Writing about a celebrity who has passed away is easy. You report the facts, list some of the things that made them special to you. And that's it. But how do you write about your own father? There are so many tiny things, a lifetime of things, that only matter to yourself, so many things and instances that make someone who they are or make you love them.No one else can ever understand what he meant to you, even if they feel the same about their own father.
The 'facts' are these: Dad was born in Kentucky in 1923.He was proud to be a 'Hillbilly'. His mother died when he was a baby, and he was raised by aunts and grandparents.
|Dad at age 10, in his father's tie.|
|Dad in front of the wash houses, Bar-le-Duc, France, around 1945.|
|Mom and Dad|
|Dad holding me on my pony, with my sister and her pony,1964.|
My parents divorced when I was small, and at 12 I moved to live with Dad. I never wanted to live alone, and I felt no need to leave home until I married at 27 and a half. (It was my home, after all.) I didn't think I'd ever find anyone.My Dad wisely said,"I knowed you was going to marry Ken." I asked him why, and he said, "Because you went out with him." I had never gone out with anyone until Ken. Not that I was asked out very many times anyway, but 'dating' didn't interest me. I only wanted there to ever be one guy and I wouldn't have gone out with Ken unless I already had feelings for him. Dad knew me pretty well. I saw my dad cry over 4 occasions: when his brother died, when my mother died, when our hamster died, and when I got married. I cried too, since I cry at everything, happy or sad, and the picture of him walking me down the aisle shows us both in tears.
My dad wasn't perfect. In fact, sometimes he was downright impossible to live with. He could be moody, and I swear he was bipolar. But he could also be wonderfully silly. He had a generous heart. He was always there for me when ever I needed him.(When I was pregnant with Emma he came over before I got out of bed every morning and brought me a bowl of cereal, so I didn't get up without food in my stomach, because we had been told that made morning sickness worse.When I was in the hospital about to give birth to Emma he was constantly in and out, bringing lunch to Ken, and bananas for me.He was obviously very nervous and the bananas were an excuse to come in and see how I was doing.)
|Dad, and me. I was pregnant with Emma. Christmas, 1990.|
|One of my favourite pictures, Dad, me, and Emma,Emma's third birthday party, June, 1994.As usual, Dad has his party hat on top of his regular hat.|
He sang silly songs and did silly dances.He could play a little guitar.He loved the music of Sam Cook,and George Jones.He was a pest control expert who knew all about insecticides and how to get rid of just about every bug. When we were kids he made walking toys out of a wooden spool,a stick, a rubber band, and soap, and the wind-up equivalent of a whoopie cushion out of a rubber band and a washer, and some long forgotten objects. He played basketball in school and he loved the Boston Celtics.
|Dad, in one of his Boston Celtics hats,with Emma and a new baby Fuzzy, 1995.Our red hair came from Dad.|
|Easter, 2007. It rained, so we had to have the egg hunt inside. We hid some of the eggs on Dad.Ivy is searching him for eggs here.|
Eight years ago he got pneumonia, and was diagnosed with dementia, which I had suspected for some time. When he recovered from his illness he was no longer able to live alone. He came to live with us,and our roles reversed. It was time for me to take care of him. I did alot of fighting for Dad, to get him the proper care,etc. When his dementia worsened his doctor's told me it was time to send him to a nursing home. But Dad sat there begging to go home, so I took him home. He lived with us for 2 and a half years, until his dementia reached the point where he needed to be watched 24 hours a day. It broke my heart to put him in a nursing home, but it was no longer possible to take care of him myself. I would have needed a staff of several people. To Ken's credit,he was the best son-in-law ever, taking shifts with me to watch Dad 24 hours a day for a few weeks until Dad entered the nursing home.
I really feared the nursing home. So many people just fade away after going in. But Dad wasn't a quitter. He spent nearly five years in the nursing home, and would have turned 91 on the 21st of June. His dementia worsened over those five years, but I am thankful that up to the end, he almost always knew who we were. He stayed mobile up to his last week,walking the halls, and talking and joking with the staff around the nurses station all day. His nursing home staff were a wonderful group of people.The last few days a constant stream of staff came into his room to see him off, and some even kissed him goodbye. Many of them confessed to breaking the 'no favourites' rule with Dad. I would have believed they said that to everybody, but their fondly told stories of him and the tears in their eyes suggested it was true.
I also feared his death. I thought I always wished for him to just go quietly in his sleep, not knowing, and for me to just receive a call from the nursing home telling me it was all over.I thought that would be less painful.It didn't happen that way though, and I'm glad it didn't. We knew for a couple of months that it would be coming,even though we thought we had more time. In the end I spent most of the last 4 days, (and all of the last 3), with Dad in the nursing home,feeding him while he could still eat,holding his hand, and sleeping next to his bed on a stack of mattresses so he wouldn't ever be alone. My sister and I were there when he just stopped. It was, of course, one of the hardest things I ever did, but it allowed me to have no regrets. I spent the last eight years taking care of Dad, and I finished my job all the way to the end. Knowing it was coming and being there for him made the end easier for me. I had time to prepare, and grieve in slow motion for months. By the time it happened,I was running low on tears, having been using them for so long already. My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly, and the pain was so much worse. I never got to say goodbye, and I think that made it harder to bear. With Dad I had a chance to let him know he was loved, and I was there to make sure he didn't have to go alone. I was even able to do one more thing for Dad, and act as a pall bearer, something I would never have thought I could have done. I think he would have appreciated it.
I feel somewhat lost now. Even though he didn't live with us throughout my childhood,I've never been without Dad, and we were so close. I can't imagine never seeing him again. This is going to take an awful lot of getting used to.