You may have noticed that in last week’s issue of The Loafer, my column was nowhere to be found. That wasn’t a mistake, this was done intentionally. The week that I would have prepared and sent in my column, I was dealing with something.
On May 26, my father, Gary Ross, passed away. It wasn’t sudden, and he passed peacefully at home, surrounded by family and friends. For the past year and a half, my father had been dealing with lung cancer. During that time I was by his side, helping my mother as his caretakers.
For a while, things looked on the upswing for Dad, but then a round of scans showed that cancer had returned in both lungs. More rounds of treatment followed, but nothing was able to stop his cancer. Dad decided he wanted to be comfortable, and he spent the last three months at home, being comfortable. What I’m most thankful for, is that never once did he say he was in pain. But I don’t want to talk about Dad’s cancer, I want to talk about what I remember my father for.
My Dad was from Marion, VA. He and his parents moved to Greeneville in 1961 and they opened a furniture store–Ross Appliance and Furniture–which was in business for 50 years, closing in 2011. My Dad loved auto racing. I can recall so many moments of him either going to see a race at Bristol or watching a race on TV and shouting at a volume that it reverberated all around the house. His excitement over his favorite pulling into the lead by shouting, “Go baby! Go, baby! Go!”
It took my parents 11 years into their marriage to have me; my mother had been told she shouldn’t be able to have a child. She dropped her maternity insurance and along I came in January 1985. The family store had moved into a former grocery store location when I was a baby, so as a kid it seemed like a large, epic place. Since we sold appliances, I got to have boxes that once held stoves and refrigerators become forts and clubhouses. It was magical, and I got to see how much my Dad loved being around people and all the good he would do.
My Dad had the biggest heart of any person ever placed on his planet.
There was an old tractor-trailer in the back of the furniture store. Dad used it to store to old (but good) furniture that we would have hauled away after delivering something new to someone. Dad would stock this furniture and give it away to those who needed it after a house fire, or flood, or some other sad event.
During his funeral, so many people came up to me and said: “We still sleep on the mattress Gary sold us 30 years ago.” It was either the bed, sofa or chair. When the wife of one of Dad’s best friend’s was dealing with cancer herself, her husband told Dad he needed to come and pick a recliner as she couldn’t get comfortable in the bed. Late at night, Dad showed up at their house in the delivery truck with three recliners in the back for them to pick from.
The same friend told a story during Dad’s funeral that I had never heard. A family came into the store to buy a microwave, we were out of them, so my Dad drove home, got his from the house, and sold it to them at a lesser cost. His reasoning being “They need it more than we do.”
That was my Dad. He’d literally give a stranger the shirt off his back. He’d do anything he could for someone who needed it.
I’m going to miss my Dad. I’ll miss his help when I need it when something pops up with my car. I’ll miss his loud laugh that would echo around when he was on the phone talking with a friend. I’ll miss him and his presence. His ongoing desire to do what he can for others every day. It was rough for the last few days. He wasn’t able to communicate, but before he took such a turn, he held my hand and told me how proud he was of me.
I don’t know exactly how to wrap this up. If you’re struggling with a parent who has cancer, or you’ve lost one as well, please know you’re in my thoughts. Cancer is such an awful disease and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Next week I’ll be back with my usual kind of thing, but I don’t know what that will be just yet.
Dad, I love you. Sleep warm.