Today is the 5Th anniversary of the death of my dad. For those of us who have lost a parent, we know that over time the pain lessens. I am not yet an adult “orphan”. My husband is. He lost both of his parents 8-10 years ago. My husband often has dreams of his parents, and I always tell him when he dreams of them, that that is their way of keeping in touch and staying in his memory. I don’t have dreams of my dad but, then again, I’m not a prolific dreamer like my husband. But there are many other ways that I cherish his memory. I guess you get to a different age from the one where you dread the call in the middle of the night regarding your teenager. No. This dreaded call is the one where one of your parents has fallen and broken a hip or worse, one of them has a devastating illness. My dad had been ill for some time. Somehow he had developed bleeding ulcers which caused a severe loss of blood and really did a number on him. My dad was a big, strong robust guy. 6″1′, 185 pounds and a real looker. He had hair like Ronald Reagan. When I went to see him in the hospital, he had shrunk both mentally and physically. He was no longer the outgoing, talkative, argumentative dad I knew and loved. His illness had exacerbated his Alzheimer’s and he was now in the 2ND stage. Read more…
But the thing I remember most was his humiliation of having to wear a diaper. My father was a bomber pilot flying over Japan in the latter stages of WWII and had been shot down a number of times with most of his crew dying. He had survived that to be reduced to once again being treated like a baby. He had been a successful rancher, a successful local businessman, the president of our local bank as well as mayor of my hometown off and on for 20 years. He loved politics. I remember for he and his twin sister’s 75Th birthday, I decided to write the White House, President Clinton at the time, to get birthday greetings for them. My dad was a staunch Republican and his twin sister, a died in the wool yellow dog Democrat. So, I wrote the White House explaining that my dad and his sister LOVED LOVED LOVED President Clinton and would they please forgo the normal policy of being a hundred or being married 50 years and send my dad and his sister, birthday greetings. His sister got one and he did not. I told him they had checked donations and to what parties and he had been blackballed. He was genuinely upset. He said I may not like the man and I may not like his policies, but he is my president. I faxed the White House another letter and they not only sent a greeting but a signed picture of Bill! Like many in his generation he was a true patriot. My dad not Bill.
Then I got the call that sends you into a tail spin. Mine occurred around 4am EST. It was my younger sister saying that daddy had died in his sleep. Whether from a heart attack or a stroke, we didn’t know. We did not have an autopsy done because we knew he wouldn’t want to be humiliated by being ripped apart just to confirm his cause of death. He decided to be cremated.
I wrote and delivered the eulogy. It was one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever done in my life, but I knew how my sisters and I wanted him to be remembered. My father was preceded in death by his father, mother, younger sister, brother and then shortly after his death, another brother. I know my dad is up in heaven arguing with God and telling him he “doesn’t know what he’s talking about”. He’s probably thinking how screwed up the world has become since he left us and that he has all the answers to all the problems. So, here’s a salute to you, daddy, going out to cyberspace to let everyone know how terribly much you’re missed.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.