A little visit…

Gonna put this out there, call me crazy if you want, but….
two weeks ago I lost my wedding ring. Not my original wedding ring but the diamond one George gave me on our 5th. married Christmas, the one he saved a year for and he and dad went to Philly to find. Special, beyond measure.
We tore the house apart. I cried, like a baby. Went to grandson  Jackson’s birthday party and the first thing Valerie said when she saw me was “Whats wrong”.
Spent the last 2 weeks sad. Looked at work, all over the house, the beach house. Its gone. My ring is gone.
Today is the 6th. anniversary of the last meal we all shared as a family before my dad passed. He and mom were staying at our house and I made brisket and all the fixings and we have pictures of all of us, kids, grandkids, all of us, eating, smiling, gathered around his hospital bed in the living room…
I mentioned that to George this morning. How much I still miss dad. How much he loved that brisket. 85 pounds, 3 weeks before his death, he ate two helpings of brisket….

And then, after putting this year’s 20 pounds of brisket in the pot I went in and started to clean up our room. I looked, one more time, on the dresser. Picked up my vanity tray, looked under it. Looked in the closet floor. No, its gone.
And then, I walked in the room an hour later, looked at the tray again, and there it was. Just laying there. It took me a few seconds to realize, but its my ring. The one diamond is slightly bigger than the others. The one prong is twisted a bit. Its my ring. I Yelled for George — and then thanked dad for bringing it back to me. And for visiting  me on the anniversary of a wonderful memory. I watched as George stood at the front door, looking out, giving thanks, I think, in his own special way.  I felt the ring slide into the familiar notch on the side of my finger.  I prayed and thanked and tried to figure out why today was the day dad decided to bring it back to me.  Did he remember that meal that day with the kids?  and was he happy that we continue the tradition?  Was he telling me he knew I was doing the best I can with mom…..

The Bible says not to question. I’m good with that.  I’m just happy to know that dad is still here, that he can visit, that he watches over us.  That he sits at the right hand of God.
I mean seriously, God is at work, isn’t he?

 

dad

Tonight I saw a picture of my dad, probably taken in or around 1995 or 96.  Arm around his sister, cigarette dangling from his fingers, tatoos still clear and proud.  damn I miss him.  That smile, that laugh, those eyes that never, well almost never, lost their sparkle.  He loved life, loved the people around him, loved to be doing something, almost anything.  this man could make sitting at the tides edge, digging for shells and fiddler crabs a whole day’s adventure.

I hope my kids remember their dad and I the way I remember dad.  Always present, always caring, always mine.  B0000062

This day…

this morning I overslept.  missed the registration for a 5 k I wanted to walk/run for work.  Bummer.

But, then I went to the park and walk/ran my fastest 1k and fastest mile ever.  Redemption, almost.

After deciding I couldnt deal with my husband’s family this afternoon I went to the craft store, bought a bunch of Fall stuff and visited my dads grave.  And it hit me, all over again, I miss him so much. i valued his opinion more than almost anyones, even when I disagreed, even when the dementia was taking over and moments of lucidity were few and far between, I valued what he had to say.  I can still, if I sit very still, hear his voice, his laughter, his whistle.  Whenever he wanted me, whether I was 100 yards down the beach or on the neighbors porch, he would whistle.  And, I would come home.

Today I sat at his grave and discussed these health issues that are raising their head.  Since they mirror the conditions he dealt with, I asked for his guidance, his help, a little intervention — to get me through.  I hung his new flag, I straightened the flowers, kissed his stone, and left.  I cant say I felt better.  But I felt that he had been there with me.  And I know he knows I miss him.

Dad minute…

thought of dad tonight.  sitting on the grass, all my grandchildren in one place, all my kids there….all of us watching Ryan play T ball….all of 5 years old and has an entourage…

but I thought of dad.  how many games, practices, matches and performances did he sit through.  Carrying flowers or snacks, peppermints in his pocket, trying to figure out how to work his camera….happy as can be, hat cocked to one side on his head, watching his grandchild do whatever it was one of my kids was doing at the moment.  Thanks dad.  You werent perfect, but you gave me such quiet guidance in the things grandparents need to do to make their kids, and grandkids, feel special.

coffee on the coleman stove

I’m reading a book titled “Chasing Alaska”.  I enjoy historical books, and books about far away places, so this one fit the bill on both points.  Today I read a passage where the author woke in the morning to a cold boat.  Everything was a little damp, and there was ice on the inside of the windows.  He climbed out of bed, lit the stove and put on a pot of coffee.

I was instantly transported back in time, 1972 probably.  Mom and dad and I were camping in our “pop-up” camper.  It was March, or April, or maybe even October, but we were on Ocracoke, and it was a cold damp morning.  Sitting here now I can smell the coffee, the odor of the Coleman fuel.  I can see my dad standing over the percolator pot and my mom wiping out the thermo insulated mugs, inlaid with a woven yellow and green pattern.  I can feel the damp canvas of the tent and see the little chips of ice on the inside of the plastic windows.  Mom and dad both had cigarettes dangling from their lips, and as much as I detest smoking,  I never gave it a second thought when it was them. Mom’s wearing a striped cotton robe over her sweatsuit and dad has on a shirt emblazoned with “Buddy Clough” across the chest pocket.  Later that day we would venture over the dune and mom would catch the biggest drum I’d ever seen, reeling it in through the surf, laughing with her bandana wrapped around her head, still wearing the robe. 

And we would make another pot of coffee.  That smell of coffee in the camper, that wet heat of the coleman stove, man, they are such strong memories.  So many problems were solved, voids were filled and plans were made, sitting across from each other at a formica table with thermo cups and a hot cup of coffee, from the coleman stove.  What I wouldn’t give for just one more conversation with the two of them, on our island, in our camper.

Just when you think you have it all figured out

Back story: my dad died just over 2 years ago.  An ugly, “go not quietly into the night” death, in a nursing home with my mom and I at his head, my husband and two brothers flanking his sides.  I was angry, almost violently so, at my mother.  She had made me leave dad in a nursing home when I wanted to bring him and her home with me.  She had made me move him out of my home less than two weeks before his death.  She had made me break my promise to dad that he wouldn’t die a public death.  I was angry.

And I have remained angry.  I speak with mom frequently but avoid visiting.  I ask her to come live with us, but am secretly glad she doesn’t.  I rely on my one sober brother to cart her around, take her to the doctor, visit her regularly.  Love her.  I have been unable to get past the anger, the resentment, the pain of watching my dad die that way, and it is very easy to blame her.

Then when I have resigned myself to the fact that she is a bitter old woman who thinks only of herself and doesn’t give a damn about family or responsibility or love, she goes and blows me out of the water.   She offers to do something so selfless, so giving, so “dad” .  She does so without hesitation or stipulations, no ‘buts’ or retreats.  She returns to the woman that I vaguely remember from my youth.  My mom.  And I cry like a baby, a cathartic cry that has been held in for the past 2 years.  And I feel the anger literally wash off my shoulders.  And I can sense dad smiling.

last talk with dad

I just read a little blog post about someone’s “gram” and it brought clearly back my last talk with dad.  It wasnt the day he passed, and it wasnt really the last time we talked, but it was the last time that his eyes looked at me clearly, the last time we had a conversation, and I am saddened and a little ashamed to say, the last time he comforted me .  Here was my dad, MY DAD, frail and brittle, hair askew, sweater buttoned wrong, sitting in his chair at that damned nursing home that my mother made me return him to — comforting me.  In all the sludge that was dimming his brain, through pain and fear and dementia that caused him to lose touch with all of us — he pulled out the strength and love to say to me that night ” It’ll be alright Cindy.  I love you , I love you Cindy”  and when I lay my head on his shoulder and felt those bones where there used to be strong muscle, I cried like a baby.  And, good God, so did he. 

I had gotten up from the table at home, announcing I was going to see dad.  Mom had made me take him back to the nursing home a few days before and i knew she hadnt been to see him that day ” Oh Cindy, he just sits there, he doesnt know if Im there or not” and I wanted to see him .  My oldest and her family were there for dinner, she offered to come with me but I said, no, he’ll be tired, Ill just go in, talk a bit and help him get to bed.

When I walked into the TV room, there he sat, uneaten dinner on the tray, swollen arm resting at his side.  “Hi honey, wheres your mother?”  I sat and we talked.  dad began to cry ” what did I do to deserve this?  Im not a bad person, I did bad things, I shouldnt be here…” On and on.  I didnt know if he was in 2011 in the nursing home or 1946 in the Navy.  I didnt know what era or decade or what it was he thought he had done, but I told him over and over, “daddy you did everything right.  God forgives you for every mistake you ever made. its ok. its ok.”.  His hands were cold, and as I wrapped his sweater closer around him I remembered Taresa had made pie.”  I brought you pie dad”. he devoured it.  And then he cried again.  No more than 2 weeks before his death, small and rattled, sad and so sick, he cried out.  I couldnt take it.  I said “Im sorry daddy, Im so sorry” and he looked at me, eyes clearer and said “Its alright Cindy, its alright.  I love you”.

I called for Taresa and  my husband to come to the nursing home.  I couldnt put my dad in that bed in that corner of that room.  I couldnt.  But I wasnt strong or determined enough to pick him up and put him in my car and bring him home.  Home to die surrounded by things he loved and people he loved.  They came, and dad cried some more, and Taresa looked into those eyes and knew that her pop was still in there.

So many regrets.  Why didnt I take a leave from work to care for him?  mom said she couldnt, said physically she couldnt and ‘would you want to be here all day with a man?” which tells me something of her mental state….Why did I let her call that ambulance and take him  back there?  Why didnt I make them take the damn stent out of his arm, the one that “made him ready for when he needs dialysis” which he never needed….why did I not question the care, the bandages, the rapid decline.  I wasnt in denial, I knew my dad was dying fast, but I couldnt make it right. So many regrets.  I wish he was here now to tell me one more time that it would be alright.

real ginger, go figure.

B0000062

My dad sort of slid feet first into the 21st. century.  I remember him being all excited about the year 2000– he had read just enough to worry about all the cars and computers in his beloved General Motors going kaput, or stalling on the highway.  He was worried about the security of the United States, after all, the computers hadnt been programmed to switch over to 2 in the thousands place…right?

But once it was all over and we all survived, and he tested to make sure  all the devices in his house were working, he settled in, sort of  complacent but confused  by the intelligence of  all the technology around him. 

Things had changed a bit too fast for dad, he still expected to know the people in the bank, to be able to pick up vegetables in the grocery store and pop them in his mouth without worrying about food poisoning… he expected things to taste the same, and smell the same…as they had when he was a kid.

 

The last thing I remember him fixating on was Ginger ale.  He’d buy only Canada Dry, because he had seen a commercial that proclaimed they made it with “real ginger.”  He’d keep a bottle in the frig “here Gregg, try some of this,its made with real ginger” ( Gregg being my son in law, married to my oldest).  He said it reminded him of years back when he used to dig up sasafrass root in the back yard and suck on it, savoring the taste of “root beer”….He actually used to do this with me growing up, and I remember the pungent smell of rootbeer on my hands after handling the piece of root.  Dad loved his ginger ale….loved his root beer.

So, today, on the couch, fighting this flu that wont either fully appear or fully go away, instead choosing daily which symptom to rain down upon me, I turned on Top Chef.  They were doing a “ginger” quick fire and spoke of the real ginger in canada dry gingerale. 

A hundred memories came flooding back, dad at the kitchen table, can of Ginger ale in his hand.  “Yep, thats good, thats real ginger. “

I miss him.  Thanks Top Chef for bringing that vision into my head today.