Monday, September 21, 2015

My father, Bob Shetterly, died last night

No need to offer condolences. Dad lived life on his own terms and came very close to dying under them. While I have some regrets, I'm generally content.

He had wanted to die on his farm and had a bottle of pills on hand that he intended to take if he ever thought he could no longer live unassisted, but a neighbor found him after a heart attack. He spent his last weeks at the clinic in Tofield, where Mom died. He always hated hospitals and nursing homes, but if he couldn't die at home, that was probably the next best place. He died last night between being checked on by the nurses.

My niece was surprised that he went so quickly after being admitted. Emma's mom went quickly too when she knew she could not go home again. They were both strong-willed people, and if I filled out the death certificates for them, under "cause", I would write, "cantankerousness."

My dad and I always had a difficult relationship. I respected him enormously, and loved him too, but I don't think I'll cry about his death. I'm a little sorry a great psychiatrist never got a chance to study him, because I suspect he was either the best sort of sociopath or unusually autistic. He always tried to do right by others, and so far as I know, he never lied. He could be extremely charming, but he had no interest in conforming to anyone's expectations, and he always lived very simply, wearing old clothes and eating cheap food. He had an extreme sense of duty and a great discomfort around emotion—he didn't like to be hugged and I don't remember him telling anyone that he loved them. He had no use for pretensions of any sort. He was an atheist for as long as I knew—my first regret now is that I never asked him when he became one—and I am sure he died one. I could tell you things I hated him for, but in the larger scheme of things, they weren't important. He was a flawed man like any man, but he was ultimately a good man, and maybe a great man. If you want a slightly—and only slightly—romanticized version of him, read Dogland.

Here are my main blog posts about him:

In the 1960s, he ran a tourist trap in Florida: about Dog Land, the place, and Dogland, the novel

And he was involved in the civil rights struggle: Bob Shetterly, the only liberal in Levy County

He and my mom and my sister moved to northern Ontario, where he crashed two planes, but only one was written up in the National EnquirerCrashing a plane.

He is probably the oldest solo circumnavigator.

In 2004, he wrote a letter to my very conservative brother about American politics.

My life would've been easier with an easier man for a father, but all things considered, I was incredibly lucky that he was my dad.

ETA: My niece just informed me, "Edmonton accepted his body for science. They should be picking him up today or tomorrow." No memorial ceremonies are planned, but I'll probably toast him this evening, and the next time I'm near a large body of water, I'll toss in a rock or sail a paper boat in his memory.

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