Over the years
As we grow old,
We remember our father
So brave and bold.
In the garden,
Leaning on the plow,
He would listen to me;
I see him now.
He would give advice
He was always there
To lend a hand.
God made fathers
Strong and firm,
For he knew our lives
Would have great concerns.
So he gave us fathers
To teach us to pray,
And guide our lives,
And show us the way.
So on his day
Let’s take the time
To say “Thanks, dad.
I’m glad you’re mine.”
— Mary Frances Bogle
Tears prickle the corner of my eyes as I read this passage. My heart is heavy with longing to hear my Dad’s voice, long since forgotten. My chest caves as I long to receive those ample boxes filled with all kinds of crazy gits. And the phone calls that would transport me from location A to B safely.
My Dad and I did not always get along but without fail he was a rock for me whenever I allowed him in to my sanctuary. As a young child I didn’t realize how I’d push him away, taking sides where there were no sides for me to take. As a young adult I learned this and am so thankful for all those years I could have missed but didn’t.
I will always remember the day my father died. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, what have you, this day will live on.
We were living in Battle Ground, Washington. A dear friend had gone out of town and left her two girls with me. Scott had left just that afternoon for Boston, MA for work. It was later in the day, after dinner, and the kids were all getting settled down for the evening when the phone rang.
My brother, Chris, who lived local to my Dad, said he was in the hospital with pneumonia. He was stable but serious. My Dad had been diagnosed 18 months early with Senior Onset Leukemia. Who know it was not just a childhood illness.
My Daddy came on the phone and I could tell he was having a tough time talking, breathing. He told me he had on a mask.
I was gentle but firm, “Hang on Daddy. I’ll be there tomorrow. I love you. Just rest and I’ll see you very soon.”
I immediately called Scott to tell him the news. I had, just earlier that week, been bragging how the doctor’s had only given him a year at best, and here my stubborn, ol’, ox of a Dad pushed 18 months. So Scott knew that this was serious business and asked if I wanted him to fly home.
“Not sure yet. Let me figure out what I am going to do first and then I’ll tell you tomorrow,” was my response.
That night, while the kids slept, the dog slept, and the cats stalked, I sat up in bed calling airline after airline trying to figure out what I was going to do. I had phone books spread out with papers and notes everywhere. I never slept.
And I prayed. I prayed fervently, “Please God do not take my Dad. I need to see him. I need to be with him. Please God help him heal.”
The next morning arrived without ceremony. The sun came up, as it always does. The children woke, as they always do, hungry and filled with excitement over having friends in the house. Only today was going to be quite different. I had made arrangements during the night to take my friend’s girls to another (mutual) friend’s home and booked tickets for the boys and me to fly to California that morning.
Once feed and informed I began the process of packing. I recall wandering around the house zombie like. Just picking up as much stuff as I could and filling backpacks with clothes, toys, what not. I was going solo with a 6 and 2 year old from beginning to end. Parking the car in the airport lot to picking up a rental on the other end. Meanwhile, my mind never left my Dad. And that is when it happened.
I walked into the garage, empty of cars as mine was in the front drive, and stood there. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why I was in the garage. I turned in circles looking at everything, which was not much, asking myself over and over, “Why did I come out here? Nothing to pack. Dog is feed. Why am I in the garage?” And I stopped. I stood perfectly still. I looked up at the ceiling, tears streamed down my face like the River Nile. “God, I’m such a selfish girl. Please tell my Dad it is okay to let go. Let him leave with the dignity he deserves. Tell him I’ll be okay and that I love him with all my heart. Take him, God, and give him peace. Please I want him to have his dignity and pride.”
We left the house 5 minutes later. 15 minutes after that I had released the girl’s to the custody of a friend. And 5 minutes after that my brother Tim called me to tell me that Dad had passed 20 minutes earlier. He passed just after I finished praying to God. I pulled the car over and wept, but only for a moment, and gave my thanks to God.
I know my message was delivered to my Dad. He was holding on for me. And once he knew that I was going to be okay he felt free to allow himself to be transported to the next life. Life with God. Life in Heaven.
Today when I need a Daddy hug I wear his favorite sweatshirt, or I’ll put on his wedding ring which I wear on chain around my neck. I’ll look at pictures of my boys with him. And I’ll look in my heart to all those crazy things he used to teach me. Such as his always calling hospitals “horse-pistols” because, according to him, that is where they shot horses. He was so silly. And he is forever my Dad.
I love you Daddy. And though missed not a day goes by you aren’t with me.