Friday, December 10, 2010

Requiescat in Pace: Robert J. Johansen, Sr.

I've been away from the blog for a while, being busy with school and all. I would have wanted to come back for a happier reason. But I am grieved to announce that my father, Robert Johansen, Sr. passed into eternity on Wednesday of this week. He was 70 years old. His death came suddenly - though he had been suffering from heart trouble in recent years, and had been "slowing down", he was nonetheless quite active. In fact, he was in Texas at the time of his death, making arrangements to put his home there up for sale. He was having lunch with his brothers when he suddenly collapsed, and he never regained consciousness, in spite of the heroic efforts of the EMT squad.

My Dad and stepmom moved back to Milwaukee 18 months ago, and I count that as the greatest of blessings, because that made it possible for me to spend a lot more time with him than I would have if he had still been in Texas. This summer we were able to go fishing quite a bit - that was one of his favorite things. Sometimes we didn't catch much: my dad always said there was a difference between fishing and catching. But some of my best days with my dad were spent out on the boat fishing with him, whether we caught anything or not.

I just had dinner last Thursday with my Dad and stepmom. I am so glad I saw him then. We had a good evening. As I mentioned, I have been noticing him "slowing down" over the last couple of years. But I didn't expect this, now. I guess he was still my Dad, the man who could do everything, and do it well.

My Father and I at Sacred Heart Seminary, on the Occasion of my Graduation
(all photos may be viewed full-size by clicking on them)

My Dad was my biggest supporter, my biggest fan. He was at least as happy as I was when I learned that I was going for graduate studies at the Liturgical Institute. Over the past year or so, he has said a number of times that he wanted to be around long enough to see me get my doctorate. It pains me to think that he won't even be there for my STL graduation in the Spring.

My Dad was a real Dad. He was there for me. Even when my parents split up, he was always there. He taught me to fish and to shoot and hunt. He was involved with me in my Boy Scout troop. He came with us on camping trips, and all of that. He helped me with my math homework - being an engineer, he had a grasp of math that evaded me. But most of all, he was just there. I could call him and ask him about anything technical or mechanical or countless other things, and he could give me an answer. Over the years he came up with so many absolutely dazzling brilliant projects and gadgets.

He was my genius.

My Dad at Work on His Texas "Ranch"

He loved being outdoors, working on his projects. He couldn't just sit and do nothing for very long. He loved his "ranch" (a bit of hyperbole) in Texas, and whenever I went down there to visit, he always had some project or other that he wanted my help with. I'd grumble sometimes that I was on vacation, but I'd always pitch in. Sometimes I'm not sure how much actual "help" I was, as I didn't always pick up on what he seemed to grasp intuitively about what we were working on. But I was always glad to be with him.

A Closer Shot of my Dad on his Tractor

Last week, when I was leaving after dinner, our last words to each other were "Love you, Dad", and "Love you, buster" (he has called me that since I was a small boy). I am glad those were our last words, but how I would like to be able to talk with him again! I will remember countless things about him, but, of course, that's not the same. I will remember his intelligence, energy, his laugh, even his gruffness. But I will remember his love: that he expressed with words, but even more so with his efforts, actions, and sacrifices.

Love you, Dad.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat ei.

P.S. Funeral arrangements for my father are still pending. As soon as they are finalized, I will post the information.