Saturday, January 17, 2009

December 11, 2008

I have wanted to write a tribute to my dad but have had no idea where to start. I don't know how to describe him, define our relationship, to explain that it was mostly good but not without difficulty. Overall, I choose to remember the good and will the difficult to fade into haziness. His final words to me were full of love and thankfulness and pride. He told me the only things in life of importance were family and God. He told me to never forget how much he loves me. In a very coherent yet "stuck"( because of having suffered a stroke) way, he would repeatedly tell us how much we were loved by him. He would hold my hand and try to kiss me over and over.
My dad had always been a part of my life. In the growing up years, he was home every night for the family dinner that was eaten together. He came to events. We had awesome summer vacations and all of the home movies to document them. He was always encouraging and supportive with never a critical word for me. He worked very hard to provide financially for his family. We never went without anything.
In the married- life years, there were many delightful adult- family times at my parents' lake house with boating, golf, board games and cards. In the grandparent years, he tolerated yet did not embrace his grandfather role. As a result, my boys had obligatory respect and love but no deep relationship with my dad. Quite simply put, he kinda blew that segment of his life. But no one is perfect.
I worked off and on for my dad beginning in high school. Some of those times were good. But, a friend who had also worked in a family business once said , "I had to quit my job in order to get my dad back." Good advice.
September 2008, my dad suffered a stroke. It was a difficult, guilt-ridden time for all of us because his mind was trapped in a body breaking down, and we all knew he could never rehab enough to get home. Through out the long three and half months there was a lot of stress on everyone. One night he dreamed that he wandered outside and was alone and scared. This broke my heart. All he wanted was to get out. I began to pray for God to bring him , not to his condo, but to his real "home" in heaven. This was no life for my dad, a strong man with a steel will from whom I get my determination to never quit. He never quit anything in his life, and I never have either.
On one visit he told me, "I'm not in charge here," and we laughed because my dad had always been known for "being in charge". He finally hatched his escape plan, however, by not eating, and his downward spiral began.
In the midst of three awful months of being shifted from hospital room to nursing home and back again several times, my dad kept a positive attitude and a sense of humor. In the middle of that nightmarish end, he made friends and tried to encourage those around him.
His roommate in his last hospital room before ICU was a young man who, in my eyes, was an angel sent from God. Dad called him "Friend". Friend cared for my dad and got glasses of water for him, and they spent hours one night singing "Blue Christmas" with a silly singing Teddy Bear and were so loud that they prompted even the nursing staff to join the chorus. I got a repeat performance on my next visit. "Friend" whispered to me, "I want your dad to have this bear when I leave." I smiled .
My last visit was in the ICU, I said, "I love you, Dad. I'll see you soon." My three sons, one via phone, my husband and my mom each said our good-byes. I think my dad heard it all but was unable to respond.
I received "the call" at 7:35 a.m. two mornings later. We did the funeral, and I watched his namesake, my second son, place his urn in the ground.
Eighty four years of my dad's life were over. I still have trouble speaking of him in the past tense.

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