Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Just a Matter of Time....


Yesterday was a tough day in our family.

The family decision -- which was really my Mom's decision to honor Dad's wishes -- was that no artificial means will be used to prolong my Dad's life.

No feeding tube, no IV, nothing.

Even though his hastening death is something that we have all been preparing for since his stroke in 1999, how can you really prepare for the death of your father?

I was hoping that the feeding tube might be inserted and there might be a chance for "recovering" from this latest episode, but it is not what Dad wanted and I am okay with that as is everyone in the family. As hard as it is for us here to let go, we all know, deep down, that it is for the best.

He knows too. He won't open his mouth to be fed and strongly shook his head NO when my sister Mary asked him if he wanted a feeding tube implanted.

After seeing him just a couple of weeks ago here, there was a side of me that sensed as we said our goodbyes at the airport, that this was the last time I would see him alive.

But that didn't prepare me for the torrent of emotions that nearly doubled me over while my Mom informed me on the phone that no feeding tube would be implanted. She repeated it in a strong but calm voice almost to reassure her that she was doing the right thing (she is, I think) but almost as a way to say, Don't argue with me on this one thing (I won't).

Poor Kate, laying on her mat looking up at me with her eyes wide in horror could only wonder why is Dad crying?

In some ways it feels like the man that was my Dad died with the stroke and yet the man that was left is now about to pass on.

But he hadn't died, he just changed, and deep down in his soul he was always the Dad the we knew and that's the reason for the sadness.

So we are preparing for his death, and we don't know when, though we will probably head to Wisconsin on the Fourth of July or close to that time. It will be the first time Kate will meet her aunts, uncles and some of her cousins. A good thing to come from the sadness.

I've been looking through some photographs and want to dig out some photos of Dad before he had the stroke, when he was younger, more vital, always a hard worker. I've got a picture that I want to find that I made of him amidst the dust and swirling seeds at his warehouse when he was mixing a ton of grass seed. I don't know how many of those tons I had mixed when I was a kid and in college and I remember being taken by the beauty of the scene and yet I felt a sadness that here he was doing this work in his sixties.

But the real pictures of my Dad that were never photographed with a camera only rest in the back of my mind as great images of who he was.

The first image is of Dad tossing me the baseball as we did all through the summers of my childhood after the sun had dropped below the trees. The ball, black from being tossed on the grass and bounced off the cement all summer (we only got one new ball a year) is now almost dangerous so we toss it against the sky (sometimes barely missing a winged bat) until it gets to be so dark that we can barely see. We head in, he puts his arm around my shoulder as we go in to make a root beer float.

The second image is of him coaching me in Little League when I was 10. It was a Saturday morning game and it was the bottom of the sixth -- our last chance to win. Somehow, the center fielder decided to play in on me and I smacked that thing over his head and he was still chasing it as I rounded third and then slid into home (I didn't need to, I just wanted to). We won, a walk-off home run and I remember looking up and seeing Dad over on the third base line, dancing like an warrior. One hand on the clipboard that held his scoring book (they're probably still at home somewhere) and the other hand punching the air, happy we won and probably more happy (he never said) that I hit the home run.

Finally, I will never forget the image of him at the train station at home in Columbus, as he was putting me on the Amtrak to return to Marquette for my last semester after five years of college. I was 22, and just could not wait to get out of school and into the workplace (I had lined up an internship in Chicago that summer that would turn into a job later) and I just didn't relish the thought of the 18 credit hours required for me to graduate.

I was ready to quit to just say enough. I half expected an argument, but instead I got a look of fatherly concern and support.

I know how you feel, it's been a long haul, he said. And I know it doesn't seem like it will ever end. But trust me, it will. You have come so far and it's going to be a tough semester but then it will be done and you will be able to look back on this and realize that you did it. You did what you set out to do. And in twenty years if you quit I think you'll always regret that you didn't just stick it out just a bit longer.

There was no anger, no threats, no intimidation, just a man talking to his son, who was now becoming a man. It was a turning point in our relationship and he was so right. I would regret it if I didn't, and that last semester was a struggle.

But I did it. And he taught me in those instances what parenting is about and they are the lessons I'll take with me, add my own twist and pass along to Kate.

Thank God she met him twice in her first sixth months. She may not remember it, but she will have the photographs and she'll have the stories of her grandfather, a man who's father died when he was five, who survived the depression, put himself through college by sleeping in the University greenhouse to save money, met a woman one night, told his best friend the next day that she would be his wife (sounds kind of familiar?) and they married and would be happily married for 50 years, fathered four children, grandfather to six and a good and decent man.

I'd say that is an amazing legacy.

15 Comments:

Blogger Robert said...

Hi Paul, I'm sure your Dad is comforted to know what a wonderful, caring man you've become.

I've only known you a short time; but I do know that about you.

Paul, your words create wonderful images; and your images depict wonderful moments. See you soon my friend.

Robert

9:54 PM  
Blogger Million Dollar Mary said...

Hey Paul...

It hasn't really hit me until I read your post. I, too, while reading your entry sobbed from head to toe. Try to be strong, for Mom, I keep telling myself. Yet, everytime I go to see Dad I leave with an overwhelming feeling of sadness. So, what do we do? Get on the phone...pass on the details and don't deal with the feelings....thanks for letting me feel deeply through your thoughts. I, too, have so many images of Dad while growing up that have been clouded by the images of the "new" Dad since the stroke. I'll have to put them down in words....you did it beautifully.

We are looking forward to seeing you and meeting our beautiful little niece...not on this occasion...but I'm sure Dad will smile inside, knowing that he, once again, brought us all together.

Love ya dearly,
Mar

12:19 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

Paul,

My heart and soul goes out to you and your family. Your word created beautiful image of your father and the man he was to you and your sister. Take those memories of him and tell them to Kate every day. I will pray for you, and Ruth Anne as you travel home. I will pray for your family as you go though this time of sadness.

Love in Christ Always,

4:07 AM  
Blogger Evrim said...

Paul,

I am really sorry. Your dad raised a wonderful man, and you and your family are in our thoughts.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Paul,

i am so sorry for you and the family. Nothing i or anyone else can say will help to ease your pain but i just want to know that you are in our family's thoughts and prayers at this sad sad time.

Best wishes to you all.

Peter and Karen

8:30 AM  
Blogger Apertura Photography said...

Paul,

Our sincere condolences for your loss. You and your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

~Ray

8:35 AM  
Blogger Greg Gibson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Greg Gibson said...

Paul, I know exactly what you are going through. I went through this with my dad in high school and in college.

When I was a senior in high school, my dad had a major stroke just before Christmas. We were told he would not survive but somehow he did manage to miraculously pull through, albeit changed forever. He suffered severe brain damage and was an invalid for the rest of his life and required 24 hour care.

I remember quite vividly asking God to just please spare him and let him stay with us a little longer. Sometimes, however, merely surviving isn't the best option and oftenimtes in the end we are only being selfish as a result of our grief.

We loved having my father around for the 4 years he lived after the stroke, but his quality of life suffered tremendously, and so did my mom's in having to care for him.

My father hallucinated about death, often telling me he saw the local undertaker outside waiting for him with a coffin. He would ask me to take him outside and put him in the coffin. As and 18-19 year-old kid, this was terrifying.

I will never forget looking in his face in the midst of the stroke, lying on what we thought would be his deathbed..and seeing a childishness in his face...a youthfulness and innocence that I had never seen before.

One positive thing that came out of my father's illness was that I became a photographer. That Christmas when he had the stroke, my mother told me that this may be the last time that she could afford to get me a nice gift. She told me I could have anything I wanted within reason, and I asked for a 35mm camera. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have always remembered that my passion for photography was bourne out of the loss of my father.

My father finally passed when I was a senior in college.

I have always been envious of people my age who still have their father. I often think how great it would be now that I am an adult and finally understand how life works, to have had my father there to advise me and guide me along the way. It's sad we don't truly appreciate our parents until we actually walk in their shoes as adults. Unfortunately I missed that opportunity.

Just be thankful that you have had your father as long as you have. Remember that merely surviving is sometimes not the right thing. Trust your mother. She really does know best.

We'll say a prayer for you.

Greg Gibson

8:53 AM  
Blogger Iris and David said...

Paul, it's clear that you were as lucky to have him as a dad as he was to have you for a son. There is nothing easy about losing a parent, and in a way I think it might be even harder for those of us who are already parents ourselves. The bottom line is, you look at that man, in your memory the man he was to you will always be there. That is the the point, I think, in life. It is about the love you know, the love you make. And when you have the good luck to have a great guy for a dad, like I did, too, it certainly makes you feel an obligation to be there for your own kids in that same way. I hope Jordan has a few dozen of those "tossing the bruised baseball at twilight" memories of her own. That's the best we can do.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Dear Paul,
Keeping you and your family so close to my heart and prayers. Your mother is a wonderful strong woman who is honoring the wishes of your dad.

Keep strong in your faith, and let the support of your family and friends help you through this time. Never let go of all those wonderful memories. Those have helped me when I have missed my parents. God Bless you and your family,
Michelle

9:04 AM  
Blogger Maury and Clay said...

Paul,

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. What a moving tribute to your father. I will be thinking about you during this tough time.

Maury

10:23 AM  
Blogger Jeff Ascough said...

Mate, I am truly saddened to hear about your father. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Jeff

11:35 AM  
Blogger Ruth Anne Adams said...

Dad similarly rescued me from scholarly despair. I was finishing my 5th semester at law school and I so desperately wanted to take a year off and finish later. He told me there'd be time to quit when I was through.

Good thing, too. Never would've met Dave if I hadn't finished law school and joined the Army then.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Terri Lively said...

Hi Paul,

Your dad is a great man and its wonderful that I know that. The reason we know that is because you have done an excellent job of communicating it for all of us in your thoughtful and loving stories about him.

This is a tough time. You have many people who are hear to listen, support you, and help you through it. We are sure that this is one thing, among many, that makes your dad proud of you.

Terri, Brenton and Brenton Jr.

8:45 AM  
Blogger BigO said...

Paul,

Wow! Your dad sounds like a wonderful man who has done some wonderful things. I firmly believe that you can tell what a person's parents are like based on the values, beliefs and sometimes the character of the individual. I have always thought of you as an overall great guy and simply a good person. I am so sorry for your sorrow and the grief to come. Your dad raised a gentlemen and will leave this life knowing that "he done good". In a world full of disrespectful kids and thuggish attitudes it is always refreshing to meet someone that was raised right....and it shows. I'll be thinking about you my friend. You are very much in my thoughts.

Othello

10:36 AM  

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