Flashlights, peanut butter and playing cards all remind me of him.
|My father passed away on Saturday, August 13, 2005, and already I miss him. But I've really missed him for quite a while. His Alzheimer's often took him away while he was still in front of us.
As a young man, Dad wasn't very good at being a dad. But when we were all grown and started having kids of our own, my dad's parenting skills improved. And he was an awesome grandfather.
Jim and I jumped into the car early Saturday afternoon to make the trip from Cincinnati, Ohio to northern Michigan, hoping to see my dad before he passed away. We were only about two hours into our eight hour trip when my dad died. We had seen him in mid-June, though, for his birthday and Father's Day. But it would have been nice to see him alive one more time. Still, since he had been struggling to breathe for a few hours - with another case of pneumonia - I was glad he passed away peacefully without struggling or hurting for long.
For Mom's sake, we rushed things along and Dad was buried on Monday, August 15. If furnerals can be beautiful, this one was.
Dad was only laid out on Sunday night. Since everything was done quickly, most of our relatives couldn't make the trip. Only some friends and co-workers of my two sisters living in Michigan attended the viewing.
My dad taught most of his grandkids how to play cards, so someone thought we should put a deck of cards in the casket. That idea grew, and someone taped the ideal Pinochle hand together and laid it in the casket. Since my dad had been a sheet metal mechanic, someone else thought we should put tin-snips with him as well. Someone from the funeral home ran to the hardware store first thing Monday morning so that could be done.
Later, some of my cousins asked if we put a flashlight or jar of peanut butter in the casket. We didn't think to do that. Dad started collecting flashlights when he retired, or maybe even before that. He had all shapes and sizes of flashlights, many given to him by his grandkids. And peanut butter? That one food graced our table every night when Dad was still working, even at Thanksgiving. After eating a hearty meal Dad always had a slice of white bread and peanut butter.
The preacher did a fine job, considering that he didn't know the family at all. My parents hadn't been living with my baby sister for long, and she and her hubby have never attended church.
My other sister's husband spoke at the funeral. On Sunday night as we all ate dinner together, he asked us for memories that jumped out at us. I'm told that he wrote until midnight, then started revising at the crack of dawn. The result was fantastic. He was able to weave all of our memories into something beautiful.
Jeff spoke of Dad teaching his grandkids how to play cards. He said that no matter how young they were (and some grandkids learned at the age of four), he never let them win nor let them cheat. I had never really thought much about that, but Jeff said that Dad taught them some great life lessons with simple card games. I guess he did.
I worry about my mom now. She and Dad were married for 56 years. She waited on him for even longer than that. He never had to do much for himself, and for a few years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's waiting on him really became her full time job. It had only recently become too much for her, and she and Dad moved to northern Michigan to be near my baby sister.
Our thoughts were that Dad would go to a nursing home and Mom would live in some assisted living apartments owned by the same company and on the same property. We soon found out that Dad wasn't bad enough to be considered as a Medicaid patient, and Mom could never live by herself. Nor could she ever care for Dad on her own again. Her memory was horrible and her ability to reason was gone. She also got angry at Dad if it took him a while for his thoughts to process.
So, for a short time both of my parents lived with my sister's family. Dad had pneumonia a few times (or never really got over it?) and was in and out of the hospital and nursing home during that time. This time, the doctors told us it would be the last time. And they were right.
My son worries that my mom's - his grandma's - memory is so bad that she'll have to be reminded each day that Dad is gone. That would mean that she'd never get beyond that raw first grieving stage. I pray that isn't so.