Goodbye To My Dad

Bob Urlocker 92 a

My phone rang just past 7:30 this morning. It was my sister. Even as I jolted awake, I knew the reason for the call. For the last two years, we knew it would come one day. I expected the call to come from 407 area code, from Village on the Green, the assisted living facility where my father lived. They'd tried to get me earlier, but the call bounced and they continued down the line and got hold of my sister.

Karen had sent an email yesterday evening saying my father had symptoms of a stomach flu and went to bed early. She had spoken to him and said he didn't sound good. That wasn't like him and I hoped it wasn't Covid. Apparently he'd coughed up blood. When they did a room check on him this morning, he had passed away. 

Bob Urlocker Karen GreggHe turned 93 a couple of days ago. My wife and I spoke to him on his birthday and he was in good form. He said he was still young compared to a lot of people at Village on the Green. But he didn't want to live to 100. I'd had that conversation with him a few times. He was ready to go and had been for some time. 

He slowed down in recent years, due to neuropathy in his legs that reduced his mobility. By 2017, he could no longer golf. He stalled for six months, but agreed to move from the house on a golf course where he had lived with my mother for more than twenty years to an independent living facility. We'd hoped he might be willing to move to Michigan, Ottawa or Arizona to be near family, but he wanted to stay in Florida where he had friends. He'd also had enough of winter.

Bob Urlocker GermanyI'm grateful we got to spend a lot of time with him in recent years. My mother passed away in 2006 and we'd taken my father on trips to China and San Francisco. He also traveled on his own to Alaska, Germany, Poland, Israel, Australia and New Zealand. 

My wife and my sister helped him pare back his belongings to what would fit in a two-bedroom apartment. He was fine with whatever they got rid of, but he didn't want to see it. He was happy to get an apartment on the ground floor near the dining room. He knew other residents there from his church and was engaged in many group activities. 

The facility was in lockdown for several months during the pandemic, so his 90th birthday was over Zoom. Once we got vaccinated, my wife and I flew down to see him. He was in good spirits, if a bit less sturdy on his feet. When we left, I said to my wife: the biggest risk is he's going to fall and break his hip.

Israel 2023-07-04 at 11.41.05 AMTwo days later, he called me from a hospital for that very reason. I flew back to Florida the next morning and my wife and sister joined a few days later. We stayed together in his apartment and despite the travails of rehab, there were a lot of laughs. My sister spent the better part of two months with him.

I managed to visit my father every few months during the last couple of years. Surprisingly, he managed a good recovery. My father was hard working and resolute. Whatever life thew at him, he took in stride. But time takes its toll, and the neuropathy continued its course, eventually leaving him wheelchair bound. We also learned that he had Parkinson's. And there was a noticeable deterioration in his short-term memory. 

My father had always been an avid reader and I would load his Kindle with Len Deighton, John le CarrĂ© and Philip Kerr novels. Sometimes he remembered the stories from the past, but he enjoyed re-reading them. It broke my heart when he gave up reading. My brother and I had finished writing a novel but he could no longer retain what he was reading from one page to the next. I think he was proud of us, but I'm sad that he never got to read the work. Did it measure up? Did I? 

Bob Urlocker Christmas 2022 moustanchesThe last few years, I knew it was just a matter of time. I tried to be a good son to my father. I would get him to talk about the past, about travel we did as a family out to Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Lake Ontario. His world kept getting smaller. He didn't leave Village on the Green. He barely went outside. He stopped doing email. My wife and I introduced Wordle to some of the residents of the assisted living facility, but without us being there to coach them, it didn't take. 

I last saw him in March, on a solo trip that overlapped with my sister's last visit. Meals at the assisted living facility were hard. My father would sometimes close his eyes and nod off for a moment. Without my sister or wife in the dining room, conversation was pretty slow among the other guests. If you could get them to talk about their past there were some fascinating stories.

Zack wekiva springs alligatorBut after you've heard the stories enough times you can repeat them yourself and eaten the same food five days in a row, you can get a little antsy. To stay sane, I developed a few rituals. I would run and swim at nearby Wekiva Springs State Park. I would get BBQ from Four Rivers Smokehouse. I would have a local Funky Buddha beer at dinner. Sometimes I would play at the blues jam at The Alley in Sanford, Florida. I love my father, but it is an ordeal to see someone you love fade away. 

I often thanked my father, and my mother before she passed way, for raising five kids. They gave us good values: hard work, integrity, curiosity, respect. Everyone thrived and no one went to jail. There were some years in my late teens and early twenties when things were strained between us. My older brother Shawn and I duked it out to see who would be the black sheep of the family and, ultimately, he won out. I reconciled with my parents in my late twenties one Christmas when we all gathered at my sister's house in Ottawa. 

Bob Urlocker graduationMy dad studied chemical engineering earning a bachelor's degree from Queens University and a Master's Degree from University of Toronto, despite missing a year of school due to scoliosis. He was born in the depression and neither he nor my mother had an especially easy upbringing. My father was a strict Catholic, but as he grew older, I was glad to see he was liberal in his views. He understood the difference between those who do good and those who wield religious dogma against others.

My father had a career in the world of chemical engineering working for Liquid Carbonic, Air Liquide and then switching industries to become GM of the Canadian Division of American Air Filter, a manufacturing company. When he came to visit us in San Francisco one time, my wife brought him to the Zendesk office and I learned to my surprise that my father had worked as Product Manager early in his career. I guess the acorn doesn't fall far and all that. 

Bob Alaska 5When American Air Filter was acquired by a larger manufacturer Allis-Chalmers in the early 1980s, my parents moved from Montreal to Louisville, Kentucky. They made a lot of friends there and really enjoyed the community.

In 1989, my father made one final switch to become CFO of a semiconductor testing company CTL located in Florida. I am not sure he was well suited to that industry. After a few years, the founders wanted to move in a different direction and so my father retired. Thirty years later he told me not to tell anyone that he had been let go from his last job. I told him I was sure the statute of limitations had run out on that, that he'd had a good career and he shouldn't worry about it. Good advice for anyone.

After my father's retirement, my parents traveled to Russia, Macedonia and other countries where my father worked with a non-profit organization as an advisor to help local manufacturing companies modernize their operations. 

As much as I hate Florida in the summer, I had been planning to visit my father in August. But now, plans have changed. My wife and I are heading there tomorrow. There will be paperwork to be done, arrangements to be made, people to see. There were still a couple of cans of Funky Buddha in his fridge when I visited in March. Maybe I'll get some Four Rivers BBQ. And if I'm lucky, one last trail run and swim at Wekiva Springs State Park to say my final goodbye. 

Bob Zack Gregg China 4In these situations, you always wish you had one more visit, one goddamned more phone call, please, just one more time... But it would never be enough. He was ready to go and I'm glad that he didn't have to deal with a lengthy illness. He lived a good life, he cared about people and he left a solid legacy through his children and grandchildren. My mom will be glad to see him.

So, if you find yourself with family and friends this holiday weekend, cherish the moment. And if the spirit takes you, raise a glass of Jameson in my father's honor. No doubt, he will do the same for you. 

Official obituary at / Orlando Sentinel

PS. Feel free to post positive vibes or any special memories as a comment below. Thank you!

Mary bob 1956

Bob Mary Urlocker wedding

Bob China garden smile

Bob Zack China boat

God Bless


It was on July 4, 2006 that my mom passed away, and so I've had a year to think about it, accept it, and sometimes forget that she's not around.  Just a week ago my wife was showing me some handbags for sale at a charity event and I said "My mom would like that one."  It was a kind of wild African pattern and she probably would have liked it.  But it was still a weird feeling to think of her in the present when she has already passed.

I still get occasional emails and postings on this site.  I hope it can be a valuable resource for others, either people who knew my mother or those who have cancer in their family.  I've written about as much as I ever want to write about cancer for a while, so for new visitors I have marked a set of posts below as highlights.  These are the items that I think may be most useful for anyone trying to understand the process or sort out their own feelings.  I encourage you also to leave your comments on the blog by clicking on the comments link below any posting.

God bless everyone.  Think of my mom today.  And God bless Mary.

Note: I inadvertently let the domain name TuesdaysWithMary expire, breaking many of the links to photos and posts.  I have fixed these now. 

You can view the site using the navigation at the top and on the left hand side, or by using


External Resources

Fade Into You


I had a business trip that took me to Orlando for a few days recently, so I was able to spend some more time with my father.  For the most part, he has settled into his life as a single man, though I would not consider him to be the swinging bachelor type.  (Or maybe he has a secret life that he keeps well hidden!)   He's got a couple of regular golf games each week, a small faith group and he goes to the gym regularly. 

Surprisingly, my father has become a very good cook. We had a nice pork loin one evening and a pan fried fish with Bernaise sauce the next.  Both were accomanied by vegetables, potatoes or rice and a fancy spinach salad with walnuts and mandarin orange slices.  Sure beats my typical bachelor meal: chilli from a can and diet root beer. 

I bought my father a digital photo frame for Christmas, so I provided the onsite technical support necessary to install  photos.  I selected family photos from last couple of years including pictures of kids, grand kids, and the last couple of Christmases.  We went through the photos together to make sure he'd be comfortable with them.  I didn't want to trigger painful memories with reminders of my mother's decline in health. 

The evenings get a bit quiet for my father and I know he misses my mother greatly.  Most of the time he is pretty even-keeled, but he gets peeved once in a while dealing with some of the paper work and bureacracy around my mom's death.  Apparently it's much easier to combine brokerage accounts or cancel routine services when you're alive than when you're dead.  Who knew?  He gets pretty broken up at mass once in a while.  It's easy for emotions to get bottled up and then they just leak out at unexpected times.

I can usually keep things together pretty well myself, but everything caught up with me on the drive to Orlando airport for my flight back home.  I got up before sunrise to make coffee and hit the road early.  I've driven the road to the airport a dozen times in the last year alone.  Somehow driving the road by myself at that early hour reminded me of the finality of things.  This was the first time I'd been to Orlando and not talked with my mom.  She was gone and there was nothing I could tell her or share with her.  And then a song came on the radio called "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star from a few years back and I totally lost it. Next thing you know, I've missed my exit and I'm driving miles out of my way, tears in my eyes as the sun comes up.

The song has a haunting, love-torn sound to it.  Hope Sandoval's longing voice coupled with a lonesome slide guitar creates a sound as bleak as a dustbowl.  Or at least, that's how it felt to me.

I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take the breath that's true
I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth
You live your life you go in shadows
You'll come apart and you'll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colours your eyes with what's not there

Fade into you
Strange you never knew...

You can use the links below to hear the song or watch the video. 

Cancer - The Job You Got


The Washington Cancer Institute has a new seminar program on living well with cancer for cancer survivors, family, friends and caregivers.  It's called "Cancer - The Job You Got  - But Didn't Apply For".  The program is all about managing the nurses, doctors, caregivers, family and friends.

The program takes place January 27 (Mitchelville, MD), March 3 (College Park, MD) and May 9 (DC).  The program is free, but space is limited.  You can contact them at the link below or by calling (202) 877-DOCS (3627).

Helping Hands


It's been good to visit with my parents.  I'm glad I've been here able to see my mom and to help take care of her in the final days.  She did better last night, her breathing was easier and she slept until about 3:00 am. We were up for an hour or so, but then I went back to bed. 

Early this morning, my father came to get my wife and I.  My mom was insisting she wanted to get out of the hospital bed and my father made her promise that she would wait until he could get us so we could help her up.  By the time we got back to their bedroom, she had already climbed out of the bed and was standing up on her own.  I'm not sure how she got over the rails on the bed, but she did.  She's always been strong willed!

She wanted to walk a bit, which she shouldn't do too much, but my wife and father (pictured above) helped her walk to the living room so she could have a change of scenery.  I joked with her that she had "broken out of jail."

Later today I will be heading back to California.  My brother Tim will be coming in and then around midnight, my sister Karen will arrive.  It's been a bit of a scramble for them to get flights so I'm glad things have worked out.

My mom's been getting lots of cards and emails.  And plenty of people have brought over food, for which we are thankful. My parents' friend Marie has been over helping out and she is a saint.  My mom said "she'd give you the shirt of her back."  This morning when Marie came over my mom had a great big smile. 

Today I'll help my dad finalize the funeral arrangements so there's one less thing to worry about later on.  It's good to get out of the house once in a while and still be helping. 

Prayer at St Clare's Retreat


Before the sunset Friday evening, I rode out to St Clare's retreat, operated Franciscan Fathers and Franciscan Missionary Sisters.  It's about 20 miles from where we live, mostly up hill.  It's a tough workout, but I needed to burn off some energy.  When I got to the top, I realized I had forgotten my water bottle.  I asked some nuns (Sister Barbera and Sister Regina shown above) if I could use their hose.  They were quite obliging.  Then I asked them to pray for my mom.  I should have asked them to pray for safe travel!

Worried About My Dad

I spoke to my mom from Moscow.  She had gone through her chemo for the week and had a couple of good days.  But she said she's worried about my father.  "He doesn't like to show it," she said, "but he's under a lot of stress."  She asked me to say a prayer for him.

Euro Roadtrip


I'm travelling in Europe on business for just over a week.  I'm in Helsinki, Finland and then I'll be in Sweden, Germany and Russia.  Honestly, it's not as glamorous as it sounds. 

I've been able to call back to my folks to see how my mother is doing.  Today she sounded much better than earlier in the week.  It was a brief call, but she did not sound as out of breath as she has been previously. 

Since overseas cell phone calls are very expensive I've been using a computer service called Skype.  Skype has amazing voice quality and it's free for calling from computer to computer and cheap for calling from a computer to a regular land line.  (Cheap here means about 2-3 cents per minute, which is 50-100 times cheaper than European hotel or roaming cell phone rates.)   You just download the software, register and plug in a headset.  It's really easy.

If you want to see what I'm up to in Europe, you can go to Splashblog and see photos from my cell phone, like the airline food I had on my flight from Munich to Helsinki the other day.  (Click on the photos to see them full size.)

Boston Bound


My wife and I got up ridiculously early this morning to catch a flight from San Francisco to Boston for the Boston Marathon on Monday.  Easter Sunday we'll be having brunch with my wife's family.  Her brother Brad is also running Boston.  There's also a short 2.8 mile "freedom run" on Sunday morning. This will be my first Boston Marathon and it will be Brad's third.

Although I'm not aiming for a fast time (it's unlikely I will win) a marathon is always a tough event.  It takes a lot of physical endurance and mental concentration.  On my hands I usually write a few inspirational words.   This year it's my wife's name, "mom" and "proud".   I'm proud to be running the Boston Marathon and I'm proud that my mom is beating the odds against cancer. 

For those who want to follow the progress, I'm bib 7236 .  I will bring my cell phone with me and post a few photos at the start and along the course on SplashBlog.  There is also television coverage on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) starting at 11:30 am eastern and repeated at 5:00 pm.  Hopefully someone will tape this for me.

One thing that occurred to me while waiting around in Hopkinton for the race to begin is how big the Boston Marathon is.  It has approximately 22,000 people crowded into this little New England town to run into Boston.  And that's about how many women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer.  Maybe there would be more research and funding if people thought of it that way.

The race was tough in parts, but I beat my goal time and was able to speak to my mom that evening and let her know I was thinking of her.

Death of a Friend


A friend of mine and former boss, Mansour Safai, passed away of brain cancer a couple of days ago.  He was very private about his struggle with cancer.  I knew he had brain tumors last year and had gone through some operations and chemotherapy, but Mansour didn't let on a lot more than that.  The picture above is of Mansour and his son Nicolai from a few years ago. 

Mansour's brother Mammad gave a powerful and emotional eulogy at the funeral today, remembering incidents from their childhood in Tehran and their later cross-country drive from Boston to Silicon Valley.   Mansour was truly a rare breed: a technology visionary who cared about people.   He touched many people's lives.  Mansour was the same age as me and that made his death even more shocking.  He was a vibrant man cut down in his prime.