Monday, February 1, 2010

In memory of...

My Dad died three years ago today, after a sudden and unexpected illness. I was glad to be there, and it was only by the grace of God that I was. I live in Idaho. Dad lived in New Jersey. I happened to be in Washington DC for a conference when he was taken ill, so I changed my return flight and hopped a train for NJ.

I knew when I walked into his hospital room that he was close to the end of his life here on earth. He looked just like his father had right before passing; his eyes were wild and his movements very restless. Dad was in tremendous pain from what the doctors would later -- indeed, too late -- find was a perforated ulcer. He died five days after I arrived. Happily he was still a little bit lucid when I got there, and he knew I had come. And that was the last day he wasn't heavily sedated.

I didn't know my dad very well, actually. When I was born, he didn't know what to do with a daughter. My mother said he refused to hold me because I was so tiny that he was afraid. He never really got the hang of having a girl, I think.

My father had his share of shortcomings, but one thing I recognize now and appreciate very much is that he was a gentleman. He opened doors for the women in his life. He had a temper, but his everyday speech (except for the occasional "damn" or "hell") was moderate. He never made sexual allusions about anything. He never told dirty jokes. There are few men who are made in that same mold these days.

He liked to fix things and could often be found at his worktable in the cellar or the garage. He also liked to create things -- usually solutions to problems. He made countless electric lamps out of old oil lamps - and he didn't use a kit to do it. And I really wish I still had the lap desks that he made for my brother and me when we were kids. We lived in a very small house and we wanted to be able to do our homework somewhere other than the kitchen table -- but there was no room for a desk in either of our bedrooms. So Dad went downstairs to his workbench and created wooden lap desks that were beautifully stained and varnished. I had mine for many, many years, but it finally disappeared in one of my moves, sadly.

I miss Dad even more now than I did at the time he passed. There are many questions I wish I could ask him. I look forward to seeing him again someday.

Still remembering you, Dad.

- Catherine


Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

This is beautifully said. Makes him very human and real. I'm lucky in having my dad still, but it's true, how often there's so much more to learn about them.

Recent trip for my uncle's funeral, back to the church we went to when i was a kid, and in the conversations afterward, i learned the most absurd thing to not know before -- it was the same church my father grew up in. All the years we went there, till i was 14, and i never knew he had been a kid in that church!! Bizarre. But it only points out that we need to both make a real effort to value the time we have with our loved ones ... and that we need to accept the fact that the next life will reveal so much knowledge that we missed here.

Cindy (Letters From Midlife) said...

I'm so glad that you can see things from childhood from an adult perspective now. This was a lovely tribute to your dad. I noticed that you also lost your mom and I'm sorry for that loss as well.

I'm enjoying visiting your blog.

Christy said...

Beautifully written, Catherine. I feel like I know him a bit.

You have certainly had a lot to bear the last three years. Praying for you today.

Susanne said...

What a lovely tribute to your Dad. You're right there are not many "gentlemen" out there any more and what a nice association to have of your Dad.