My dad passed away Tuesday evening at the age of 84. He had been struggling for a while, suffering from Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkinson’s. The one person who should have been holding the family together, was more instrumental in tearing it apart so that now we are a family divided.
The last time I visited with my dad was this summer. He didn’t seem to know who I was. He still looked well and I felt good about my visit with him. That was the last time I saw him. I know that as time marched on, his condition deteriorated and I chose not to visit. While some may view this as a cop-out, I look at it as self-preservation. The family drama also made visits difficult.
I lost a sister fifty years ago to Leukemia. I was 5 and Debbie was 7. I remember some things as though it happened yesterday. It was an event in my life that changed me forever. I do not deal very well with losing people. I know that it’s part of life; just not one that I deal with very well.
I’ve been through a lot of loss in my life, beginning when I was very young. The last, and most devastating loss was during my divorce from my children’s father. That was 18 years ago. Although they are blissfully unaware of what transpired (the therapist said I protected them too much) and how things have progressed to where they are now, it was through manipulation called Parental Alienation Syndrome. That’s the problem with PAS. Children do not normally realize what happened until sometimes many years in to adulthood and they get angry any time it is mentioned. Sometimes much too late to reconcile with the alienated parent.
This is a loss I wake up with every day of my life. While we bury some of our loved ones, grieve, and somehow manage to move on with life, this is different. It is a loss of a loved one every day and you continue to grieve, but not move on.
My Dad wasn’t perfect. None of us are. But, he was a good dad. He was a State Trooper for many years and because the pay was extremely low, he sometimes worked three jobs to support his family. If I had a “situation” he was there to fight my battles, to defend me. He sewed my broken bra straps. He dried my tears. When I needed a bug collection for science class, he helped me catch the bugs and then he carefully preserved them and mounted them inside of a glass case that he built for me.
He built two wooden shadow boxes and hinged them together. It had a handle and a latch and looked like a wooden briefcase. Inside each side he mounted styrofoam board with my bugs and installed glass over each side. It was the best in the school. While others mounted their bugs on poster board, my dad helped me mount them in first class. I was teased unmercifully, but like Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, that bug case was made with more love and attention that most kids get in a lifetime.
There was a Christmas when I received a little keyboard and I learned to play the Blue Danube. He was so proud. Anyone who came to the house had to listen to me play! I remember my dad singing all of us to sleep with Red River Valley. I also remember him keeping a little jar of lemon drops on the dresser and we were forbidden to enter my parents bedroom. We’d go to bed and listen to make sure they were in the kitchen and one of us would sneak into the room and take a couple of lemon drops. He never said anything about the missing lemon drops, although I’m sure he knew we took them.
He passed on his love of German Shepherds to me. He accepted me as the person I am. I am proud to have had him as my dad.
When my dad began feeling the effects of his illness, he mention two things that he wanted to do. One was visit the State Police Academy and the second was to visit his hometown of Olla, Louisiana. My husband (also a retired trooper) made arrangements to take him on a tour of the academy and he had the opportunity to sit in the Colonel‘s chair. He enjoyed his day tremendously and I was so blessed to have this time with him. The second in command presented him with two State Police medallions and when we returned home, I printed a photo of the old academy and of him in the Colonel’s chair and framed it along with the medallions. He loved to look at it everyday and tell the story. I regret that his health soon declined and we never had the chance to take him to Olla.
My dad had retired from the State Police by the time my second daughter was born, but when my first-born was little, he loved driving up to my house and putting the lights on for her. She would stand in the window and clap her hands. She adored her grandpa and he her. She was the first grandchild and the darling of his eye. He often picked her up and took her home with him.
My dad was a member of the MPs.
While I miss my dad terribly, I know he is in a better place. A place where he can no longer hear the drama and manipulation around him. A place where he can now hold the child he lost so many years ago. That brings peace to my heart and I feel more happiness than sorrow. I’ve had him all these years and now my sister will have her turn in eternity. That makes me happy.
Those thoughts will carry me through his wake and funeral. I’ll grieve but it will be bittersweet. Goodbye for now my wonderful Dad. You were here for me when I needed you and I will miss you. Enjoy your life in eternity.
As the days are slowing creeping by, more memories have been floating around and I wanted to add them to this post, mostly for myself, but I also thought you might enjoy them as well.
When I posted on Facebook – what did we do before Facebook – to let my friends know that my dad had passed away, they began sharing memories of their own, which in turn, brought back memories for me.
There were times when I was stopped by policemen and didn’t understand why. I was always told I was going too fast, when I was pretty sure I had not been. Years later, I found out the reason. My dad, who was a State Trooper at the time would occasionally come across other law enforcement officer’s children who were speeding. He had a habit of following the kids home or driving them home, if need be, and standing there while they admitted to their parents that they had been driving way too fast, or were inebriated. Turns out, it wasn’t always appreciated by the parents. Also turned out, I was an easy target. I drove to school my senior year and like most places with one highway, it was easy to spot your target. While it bothered me at the time, I’m pretty proud that my dad tried to take the better road by trying to help these fellow classmates out rather than plopping them in jail. I can only imagine the retaliation I would have received if that had happened.
My high school boyfriend said there were many scary moments with my dad (I think I may remember more than my fair share – blushing here) but the one he really remembers is when he hit a parked car as he was driving past my house – about 15 miles away from where his father thought he was.
Another school mate admitted that my dad had stopped him for speeding and he must have been singing my praises (he was a friend) because being my friend got him out of a ticket.
I guess those were the good old days with such simple stories. My little group of friends and I were the goody two-shoes as the saying goes. Our idea of trouble was stopping in a curve on the “back road” and running into the graveyard to touch a grave. Of course, it was Deadman’s Curve where the groom was racing to see why his bride had been delayed and they crashed head-on. Doesn’t everyone have a story like this?
My dad’s CB handle was the Toy Maker. He carried his wooden toys that he made in a box in his police unit. When I was expecting my first daughter, he built a cradle for her. It is a work of art. He later made replicas for both of my daughter’s for their dolls. I have a toy train that runs around my Christmas tree each year.
I’m not calling this post finished because I know there are lots of memories that I will remember. Hope you enjoyed some of them.