A 20-Year Anniversary I’d Just as Soon Not Have

My dad, Edwin Charles Baur II, died 20 years ago today. It was not a surprise. He told us about three years before that he had been diagnosed with ALS and probably had about three years. (It was the same phone call in which I learned mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Great day, huh?) He fought it on his own terms and on that night when his body stopped breathing, his heart beat on for another five minutes.

Dad and mom were always a close couple. It’s a cliche to say, but it’s absolutely true that I never saw them fight. I honestly can’t recall much if any in the way of disagreements and certainly no fights. They were as close as any couple I’ve known. And as their conditions progressed they actually grew closer. Dad became mom’s contact with the world, she became dad’s hands.

And when he died and mom was living her last year in an assisted living home for people with Alzheimer’s, he was more alive to her than any of the residents or staff. She was talking once to a staff member about him, the things they had done and what he was like. The staff person said, “Your husband sounds like quite an amazing man,” and mom replied, “Oh, he is. He is.”

As one of my sisters said later, “She’s in denial – and it’s working for her.”

Dad was interested in everything. He was occasionally referred to as a workaholic, yet he always reminded us to “stop and smell the roses.” And the roses he grew were sort of legendry in the neighborhood. At the funeral, a lot of people talked about his roses. Also at the funeral were:

– A man who had worked for him, who told my sister, “Your father was the basis of my whole career Whenever I have a problem I ask myself, ‘What would Ed do?'”

– Members of the barbershop chorus he belonged to.

– A young man who had been having trouble in school and life, who dad began to tutor in math and eventually became something of a “life coach” before there were such things.

– And a couple of hundred other people who had touched his life or been touched by his.

He didn’t read music but was a self-taught piano, harmonica and guitar player. He read anything, science, history, . I remember many a long drive where he just wanted to talk about the article he had recently read. One of those drives is why I know – in a very general way – how a laser works. He was also the best storyteller I’ve ever known.

One thing that still stings, that I still feel bad about, is that he died seven months before the whole Talk Like a Pirate phenomenon exploded. Up until September 2002 it was a small, private joke among a few friends. I don’t even know if I had mentioned it to him. I probably did, there were seven years to have shared that, but I really don’t know. But he never got to see that, and I think he would have enjoyed the spectacle.

In explaining the wild ride Talk Like a Pirate launched for me, Tori and my partner, Cap’n Slappy, I often have said, “It’s not the way our parents would have chosen for us to come to the world’s attenton, but when the wave comes up, you ride the wave.”

But I do think dad would have enjoyed it, or at least been amused. Dad knew a good story when he heard it.