Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Farewell to my First Hero

I must say that I completely anticipated that the previous post (about my mom) would be my last post before I was to get this 'blog' put into book form.  At that time, I had decided to come back to the blog and finish the 'book' off with a post about my mom since she, too, has a bit of a penchant for writing :-).
And, as life does, way led onto way & I did not get around to getting this blog published at that time.
Then... the whirlwind came... and that's what it felt like... a blur looking back now.
My dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. 

This whirlwind began when my folks came over on July 15th, 2016.  It was four days before our daughter's 10th birthday.  I knew something was not right when my folks arrived.  My dad's affect was flat.  I had seen him a month prior and, then, 2 weeks before.

At the month prior, he was quiet.  But I passed it off as he had been to the internment burial of his brother that passed a half a year before... he was not close with him, but nevertheless, I thought some emotions had been stirred, so I passed it off as such.

Then, two weeks later, I saw him when we went to pick up my son who had been visiting my folks/his grandparents.  My dad had fallen while taking my son down their back wooded, somewhat steep yard that went down to a ravine.  I thought the fall had him shaken (no, the fall was because of the brain cancer) and again passed off his behavior.  Being a licensed psychotherapist, I like to think I pay a little more attention to behavior than your average person.  Yet, at the time, these reasons looked reasonable for how he was acting.

Anyway, when my folks came for our daughter's birthday, it was obvious... he was flat, didn't spontaneously talk (which he normally would as he had his opinions), had difficulty getting up from our recliner, and had difficulty getting his night shorts on (my mom told me).

My husband and he were slated to go to Creede that next week... my dad was looking forward to it (from what he said, but couldn't tell emotion-wise).  I thought that maybe my dad had had a stroke, but looking back, there were no single sided hindrances.  My husband told him that he thinks he should get checked out before they leave as my dad admitted being unsteady.  The next morning, we convinced him to let my husband take them to the ER... it went all downhill from there:  CT scan, hospital referred him to downtown Houston.  My dad had brain surgery three days later, on our daughter's 10th birthday.  Brain surgery was to see if they could remove part of the 'tumor' and diagnose.  They couldn't remove any tumor to speak of, but enough to diagnose.  He has

My dad died six months later on January 16th, 2017, four days after our son's 7th birthday.

Those six months were, like I said, a blur to say the least.  A lot happened and was going on with our family during that time;
  • my husband had been out of work (during the time of the "oil business" employment bust)
  • our daughter got & began raising several 4H turkeys
  • school started for both our children; 1st and 5th grade
  • our dog had been bred, got ultrasound, showing she didn't take (a blessing at the time)
  • my mom had to have knee replacement surgery
  • my husband had been in severe pain with his back (the worst he's ever experienced) and had to have back surgery
  • my mom had to stay at a rehab home to get daily physical therapy for her knee
  • because the first back surgery didn't get the job done, my husband had to have a second back surgery three weeks later, to the day
  • my mom's birthday
  • Thanksgiving (we enjoyed a 4H turkey)
  • my husband, within 2-3 weeks of back surgery, started a new job
  • our daughter had surgery to have her tonsils out
  • my husband had to go out of the country
  • we had our dog surgically bred again and she became pregnant
  • our ceiling showed water damage & our chimney leaked resulting in a new roof in January
  • Christmas
  • my husband's birthday
  • New Year's Eve
  • our insurance coverages for home, both autos and Colorado all went up and had to be reassessed/changed
  • our son's birthday
  • forget all of the other bills, household chores, appointments for school & other, grocery shopping, regular daily life routines, etc. that happen...
I list all of this because ... this time seems... lost.. lost in a sense like it wasn't lived purposefully, like I missed planning it the way it was supposed to be (ha)... I was just along for the ride... as all of this happened WHILE my dad was sick.  It all happened during the trips up to my folks, the myriad of phones calls, trying to schedule nursing care so he could remain home.
It was an absolute blur and, looking back, it was ... I will say (and not for dramatic purposes)... it was surreal.

My dad was taken care of, in his home, mostly by my mom with the help of care givers.  He died in his home, the way it was supposed to be.

I remember it clearly.  My dad's bed was in the living room.  My mom was asleep on the couch.  My brother was doing work at the kitchen table.  I was siting on the couch.  I had been sitting there for some time.  And I heard it, my dad's breathing changed. I knew. I was glad. And I sat there for a bit... to make sure .. and to take it in by myself .. before I woke my mom.
He died in his home... as he should have.

The following is what I wrote, said and had played at my dad's funeral:

So I have written this multiple times in my head… and my thoughts are always scattered about with what I would like to say to you all about my dad;

I thought about talking about…

·         Stories…

·         What kind of person my dad was…

·         Lessons he taught ..or lived by…

The trouble is, there’s a lifetime of things I could tell you.  Hence, my quagmire.

So, I am stuck with picking a few or so… and I’ll still probably talk too long   --so a pre-emptive ‘I’m sorry’ :-~ as this may be disjointed and not the most cohesive thing you hear today.

Speaking of talking & communication, as many of you know, my dad was very laconic.  He could take a situation and distill it down to its essential elements.  I think this style of his was a major factor in contributing to our young (then) family’s well being. 

You may or may not know that my dad came from an alcoholic family.  Suffice to say that his dad was a mean drunk.  To top it off, my mom, as well came from an alcoholic family.

So, imagine… married 18 & 21 y/olds -both from dysfunctional families having a go at it… they were warned by more than one that they wouldn’t make it.  Well, they did and my hat’s been off to them for a long time because of it.  I have to say the greatest gift my dad gave me was treating my mom with dignity and respect –despite some rough times, he remained calm and acted as an emotional distillery, if you will, to get to the essentials and solve & resolve things as we grew as a family.

So, being laconic, distilling things down to their essential elements… Very fitting for our family and a very fitting way for being a Chem—E.

I always kind of wondered what my dad did… it was somewhat mysterious as he didn’t talk a whole lot about it.  Oh, I remember hearing names… some of which are here today, but I never really knew exactly what he did.  As I got older, he would talk more… or maybe I just listened more.  I remember it was a big deal (when I was older) that I got to go to his office, I saw certain pictures and such.  Saw a picture of Colorado… 

Side note here:  for those of you that don’t know, practically every summer growing up, our family went to Colorado.  We would camp… yes in a TENT in Colorado… Colorado can have temps in the morning in the 30s during summer.  You can get on the shady side of a mountain and you could be shivering… and if you’re riding motorcycles, then you have a wind chill on top of it.  I do remember riding in front of my dad on his seat right up by the tank thinking I was going to turn into an ice cube.  Many times, we rode and camped with long time family friends;  Jerry and Peggy Davis.  We all had bikes (except me);  my dad, Jerry, Miss Peg, my brother and mom rode their own bikes… yes, my mom rode a motorcycle --up in the mountains –along side sheer drop offs (I shudder to think of that now).

So, back to my dad’s office;  when I got to go, I saw pictures of Colorado, family and… I saw an essay that he had prominently displayed.  It was called “The Trip is the Destination”.  It was, for a him, a theme, if you will, to live by.  And he did.

While my dad was a “planner” ..oh, boy, was he.  No stone unturned in going forward, no hasty decisions… yet, at the same time, I do not find that his ‘planning’ ruled him.  He, indeed, seemed to enjoy the trip.

So I would like to share the essay that he has had displayed in his office, since I was a kid, up until….  it still sits displayed, in his office, at home: 

The Trip is the Destination  ~from The Station by Robert J. Hastings
(read The Trip….)
Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we bring in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a complete jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering—waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.
"When we reach the station, that will be it!", we cry. "When I’m 18."  "When I buy a new 450SL Mercedes Benz!"  "When I put the last kid through college."  "When I have paid off the mortgage!" "When I get a promotion."  "When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!"
Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.
"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."  It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough. 
And it did come soon enough… it came too soon… that part bothers me because my son and daughter won't get to be around my dad.

Sorry… another Side Note:  this might come as a surprise… and sound ..?? ..risqué… but, my dad had another child other than my brother & me.  He had another son.  Now, before I go on, please know that BY NO MEANS did this other son & my dad’s relationship with him diminish the love he had for his own son.  The heart simply can always hold/take on/have room for more love.  This other son is my husband… who never had a wonderful father-figure… until my dad, he found that in him.

Kint and my dad worked on many projects together over the 29+ years they’ve known they knew each other.  My dad designed and had a cabin built in Creede CO (camping got to be too cold)… well, on our honeymoon, they both and others -no contractors- built the garage to that cabin... over the years many projects were done together: our property’s fence, barn, shop, my dad’s shed, 2 horse sheds, a utility building, a covered porch on the Colorado cabin… collecting firewood in the mountains, they cleared trees behind my dad’s house, worked on cars together… the last project they did together was adding an eve on the back of our barn a couple of months before my dad was diagnosed (he was diagnosed in July).

As my husband, Kint, put it;  In working/doing projects with my dad… Kint would dive in head first, while my dad would wade in slowly… one sped the other up so to speak, while the other slowed the other down.  It just worked.

So, to our kids, my dad offered a balance to that of their own dad.

My dad enjoyed building things, was very hands-on for being so abstract chemical theory oriented.  Our house -growing up always always was maintained in tip-top shape… if something squeaked, was out of kilter (even a tad) …. or if there was something that just didn’t work the best he thought it could, he would fix it or improve upon it.  Grass did not grow with things that needed to be done around the house. 

In that vein, fixing things around the house… is just one of the gifts my dad gave to me… Others were;

·         he was a man’s man, so what did I do… married a man that could fix things b/c that’ s what men do… and catch bugs …and get rid of dead gophers, rabbits, birds, lizards and snakes that the cat leaves for us.

·         He also taught me to speak my mind –no, not directly, but from his example I’m sure.

·         To ask questions… which I hear I can do in excess at times.

·         Not to worry what others think,

·         Be honest… my mom will tell you that I learned that one “to a fault”.

·         AND so many others, but I cannot leave out… Animals!! –We had animals!  And to think some kids don’t… I cannot imagine a life with no animals.  Dogs: we always had a dog, & a cat …and then it happened… a horse!  I had always wanted a horse.
You see, my dad had horses growing up.  He and his mother would go to play-days together riding the different events; pole bending, flag race (which was a favorite of my dad’s). His mom would sew special matching outfits/shirts for both of them. 

Just a few months before my dad was sick … my daughter was staying over at my folks place.  She came home telling me of “grandpa getting teary”.  She went on to tell of how he was telling her a story of his early days with his mom and him riding horses and going to play days and how his mom sewed intricate outfits and all.  He was telling Emma, my daughter, about a particular time; regaling his sewn shirt & how he won several speed events on this real fast horse …and he got teary remembering those special times.

My dad wasn’t much of a story teller… I guess it wouldn’t have been my dad if he was, but I would have liked to have heard more stories.

Lastly, my dad had many music artists he liked;  Buddy Holly, John Denver, Anne Murray, The Righteous Brothers, Reba McEntire, & even Celine Dion, but driving to Colorado every summer… we always heard Neil Diamond.  I can sing every word of every song from Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night Album.

Side Note:  I absolutely love Neil Diamond to this day… in fact, my son’s teachers have heard him sing the chorus to “Cherry Cherry” at his little Christian school- thank goodness he didn’t know the actual words to the chorus and it was sung in gibberish.

So, while this song coming up is dedicated to another man… it could just as easily be dedicated to my dad.

To end, if I had to be super laconic (ha!)  in describing my dad… and had to pick only one word, it would be: 



Enjoy the trip.

(Reba McEntire video song: 'Just Like Them Horses')

She held him close, then she kissed his face
He said it just has to be this way
Yours is the heart I'll always keep
I'm not gone even if I leave
If you love me, don't you be afraid
To look in my eyes and open up the gate
Then watch me ride beneath a newborn sun
Just like them horses
When it's time to run
He said, Chockie Mountain is calling me
Gonna take a walk up where I can sing
Turn and face that western wind
Oh, and I'll be home again
If you love me, don't you be afraid
To look in my eyes and open up the gate
Then watch me ride beneath a newborn sun
Just like them horses
When it's time to run
Oh, just like them horses
She held his hand, he took one last breath
Then she walked out to the front porch step
Stared at the sky, tears on her face
And she swore she could hear him say
If you love me, don't you be afraid
To look in my eyes and open up the gate
Then watch me ride beneath a newborn sun
Just like them horses
When it's time to run
Just like them horses
When it's time to run
When it's time to run
When it's time to run
Now it's time to run
Just like them horses, ooh
Just like them horses
Oh, now it's time to run...


Thanks dad, for helping me finish my little ditty of a 'book'.  May Kint & our kids (and their kids?) know more about their family because of it.
Love, Julie