Thursday, April 13, 2006

In Memory of My Dad

My dad passed away 9 years ago today. This is something that I wrote 2 years after he died. There have been more grandkids born since I wrote this, and I still think about him every single day. I miss him so much.

"I can't believe it has been nearly two years since Daddy died. It happened one week to the day after my son's birth. It seems like an eternity ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had to have an unplanned c-section, so my recovery was more difficult than we expected. Alan was the first grandchild for Mom and Dad, and they had come to stay with us to help out. After a week, Mom went home so she could return to work. Daddy was newly retired, so he would stay another week. My husband, Paul, went back to work that Sunday morning, so it was just Daddy, the baby, and me. We had a quiet morning. I had taken a nap while Daddy looked after Alan. We ate lunch - he had peanut butter sandwiches. I don't remember what I ate. We sat on the couch watching a nature program on television while the baby slept. I left the room for just a moment. I don't even remember why; but the events that happened next, I don't think I will ever forget. I've replayed them in my memory a hundred times or more.

When I came back into the room, Daddy was still sitting on the couch, but he was gasping for breath. His fists were clenched tight and his face was blood red. I called to him and patted his face, but he wouldn't respond. I dialed 911 and asked them to send an ambulance. He was still gasping for breath. The woman on the phone told me to get Daddy on the floor and tilt his head back to help him breathe. Somehow, I slid him onto the floor. By then, he was no longer fighting to breathe, but his face was still blood red, and he took a breath only every few seconds. His eyes were open wide, but he still wouldn't respond when I called out to him. What felt like hours, was probably only a few minutes until the paramedics came. They started an IV, put a tube into his throat, and shocked his heart. They didn't say anything, but I think I knew he was already gone. As they put him into the ambulance, a friend came to stay with the baby and me while my husband went to the hospital. Just a short time passed before Paul called to tell me that Daddy didn't pull through. It was over. He was gone.

Daddy was only 53 years old, but the thing I will remember the most about his life was how he cared for his family. Daddy worked for the same airline for 20+ years and for as long as I can remember, he worked the night shift. It paid more money than earlier shifts, and was easier on him in the summers because he worked outside most of the time. He worked all night, slept during the day, and managed to participate in almost all of the activities of his children. He coached softball teams for my sisiter and me, and football and baseball teams for my brother. He rarely ever missed a game when I was a cheerleader, or a parade when my sister was in a marching group. None of us ever worried about college tuition. The money was always there when we needed it. We all had vehicles to drive when the time came. Not the newest or the sportiest in the eyes of a teenager, but reliable transportation that got us where we wanted to go. We didn't live in the finest, biggest house, nor have the most expensive things, but we were never without attention or love. His father died at age 60, when I was only 8 years old. Soon after, Mom and Dad started building our house on the land where his mother still lived. He thought we should be near Grandmama, and Daddy did most of the work on the house himself. When Mom's father died, Daddy wanted to put a house for Granny behind our house, so we would be close if she needed us.

For a long time after Daddy's death, every time I thought of him, the only thing I could see in my mind's eye was the sight of him on my couch, struggling for breath, dying before my eyes. My father was always such a strong man, and to see him so helpless and not be able to do anything for him has haunted me these last 2 years. But, slowly, as time has passed, I have begun to remember the little things about our lives and dwell less on the events of his death. I remember funny memories from family vacations, he and my brother wrestling on the living room floor, walking down the aisle at my wedding, him holding his first grandchild. I remember him teaching us how to drive his standard transmission, the day I moved away to college, the silly nickname he gave me, and how he enjoyed working in his woodshop. I remember that he loved classic cars, vintage airplanes, world war documentaries, and how he would always bring us all a box of candy on Valentine's Day.

I have thought about Daddy every day since he died. I think about how proud he was of his grandson, and how proud he would be of his two granddaughters that have since been born. I think about how he would still be taking care of us, even though we are all out of the house now. Just after his funeral, I was told of a promise he made to my mother-in-law. He promised to help look after her when my father-in-law could no longer because of his serious heart condition. Daddy was always taking care of his family.

Now I have a family of my own - my husband and our two beautiful children. Children who can drive me to the brink of insanity one moment and bring me to tears of love the next. I spend every moment of every day caring for them, worrying about them, and loving them, just as my father did for us. Many times I have wondered if there was something I could have done that day to save him. I think I know now that there wasn't. I don't know if he felt any pain, or if he knew I was there with him; but I do know that Daddy died like he lived - taking care of his family. I may not have been able to do anything to stop his death, but I hope I can honor his life by being the kind of parent he taught me to be."


Mel said...

Wow. That is extremely touching. I am sorry for your loss, but I am glad you have such wonderful memories.


agent713 said...

What a wonderful tribute!