Sunday, April 27, 2008

Robert E. Bittner, 1927-1988

My dad passed away 20 years ago today.
He fell ill in December 1987 and began to lose weight rapidly, but his doctor consistently misdiagnosed what was wrong-- until it was much too late.
Dad had colon cancer that went to his liver.
By the time they found that out, it was impossible to do much more than give him some drug treatment and hope for the best.
He died on April 27, 1988.
One of the most painful experiences in my life was getting a call from my mom asking me to hurry to Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank. I was in Neptune, working for the Asbury Park Press, at the time. It didn't take long for me to log out, sprint to the parking lot and hit 70 heading north.
I got there about five minutes too late.
Mom and Rob were with Dad when he died; Beth arrived a few minutes after I did.
It is excruciating to lose a parent, because you lose all the time you might have had going forward.
Dad never:

  • saw his daughter get married;
  • held any of his grandchildren;
  • met my wife;
  • went to foreign countries with my mom (who did just that on her own, for several years);
  • got to enjoy retirement;
  • knew things would be so different without him.

He was a remarkable man. A lifelong musician (he played trumpet and loved jazz), Dad was:

  • a teacher,
  • a World War II US Navy veteran (served in the Pacific on a destroyer-tender),
  • an expert wood carver (he made me models of the B9 robot from LOST IN SPACE, the Starship Enterprise and more, all out of wood),
  • a master landscaper,
  • a draftsman (he loved to design prospective retirement homes),
  • a writer (he had a fine way with words) and much more.

I could write about Dad for hours, but will leave off here.
I love you, Dad, and I miss you.


Peter Nixon said...

I definitely remember the trumpet and his jam sessions with Lou Skeen and others. I think I even remember a gig they played at the Tinton Falls County Fair. I also seem to recall he was the author of a handbook for AFM local union secretaries. It had a yellow cover and a loose-leaf design. Funny what you remember.

I've often reflected on how lucky you were to be surrounded by music growing up and how increasingly rare that is these days.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Anonymous said...

My memories of your Father are to many to mention. I always remember one thing my Father said. "He knew more about music than anyone else he knew".I imagine they're playing at some great gig in Heaven.Cheers to him.

Drew said...

Hey guys,
Thanks-- I'll probably send this post back into Draft (didn't mean for it to be "out there" until the 27th) but am glad you saw it and commented.
It's an anniversary and Mom is having a struggle with it.
Thanks again for your thoughts and memories of Dad. You two are my best friends for a good reason.