Dad and I in June 1989...I had just had surgery on my foot; he had had a stroke.
It's Father's Day, and I am feeling more nostalgic than usual about my father; I'm guessing this is because my mom is gone also. Dad died in 1989, not even a month after I turned 21. He was 73. I will be 43 this year--which means that I have been without him longer than I was with him, an interesting fact to contemplate.
No one is perfect, and my dad was no exception, but I'm choosing today to remember what I loved about my dad.
My dad liked thunderstorms. I remember sitting on our dusty old porch during the short Maine summers under some impressively huge gray spider webs with even bigger gray spiders. I would curl up beside him, watching the sky light up and hearing the thunder crack. From the porch, we had the vantage point of watching the garden drink in the rain; I suspect this is why he liked the rain so much, that and the fact that it greatly reduced the dust clouds that rolled up from the ancient gravel road when the cars passed by on Lowell Hill. Like most Maine men, Dad never said much. We would just sit quietly and watch until the rain passed by. In the evenings, this would be repeated as we looked for the moon "rising" over the pine tree at the back of the garden. I always felt very safe, and still feel strangely safe whenever a thunderstorm arises.
Dad was a lumberjack his whole life. It was a hard living. Though he was a very intelligent man, especially with numbers, he left school after 9th grade to work on the family farm and in the woods. At the heighth of his gainful employment (1978), he brought home a whopping $150 a week. He couldn't wait to retire because his social security check was more than his paycheck. He loved the woods as much as his garden, and these two loves were the common themes in any given conversation with just about anyone who happened by. The woods kept us warm in winter and provided his livelihood year round. And just as thunderstorms give me an odd sense of comfort, the smell of the pines and the warm earth bring me great pleasure and make my heart smile.
Dad had his first of several strokes in 1981, when I was 12 and he was 64. (Yes, the math is correct...he was 52 when I was born.) The doctors told him to quit drinking and smoking. He started chewing instead of smoking, but he never could seem to conquer the booze. In 1988 and 1989, he had several exacting strokes that messed with his vision and ability to walk. In the winter of 88, I stayed home from college with him and mom, then in the summer of 89, he had another stroke that put him in the hospital for several weeks. It was during this hospitalization that dad made a profession of faith in Christ (thanks Pastor Waite). Dad was NOT a religious man, and this came as quite a shock. Even then I wondered at all. Was it fear of death that drove him there, or wanting to give some level of comfort to his family...or was it a genuine need for the Savior? I am no judge. I was beyond ecstatic. I over heard him a few days later while I waited outside his door as he talked with the social worker who was asking him about his "religion." "Well," said dad matter-of-factly, "it was never important to me before, but it is now. I'm looking forward to getting out of here so I can go to church." Wonder of wonders.
It was also during this time that I found myself sitting alone with him one night, watching the moon out the hospital window while he slept. (Before the above incident, actually) All at once, dad awoke--apparently from some evil dream--very frightened. Unable to control his left arm, he flailed helplessly until I grabbed his hand. His eyes adjusted in the dim light and his line of vision went from the floor up to my face. As his eyes fixed on mine, his grip loosened and his breathing relaxed. I think it was the only time I ever looked into his eyes. We didn't say the words, "I love you;" we didn't say anything at all.
Dad died several days later, just a few days before he was to come home again, the result, presumably, of a massive stroke. It was 5 days before his 50th wedding anniversary. I left a small pine branch beside him in the casket so maybe the moonbeams would reach even there.
Thanks, Dad, for all the good things you taught me. I honor and love you this Father's Day.
Since I have joined the All You grocery challenge, I will be updating daily. I have decided to add a picture from one of our meals and will post the (healthy changes) I attempt. An * denotes garden food.
Breakfast: home fries from leftover boiled potatoes, scrambled eggs and ham. OJ, milk and coffee
(I only used egg whites in half the eggs and sliced 2 slices of lean ham into the home fries rather than have one slice for each person. I also cooked it all in light "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter," and tried black coffee. The last one was the toughest change...oh my.)
Lunch: Stir Fried veggies (cabbage, carrots, summer squash* and onions) in light olive oil served over oriental noodles, cukes*, tomatoes, milk and very small slice of chocolate cake in honor of Father's Day.
Dinner: homemade veggie/pepperoni pizza on whole wheat crust, pretzels, sugar free lemonade
(whole wheat flour added to the mix and sugar free drink mix over soda)