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When a beloved father dies, and the son lives on


Jim Breuer’s dad died in his arms last week.

Breuer, who performs Friday and Saturday at the South Point, had been preparing for years for his dad’s passing from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When the end came, the comedian, his wife and three kids, and other family gathered around Jim Breuer Sr. in their New Jersey home.

“Everyone came and said whatever they had to say,” Breuer said. “My youngest daughter was very close to him.

“I got to hold him the last second, and talk to him, and make him laugh. All the way up to the last breath.”

Jim Breuer Sr. was a lively World War II vet and a Long Island garbage truck driver. He met Sting and other stars through his boy. Breuer Sr. used to go on tour with his son, long ago.

“He was a terror on the road,” Breuer, 47, said with endearment. “I’d come off the stage, like, ‘Where’s my father?’ They’d say, ‘Oh, the wait staff took him to the bar across the street.’

“I’d go across the street. There’d be a crowd. He’d be holding court for hours.”

But then, Breuer Sr. bowed to mortality, and Breuer went on tour without his dad, and it ate him up.

“Every time I went on the road, I was tormented and tortured. I’d go to my (hotel) room and sob, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Should I be with him? Does he have good care?’

“My biggest sobs and crying sessions — I mean, primal-scream cries — were the last seven to 10 years leading up to the moment,” Breuer said.

“It was the fear of, ‘Oh my God, he’s not going to be here one day. Please don’t let him be alone when this happens. Please, I want to be by there by his side.’ ”

In 2008, Breuer, the former “SNL” and “Half Baked” star, took his dad, who was then in his 80s, on the road, dealing with Breuer Sr.’s inconvenience and gruffness, filming their loving bond for the well-received documentary, “More Than Me.”

So last week, they were at home, surrounded by love.

“When the last breath was gone, I just looked at him,” Breuer said.

“It wasn’t even a cry. It was a primal sob. All my fears of that moment were now gone. Everything I hoped for and wished for, happened.

“I held him.

“He wasn’t alone.

“I made him laugh.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Breuer got the chance to tell his dad what he meant to him.

“I was like, ‘You taught me to be a man.

“ ‘You taught me how to face fear.

“ ‘You taught me how to be a father.

“ ‘You said your whole life you want me to have more than you. I have everything. Now I want you to have what I have.’

“I know he was listening.”

At the funeral, there were Navy uniforms and bagpipes.

“I was moved by how many people came to me and said, ‘You two changed our lives. You taught me how to be with my dad.’ ”

But someone else told Breuer he was having trouble even looking at his own near-death father, because of the sadness of it. Breuer counseled him.

“I said, ‘Listen. He’s still there. You don’t think he’s scared? You don’t think he senses that from you? Just go in there. Tackle it. It’s a part of life we’re not taught.’

“We’re trained to make money.

“We’re trained how to be the best we can be.

“But we’re not trained how to live life. Taking it on feels so much better than that stupid phone you have, or that house you have, or that car you’re driving.

“That stuff is just going to be a pile of dirt one day.”

Breuer is back on stage here this weekend. He is excited about his “solid, kick-ass” hour of new stand-up material.

“I went through an emotional roller coaster. I lost my father,” he said. “I’m going to rip it up” on stage.

And he knows now what has passed and what will be.

“It’s death. It’s sad,” Breuer said. “But overall, the cycle of life? Me and him — pulled it off.”

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.