Today was Father's Day, and I blinked back tears often all day, especially this morning when I was reading the newspaper with all the emphasis on father-child relationships. I miss him, and some days it is so fresh that it hurts my heart all over again. Like today.
My daddy died nearly eight years ago, a week after Thanksgiving 1999, following bypass surgery that was sort of unexpected. He knew his heart wasn't pumping well, and went in for an angiogram that showed several big blockages. His doctor told him that many folks his age did just fine with the bypass surgery ... and that without it, he likely wouldn't last much longer than the following spring.
I talked to him by phone several times as he was considering his options, as did my brother. Mother was in a rehab hospital across the street, recovering from a broken pelvis she'd incurred in a fall in their apartment -- it didn't take much to cause a break in her fragile bones. I know she talked to him: I don't know what she said.
My brother, at the last minute, changed business travel plans and drove to Springfield to be there for the surgery. "Something," he said, had told him he needed to go.
Daddy was upbeat about it, and we talked about his current favorite story, Keep Your Fork, in the last conversation I was to have with him. When we'd left him just a few days earlier to return home after spending a rare Thanksgiving instead of Christmas together (corporate job concern about Y2K was grounding Tony and Rachel for that holiday), he'd given me a very long, hard hug that -- after I'd gotten back to the hotel -- had me in tears. It was like he knew. And in retrospect, I did too.
The surgery went fine, although damage was more extensive than they'd thought. It wasn't until the wee hours that night that the hospital called Jimmy to tell him that Daddy was slipping -- something Jimmy felt just minutes before his phone rang. That night, I lay in bed, candles burning a quiet vigil, and *talked* in my head to my father and to God, sending energy and fervent prayers.
The next morning I clung to the phone in California as my brother and my mother sat by my father in Missouri to say goodbye. I said mine, too -- they put the phone to his ear. Daddy squeezed Mother's hand at one point, although he never regained consciousness, and when life support was removed, he died very quickly, our love surrounding him and echoing in his ears. He was an organ donor -- even in death he offered help to others.
I flew to Springfield that afternoon, and we spent a very difficult 10 days tending to end-of-life business and my poor little mother, who in one day lost not only the love of her life, but also her home -- she was not well enough to be able to continue in the retirement community, so we had to find a skilled nursing center. It was devastating for all of us.
Sometimes I'll see an older man with a thatch of thin, flyaway white hair, or with a little hitch in his getalong, and my heart will catch, just for a moment. I hear him in my head almost every time I get behind the wheel of a car -- "You don't have to get anywhere that fast," he'd say when I was inclined to speed a little. I seldom do anymore.
When we eat our first tuna-pasta salad of the summer, I remember how much he loved that meal, and how he so appreciated home cooking because of his years eating restaurant food when he'd travel throughout the state. I remember how he loved sports -- anything, but especially golf. When we bowl, I recall his fast, hard throws down the alley. When I read a book or see a show he'd have enjoyed, I can feel him close to me.
I told him "Keep your fork, Daddy," during our last conversation. "The best is yet to be."
He believed that to the core of his being. I hope that my parents are dancing in heaven, loving each other, loving us, sharing the love-energy that is God. I was blessed to have him as my father.