My dad has been gone eight years now. This year I didn’t remember on the day. I was so focused on preparations for Yessa’s birthday weekend, the 7th passed me by.
When I did remember, it was with the peaceful realization that as more time passes, I’m able to remember more and more of the beautiful, generous, kind parts of Dad. I mentioned this to Mom, and she sent me this lovely story:
Did I ever tell you that when your father and I were dating I told him how I hated waking up to the alarm clock. He got up early every morning to call me so I wouldn’t have to wake up to the alarm clock. Because I had to be at work 1 1/2 hours before he did, he really went out of his way to do this. I had forgotten all about what a special thing that was. It’s nice to remember the good things.
Dad really was an amazing mix of infuriating and fascinating. His children were devoted to him, while also wanting to throttle him about 80% of the time. He used money as a snare, but he also would have gone to the end of the world for any of us.
When he had some teeth pulled in what ended up being his last year of life, my two living brothers and I, plus Mom, all sat in the endodontist’s office for the hour of the surgery. It was absolutely befuddling to the staff.
“Why are you all here again?”
They weren’t used to people treating dental work like it was open heart surgery.
Of course, we all went through open heart surgery with him a couple times, too. We were well drilled in the art of hospital sitting.
Through example he taught us the power of hard work, the intense satisfaction of a job done well, and that worry is a demon that will steal your soul if you let it. He fought back against addictions, but the voice in his head never ceased.
He was mowing our yard in his last year, and when I ran out to tell him good bye before leaving on an errand, he looked me in the face and said, “Jennie, I’m so scared.” He knew he was getting sicker and weaker, and this was a problem he couldn’t out-work.
He was often tired and sore and scared, bruised in spirit, and never truly able to hear how much he was loved and appreciated.
Offering surprising opinions was another of his skills. He’s the one who suggested Buddie and I move in together after we were engaged. I was living with two male college friends, and I think Dad knew that Buds and I were driving back and forth between our apartments late at night. That made him more nervous than having us live together.
Despite having been in the Air Force, he was scared to fly. Yet, when he found out we’d offered George and Kathy the opportunity to go to Italy with us, he told them, “You should go. You may never get a chance like this ever again.” He didn’t want the adventure, but he could support it for those he loved.
The peace of his last five days are what draws me to doing hospice work sometime in the future. To be able to have him at home, being visited by those who loved him, and cared for by those who were closest to him was so wonderful. With dementia from the spread of cancer finally giving him peace of mind, it was a beautiful death. Not everyone is given such a blessing.
I am mostly sad for what he has missed watching his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the rest of his extended family, grow and thrive. He cared for so many, so much.
Despite the frustration and infuriation (I made up a new word there.), I will never forget the many, many lessons Dad taught. I am eternally grateful.