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My dad would be 67 today. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2002 from complications of diabetes.
He was born to Alonza Melvin and Ruby Grace Hope Melvin. He was the oldest of five children and took care of his younger siblings while his parents ecked out a living as farmers in south Georgia. He was 6’6″ and, for most of his youth, was skinny as a beanpole. Dad said that when he went into the Air Force in 1960 that he weighed in at 170 pounds.
Later, after I was born, he ballooned up to around 280 and it was during this time that he was diagnosed with diabetes. It ran in his family – his grandmother and mother both had it and his brother was later diagnosed. The first 20 years, it ran largely unchecked – his docs gave his grief about it and my mom nagged him incessantly about his weight and eating.
About 5 years before he died, he stepped on a metal hook at work. It didn’t bleed and his company nurse determined that it didn’t require stitches. 3 weeks later, he was near death. While the wound didn’t bleed, it went quite deep and became infected and this was exacerbated by diabetes. After several weeks, gangrene required the removal of 2 toes – I called them the ring toe and the bird toe.. think about it, you know which two they are.
6 months later, a mere blister on his heel progressed to the point that he required removal of the leg up to 2 inches below the knee. At the same time, a heart rhythm problem that my dad had had since birth. For most of his life, it was dormant. Something that the doctors monitored but otherwise caused no problems. However, the double attack of unchecked diabetes and serious illness accelerated the problem to near heart failure. Other diabetes related diseases came then including kidney failure resulting in my dad being put on dialysis. Dad was also put on a waiting list for a heart/pancreas/kidney transplant.
Dialysis put a strain on the heart and isn’t as effective in diabetics so it must be done more frequently for longer periods.
My dad’s heart wasn’t strong enough and on June 28, 2002, he went into cardiac arrest and died.
My dad was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. He read extensively. My dad believed in careful thought before stating a belief. Therefore, it was incredibly hard to change his mind about something.
My dad taught me to never be a sheep – because sheep are sometimes led to slaughter. By this, he meant don’t just follow the crowd, make sure it’s the right thing to do.
He was a proud man and I know he was proud of me.
I miss you daddy.