My dad died a relatively quick death from lung cancer, once we knew what it was that was making him so sick. By the time he was diagnosed until he died was 2 weeks. But for 18 months before he was diagnosed, he lived in hell... on earth. Back in 1987 the diagnostic tools weren't what they are today. Whether that's a positive or negative could be debated... seriously. They thought he had congestive heart failure & that's what was causing all the fluid to build-up in his lungs. They thought that was why he needed to have his lungs stuck with a HUGE needle every so often, to drain off the fluid.
Right there in the dr's office. No numbing of any kind.
My dad was a brave man.
Today is the 24th anniversary of dad's passing. He died at 3:01pm on Friday, February 13, 1987. I could go on & on about how much he suffered during those last months, weeks, days, hours, minutes. It wouldn't be hard for me to do because I remember every detail like the whole nightmare happened yesterday. But I've made a conscience decision this year to not dwell on his suffering but to dwell on the good things... the things I loved about my dad... the things that I can still remember.
~ I loved how well-groomed my dad always was. No matter how sick he felt, he a-l-w-a-y-s showered, shaved, combed his hair (and fingered-in those waves on top) & put on cologne. Always put on cologne. His face was as soft as a baby's bottom & whenever I would kiss his cheek, I would feel the softness against my lips & could smell his cologne... Avon Musk for Men. He never wore anything else but that cologne. I kept the last bottle he ever had for the longest time. I even might still have it, I don't know. But after he died I would open up that bottle & smell it and be instantly transported to a world where my daddy was still alive and still with baby butt soft cheeks.
~ I loved how my dad made oatmeal. Lumpy! My dad was a big man... 6'2" & 260 lbs. He loved to eat but never EVER looked sloppy in his clothes. He was simply just big but neat as a pin in everything he wore. Sometimes when mom was gone, dad would make breakfast & it was always oatmeal. It had huge lumps in it & I loved it, for whatever reason. Sometimes he would make it for me "just because".
~ I loved how my dad & I did some body work on an OLD Pontiac that my young husband had bought for me, to drive back & forth to college when, after being married a year, I decided I wanted to become a nurse. It was a jalopy if there ever was one. I swear it got (maybe) 10 MPG but it got me to school & back safely for 3 years... and was within our budget. The poor thing started to rust really bad one summer so dad convinced me that we could do a little sanding, puttying, and painting ourselves to make the car last longer & not totally fall apart. I'll never forget doing it in mom & dad's driveway while dad sat in a lawnchair & supervised. Dad already had heart problems for years by that time so he couldn't help me much but he coached me & together we did it. No, it wasn't the best of jobs but it served the purpose. That's such a vivid memory for me.
~ I loved how my dad worked for the same company all of his adult life. He took 2 years off, to serve in WWII when he was drafted, but then returned to the same company after being discharged. A plaque was given to him, upon his retirement, and it said: "Constancy is the complement of all other virtures". I believe that's true... and my dad was definitely constant in everything he tackled.
~ I loved how my dad made things with his hands. Whenever there was a need around the house, for a new table or a set of shelves or a kitchen cabinet or some cabinets for mom's laundry area in the basement, dad would always build it himself... usually with no pre-purchased plans or schematic. He would draw out the plans himself & then set to building whatever it was that the household needed. The house that I spent the most time in, from birth until 13 years old, went up for sale not so many years ago, by the owner who had purchased it from my parents back in the late 1960s. I saw the ad for an Open House in the newspaper & couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the address. My husband took me & I explained to the realtor how we were just there to reminisce. He was very kind & let us take pictures & slowly walk through the house. It was like I had stepped back in time because so many things were still the same. Especially in the basement, where the shelves still stood that my dad had made for my toys... and the cabinets he made for mom's laundry supplies next to the washer & dryer... and the beautiful bar that my dad had built in the family room side of the basement that was now stacked with junk & had totally lost the luster & beauty from when I was little. So many many things... too many for me to list here... were still in that house, standing in the very place my dad had built them. I wanted so badly to ask if I could buy those old cabinets & shelves & that bar but: #1 We had no money to buy them with & #2 Had no place to put any of it if we did. Walking out the door of that house that day, I felt like I was leaving a part of my dad behind. I felt exactly like Alice in Wonderland walking through the looking glass into a whole different world.
~ I loved how my dad built me a doll house in pieces one winter, down our basement, and then assembled it outside in the spring. It's long gone now but it stood in the backyard of my old house for many years after my parents sold the house. It had windows, shutters, a shingled roof, a little table & chairs inside, the whole bit. A house in miniature. I was the most popular little girl in the neighborhood and all my friends & I played in that doll house for years.
~ I loved how my dad came over every single morning, Monday thru Friday, to have coffee & visit with our oldest (and only, at that time) child. My dad was our oldest daughter's "Papa" & he loved her more than life itself. Dad met his cronies at McDonald's every morning, after he was retired, and they'd meet when the place opened at 5;30am. All these men were used to getting up early & reporting to work, so after retirement their lives still needed an early morning purpose. They'd let dad buy (for 50 cents) the Happy Meal toy & so that's what he'd bring our daughter on certain mornings. Other mornings he'd stop at the drugstore & buy her a little something. He felt he could never come empty-handed to see her. He'd sit & color with her at the kitchen table for an hour & not mind in the least. She always looked forward to her Papa coming in the morning. We had a signal too. If I had a bad night or wasn't up by 6:45am, which was the time he'd usually stop by, I was to keep the kitchen curtains closed and that way dad would simply drive by & not stop. It only happened a few times, that I would keep the curtains closed, but God how I wish I never had done that. What I wouldn't give for just one more visit from dad!
~ I loved how my dad cried when he "gave me away" at my wedding. I was his youngest child... his only daughter... probably his favorite, if the truth be known... and he wanted to keep me for himself, as his "little girl", I'm sure. I was only 19 when he walked me down the aisle & I'm sure he thought he was truly handing me over to my husband & "losing me" as his own. It didn't take me long, after my marriage day, to make him realize he would never lose me & I would always be his little girl. Even at 54 I'm still his little girl today.
~ I loved how dad would want to take a little "vacation" once in awhile. Never anyplace far & never for a long time. Usually within a day's worth of travel & usually for always less than a week. It was just the fact of getting away for a little while. Mom never liked to travel so I was always dad's "partner in crime" to plan out our next destination. Dad loved atlases & loved mapping out our routes. I still have an old atlas that he used to use, along with a notebook he'd write in about the paths we should take. Those precious hands, writing down those precious plans, with all the excitment of a child on the night before Christmas. I would simply listen & smile... and do all the driving because, with his heart the way it was, he couldn't. He dreamed & I made his travel dreams come true.
I love you, daddy, and I miss you so much that my heart aches whenever I think of you. It's been 24 years since I've seen you smile... or heard your voice... or kissed your cheek... or heard you laugh... or saw you walk up the steps to my house... or watched you drive a car... or saw you swing a hammer... or watched you comb your hair... or listened to you sing to Fallon... or tasted your delicious oatmeal... or watched you knot your tie for church... or listened to you snore as you laid on the couch "watching" your favorite John Wayne movie... and my memory has so faded that it makes my heart weep. I used to be able to close my eyes & actually feel the softness of your skin on my lips as I'd kiss your cheek... but I can't do that anymore. The years have taken that away from me. I wonder if you ever fathomed me being a grandma, dad? Or Fallon being a wife & mother? She was only 4 years old when you died, dad. She's a 28 year old woman expecting her 2nd child this spring.
I'm aging, daddy, and one day... probably in the wink of an eye... we will be together again. I can't wait to hug you & kiss your cheek. Please wear that Avon cologne for me, would you, daddy?