for all of us and nobody had more of a blast than my Dad.  He was not even a Trekkie and had no idea what he was getting himself into, but cheerfully joined in the craziness without so much as a second thought.

My 84-year-old father passed away on February 25 after several years of renal failure requiring thrice-weekly dialysis, most recently complicated by a series of strokes that occurred over the previous three months.  Despite valiant initial efforts at rehab and recovery, he left us in his sleep after a mere two days on hospice care.  Over his final weeks, he had faded away slowly — gradually spending more hours asleep than awake and finally not eating enough to sustain himself (while steadfastly refusing offers of tube-feedings and other extreme interventions) — and I believe his passing was peaceful.

Like a Starfleet Admiral or any other thrilling fictional character, my Dad always seemed larger than life to me.  He was a professional musician whose career kept him on the road hobnobbing with famous people and visiting exciting places around the world for over 60 years.  I wrote in his funeral program that he “came and went through my life like a comet, leaving a trail of stardust on my ordinary existence” because that was how I saw him in my early years:  always dashing off to the next adventure, doing things a kid like me could only dream of.  Then came a period of resentment as I sought to understand why it was necessary to give so much of himself to strangers instead of to me.  But finally there was acceptance after I began to carve out my own place in the world and came to understand what it meant to create an identity and goals, then bust your ass and sacrifice anything-and-everything to achieve them.

Eventually we developed a friendship that both of us found special for probably the last 30 years, one which saw us exchange confidences, give advice, gossip, share laughter and even occasionally travel together.  After having seemed the absentee father who I thought too busy to give me my due, he later showed up for every important occasion of my adult life — my college graduation, my medical school graduation, my wedding — which more than made up for the misperceptions of the past.  And we found similarities in ourselves which could only have come from nature rather than nurture, and we realized how these qualities bound us together as family:  our passion for new experiences, dedication to achievement, fierce independence, levelheaded “no bullshit” approach to life, outspokenness (perhaps too much sometimes) and relentlessly optimistic joie de vivre.   I realized over time that these were my inheritance, my Dad’s greatest gifts to me.   As much as oxygen, they have sustained me over the years and will continue to be my life force forever.

So instead of writing about my training plan and how well I did (or did not) adhere to it in the past few weeks surrounding my Dad’s passing I wanted to put forth just a few words about him, since this has been the main focus of my existence in the last month or so.  Next narrative I’ll get back to mileage counts and cross-training efforts and angsty tirades about my old body refusing to keep pace with my childlike mind.  For now, I will just bid The Admiral farewell and let the world know how I will miss him for easily the next million years.  But I will continue to forge onward in the fashion which would make him proud:  attentively, dedicatedly, and with gusto.


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