Happy Birthday Dad
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I know there's been things written about Dads lately on the blogs out there. I still read them all every day. I'm sorry that some of you didn't have the kind of relationship with your Dad that I had with mine. I'm also sorry if you're tired of reading about my Dad, move along now if you don't want to read it, because I've still got a lot to say. One day I might begin to not miss him and not want to write about him any more, but I highly doubt it.
This Friday, my Dad would have been 74 years old. It doesn't seem possible to me that it's been 7 years now that he's been gone. He was only 66 when he passed away on February 9th, 2003. We had spent years worrying about and wondering how long he would last, then, it was over in a second.
My Dad worked nearly 40 years for the same company, a major Oil company, through the booms and the busts and, when he took early retirement during one of those busts, he and my Mom moved back to our home town of Bixby, Oklahoma. They bought a big place with several acres and he immediately went about setting up his garden. He was very proud of that garden and with good reason. The soil around Bixby is known state-wide as the "Garden Spot of Oklahoma" and his garden, like the others in the area, produced excellent fruits and vegetables.
Just a short time after he retired, he began to get sick. Of course, he wouldn't hear anything about going to the doctor, that's just the way he was. (and the way I am today because of it) Finally, after a few months of problems, he got down and couldn't function. My Mom called my Uncle Leon, Dad's brother, and asked him to come down and help her get him to the hospital right then. Leon practically had to carry my Dad out to the car and they went to the hospital.
In the coming days, we learned that his kidneys had shut down and he had been living in some serious pain for a while. The doctor even told us that had he not gotten to the hospital that very night, he likely would have died at home that evening. Living with your kidneys shut down is a difficult burden for everybody involved. He had to go on a new, very strict diet, which meant my Mom had to pretty much live on that diet as well. He also had to drive to the hospital three times a week (at the start) for dialysis.
Dialysis works pretty well, at least at the beginning, but after years and years of being on that machine, you realize that it is killing the patient over time. All the people that my Dad met at the hospital, already on dialysis, died off, over time, one by one. My Dad lived longer than most and eventually had a dialysis machine at home, which he spent upwards of half a day hooked up to, not being able to travel or do anything resembling actually having a life. My Mom, by proxy, had no life for those several years either. She spent most of her time looking after him, making sure he was comfortable and helping him function on a daily basis.
So, eventually, after years of treatment and numerous trips in and out of the hospital, he finally went in for the last time. We had made the trip over there that weekend and I spent Friday night and most of Saturday with my Dad. He wasn't himself, but he knew me, for sure. I could tell by the way he squeezed my hand and I could see it in his eyes.
Saturday evening, we had a snow storm blow through Tulsa and it dumped 5 or 6 inches of snow on the ground. My Mom had spent the night at the hospital with my Dad and I got up early Sunday morning, picked up coffee and joined her around 5:00 am. Dad was sleeping and appeared peaceful. We even pondered going home that afternoon, since I needed to get back to work on Monday.
By the time the nurses showed up and started making their rounds, we could tell that something was not quite right. Dad was laboring and he was very obviously not comfortable. The doctors came in and gave us the news that we did not want to hear. If there was any family close that would want to see him again, they better get here fast.
I called my Uncle Leon and gave him the news, then I ran to the parking lot and drove back to my Mom's house, through the snow, and picked up my wife and my two daughters. We made it back to the hospital with barely any time to spare. Everybody hugged Papaw one last time and then I grabbed his hand, one last time, and he opened his eyes wide and looked right at me....and squeezed my hand as hard as his frail body would allow....and he was gone. Just like that.
It was as if he was telling me goodbye, I love you and take care of your Momma all in one last instant.
They say that you are never really ready for somebody close to you to die and I can vouch for that saying. We had 6 or 7 years to prepare for that morning, we knew it was coming, and still, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to prepare you for that moment. I sat there in that hospital room for a while, stunned beyond belief and I honestly didn't know what to do. I couldn't believe that was over and I was never going to see my Dad again. That stubborn old man who had given me so much throughout my life was not going to be at the other end of the telephone when I called home any more.
Soon enough, we had arangements to make and all sorts of things to take care of. Things and aranagements that you never dream you'll be making for your Dad, at only 66 years old. Mom and I muddled through the best we could and over time, we've both gotten a little better with it. Oh, I still miss my Dad terribly, as does my Mom, but after 7 years, you become a little more jaded about it......except for the day he died every year......and his birthday........and their anniversary.........and every time I go to visit her and I take my little tour through my home town either starting or ending at the cemetary, depending on my mood.
My Dad wasn't my best friend when I was growing up. I wish that he had been, but now, at 44 myself, I know why he wasn't. He was preparing an immature teenage boy for the real world the best way he knew how. I've often said on this blog how hard a man my Dad was, and he was, but knowing what I know now, he was simply telling me "I Love You" the only way he knew how.
I wish this was a riverbank, instead of a grave yard,
I wish we were sitting and fishing and this wouldn't be so hard,
It was my favorite thing that we used to do, but now we can't,
I wish you were here and I wish this was a riverbank.
Happy Birthday Dad. Mom and I and the girls still love you and still miss you like crazy. If you get some time this weekend, I'll be fishing at Fort Cobb Lake, I sure hope you can join me.
posted by GaryC @ 5:00 PM, ,