Friday, February 12, 2010

Daddy, has it really been 30 years?

Wow - one of these days I am definitely going to fix my scanner so I can have pictures that can be uploaded to this journal that are important to me. Daddy died 30 years ago tonight and it was on a Tuesday night. That means I was only 33 years old. I had seen him on Friday afternoon and then it snowed really big time that weekend. We got our old Cadillac that Monday so I drove by to show it to him and Mama but he didn't feel like coming out to see it. He had a pretty rough weekend that weekend being trapped in the house and all and there were some other things going on that don't require mentioning.
Then on Tuesday, the kids and I stopped by on our way to the Book Study - there was still snow and ice on the ground but the roads were passable and it was very cold. As usual, as soon as I hit Mama's front door, I made a bee-line for her little bathroom. She used to say " For goodness sake - there must be a switch because not a one of you ever comes into this house without making a bee-line for the bathroom!" :-) A sweet memory of that night Mama and I used to talk about was that as soon as we walked into the house, Kurt said - "I like your hair Grandma!" We both laughed because she had just brushed it out to be fixed the next day - back then people got their hair fixed and teased and it lasted a week.
While I was in the bathroom, I heard Daddy get up and go into the kitchen where Mama fixed him a snack. My son who was only 4 at the time and called him Grandpa (he is the only one who called him that) was just chatting away and I heard Daddy's voice talking back to him and Mama. My daughter had slipped into the bathroom with me and by the time we got out, Daddy had gone back into the bedroom to lay down and Mama said she thought he would feel fine by the next day.
On the way home that night, I tooted the horn as usual, got the kids in bed and put on my nightgown, long robe, socks and Mama's old corduroy bedroom shoes. Just about the time I sat down on the couch, the phone rang and it was Mama. She didn't think Daddy was breathing. As a rule, we left our keys in our cars back then but that one stupid night, I had put the keys in my pocket book. I remember I emptied my pocket book upside down, grabbed the keys and my wallet, threw my coat on over my robe and took off. I heard Dwight talking to Mama about calling 911 as I flew out the door.
It has taken me many years to realize I can't fix everything. In our family, I don't know if I took on the role of "fixer" and/or arbitrator or it was placed upon my shoulders but I've worked hard to relinquish that role these past 14 years since Mama died. My heart races even now when I remember exactly what I was feeling and thinking along the lines of -"Okay, take it easy now and be careful because there is still ice; OK - you made it out of the driveway now gun it; OK, slow down now for the light and the road will be better after that; now gun it but be very careful; Thank goodness there isn't any traffic but there is still ice so stay in control; Oh Jehovah - please, please, please help me be what I need to be no matter what I find. Stop it! Please help me stay calm so I can be of help."
Bascially though, I think I felt that if I could just get there, it would be okay somehow. As a rule I am still pretty good in a crisis. I have learned how to slow down my breathing and concentrate on listening so that I can think clearly and try to contribute to and/or support resolutions to problems rather than adding to them. I also know better than to "lose it" because then no one will listen to you or more importantly, they will not share any information with you.
I flew in Mama's yard covered with ice and flew up onto the porch - I don't remember hitting the steps but I must have hit a few of them. Mama started crying a little when she saw me and I remember very calmly telling her, "Sit down Mama, it's going to be okay". You know how in the movies, you walk in and the person isn't moving and doesn't respond so you put your fingers on their neck or their wrists to find a pulse? Well forget that! The only pulse you will hear is your own heart beating so loudly in your own ears you can't hear anything else. Daddy looked like he always did but he didn't respond which was totally not normal for him. It was at that very moment that I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix this. I almost lost it but I knew it would really upset Mama and then the police got there within minutes the Ambulance arrived. One of the paramedics was a friend of my older brother-in-law and knew who we were right away. They asked me to leave the bedroom while they put Daddy on the floor to try and revive him. I went in to be with Mama who started crying and that scared me because she'd had a mini-stroke several years before so I calmed her down and about that time, the police who was standing in the doorway watching them work on Daddy said they got a little signal on their machine and that calmed her a little but he told me not to get our hopes up too much. (I have often wondered if our friend decided to give us time to pull it together by taking Daddy to the hospital - if so , he did a good thing.)
About that time there was a knock on the door and this tall, handsome, elderly gentleman in his PJ's, coat and nice hat came in and said, "Hello, I'm your Mother's neighbor from next door and want to offer any help you may need right now." I will never forget his gentlemanly kindness at that time. Mama got up and went into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and I asked him to be with her while I called all my sisters. Then I went into my old mode of taking care of business and before they got Daddy ready to transport to the hospital I had called all my sisters and several nieces and nephews locally and most of them got to the house around the time I left to ride in the ambulance with Daddy while my brother-in-law and Big D followed us to the hospital. I grabbed Daddy's wallet as we went out - they had taken his pajama top off and we all got to see him as they rolled him out and we all noted later how handsome and healthy he looked. I can't tell you how much he just looked like he was sleeping so that made the reality harder to grasp.
When we got to the hospital, I insisted on going back with Daddy but once again, I was reminded that I was not in control and escorted to the desk. I opened Daddy's wallet to give the receptionist his health insurance information, it fell open to the first group picture we had made as sisters and that was it! I lost it totally! She basically took the wallet, got the information, gave the wallet to BigD and then escorted us to a private waiting room. I got myself under control again and not too long after, our doctor who met him at the hospital (we had called - it was different back then - believe me) came out to give me the really bad news. He said Daddy never woke up and didn't suffer in any way. It appeared his heart had just stopped beating.
Since he died at home and had not been sick, an autopsy was performed. The next day was very busy with getting everything ready for his funeral to be held the next day. In some ways it was a blur but then I can remember most of the details as if it were yesterday. We all felt like we had been kicked in the chest by a mule - wake up, make the bed, brush your teeth, then say - what now? Oh - I know. I'm going to Mama's. Then we would sit and talk and around noon Mama would say, it's time for lunch and get up and start making biscuits. And one day followed another and another and another and another. My first thought the day after Daddy died was - "Who will take care of me now if I need it?" You never stop thinking of your Daddy (and Mommy) as the ones who would "always" take care of you no matter what.
My kids know most of this and even a few more details that I didn't want to put in a public forum but I wanted to write it in my "journal" since we plan to print it out one day so that my granddaughter will have the memory also. Life is precious and can change forever between the hours of 8:45pm and 10:00pm. At 8:45pm, my Dad was talking to my son and Mama and at 10pm he wasn't breathing. Don't take one minute for granted - live every moment to the fullest - even if it is just reading a book you wanted to read or taking care of chores that need taking care of - do it in the moment. Uh Oh - there goes my daughter's Word for the Year 2010 - Present - live in the present. Sometimes it takes remembering something from the past to make you actually feel the Present. Love you Daddy

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