I lost my biggest fan on this day sixteen years ago. My dad passed away on October 23, 1997, and it really changed my life. I was not a child, nor even that young. We were actually incredibly blessed that my dad was still with us until then. But all the same, he was the one that I could always turn to for advice, assistance, support and he was absolutely my cheerleader. Losing him was difficult and I still miss him every day. He was very special to me and to our family. He was the glue
When I was four years old, my dad suffered a very serious coronary episode that took him away from us for weeks. He was 39 years old. It happened during the night and he was taken away in an ambulance but I have no recollection of that night at all. I do remember the days after when my grandmother came to stay with us and she brought her puppies which was heavenly for me. I remember going to visit the hospital where they had taken my dad but I don’t remember seeing him… I don’t think I was allowed to go in to his room, but my older brothers were. And I do remember when he came back home and we were so happy to have him there. He went back to work and everything was normal for us… in my little mind.
We had a lot of fun as kids. My dad owned his own business and worked a tremendous amount – for many years, that meant 7 days a week. But he always made sure we knew that he cared for us and he spent time with us as much as possible. We ate dinner together nearly every night. Our vacation times were mostly spent on a houseboat on the Tennessee River where we slept out in coves overnight, jumped in to the river with ivory soap to bathe and swam like fish. At dusk we would throw our food scraps out for the raccoons to come down to the shore and wash their hands and faces before devouring their dinner. This is when we truly understood our dad’s love of nature – animals, plants, water… and it is when he shared his love of gazing at the moon and stars. It was always so dark out there, and we could see sooo many stars.
When I was around 8, my dad jumped on a friend’s motorcycle and sped off the back of our driveway retaining wall through the air and through the trees. I was so scared that he was going to die and my mom and their friend were laughing their butts off. Thankfully my dad missed the trees and just came to a halt on the ground about 25-30 feet off the wall. But that incident meant… motorcycles for my dad, one of my brothers and yes, one for me. I would jump on my little 50cc Honda mini-bike and tool around following my dad and brother on all these country roads. It was so much fun. In the summer, we would stop at a customer’s house and raid their watermelon patch, or in the autumn/winter, check out the pumpkins and hay fields. If the ride was too far away or we had to go on the highway, I would jump on back of my dad’s bike and be happy as a lark just to be with him.
Then, when I was around 9 or 10, we were sitting down to watch some sit-coms after dinner. I was in my usual place, right next to my dad on the sofa when he rubbed his chest. My mom noticed and asked him if he was okay. He said it was just indigestion and my mom said… I don’t think so, I’m calling the doctor. My dad was admitted to the hospital again that night for another coronary incident and while not as severe, it was still not good. By this time, by-pass surgery was an option and my dad’s doctor felt he was a good candidate. So off he went This time he was gone for a little less than a month…and again I was not allowed to see him in the hospital. He came home and for his recovery, we went for walks together every day enjoying the outdoors and watching for birds and other wildlife. He improved again and was back to work in a month or two and life went on… lots of time on the river and lots of fun at home.
As I moved through the years, I remained very close to my dad. When I did not live nearby, he would call me and ask me to look at the moon with him because .. it was something we could share from afar – the same moon. He would tell me about the sunsets he had seen, or about the birds that he fed. He would talk about things he and mom were doing and what books he was reading. He would share stories about his long bike rides and how much fun he was having doing that.
It was when he was on one of those bike rides that he found himself waking up after taking a spill that he did not remember. This took him to the doctor… nearly 22 years after the first by-pass surgery. They found his heart was stopping and he was admitted for surgery once again. While my dad was physically fit, his heart was not. He had another quadruple bypass surgery and a valve replacement. It was a tough surgery and we thought we lost him on the table but the doctors were able to bring him out of surgery. What was supposed to be a 3-4 hour surgery was nearly 9 hours. It was so hard on my dad and his recovery was very representative of that. I did not live close at that time, but I visited often and my parents spent time with me too. And about 3 years later, I had the opportunity to make a move with my company to live near. I am ever thankful that I did… I moved in August and in October, my dad went back to the hospital due to some issues. He was doing pretty well, we thought. I was going to visit him on the 22nd of October, but he told me to wait until he was home as he was to be released the next day. I listened to him and agreed.
To this day, I really wish I had made the drive to the hospital.. the next morning at around 6am, my phone rang. My mom was calling to tell me to get to the hospital..that my dad was not doing well.. The drive to the hospital took an hour and when I got there, I joined my mom, my oldest brother and his fiancé. We gathered around my dad who was not fully conscious and let him know we were there. A nurse came in … and held my dad’s hand and told him that it was okay for him to let go… that we were all there and that we would be okay… and my dad took his last breath and passed away with us standing there with him. It was one of the hardest moments of my life but he was no longer in pain, no longer struggling and he was at peace. My dad was not young when he died .. he was 70. I was not young when he died.. I was 35. But I was not ready for it to happen. Are we ever?
My dad was a good man, he was a true gentleman. He enjoyed a good joke but never cursed. He was intelligent and kind. He was easy to talk to and a good listener. His customers always loved him and it was always a joy to work with him. My dad was sensitive and wouldn’t let us watch sappy TV shows or movies because he didn’t want to cry in front of us. When he received a gift that made him all sentimental ..he would find an excuse to leave the room. He loved us through and through. He supported our dreams and our visions and encouraged us through every win and every struggle. I miss him, and I know I always will.
Every time I look at the moon, I believe that I am still sharing it with him. Every time that I discover a beautiful flower or see a pretty bird or hear a waterfall… I think of my dad. Cherish the time you spend with loved ones…and make memories – good ones, that you will always hold in your heart.
~Sunshine ❤Credits: Candy America 02 skin from Glam Affair by Aida Ewing
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