Remembering Dad

Dear Dad, We had a great time celebrating your 87th, didn’t we?


I have to confess that we have converted the fireplace to gas since then. We missed having you around to make a fire and, well, ours just weren’t quite the same…


I promise I’ll stop rewriting and rethinking and finish our book. It’s just that I have realized some things since you died and had to make some edits.


I’m writing more than ever and working hard at it. I think I’ve made my editor and publisher nuts. How many revisions did you do to your plans before you were satisfied? The early sketches flowed then the real work of craft began, right..?



Thank you for all our time together. Pretty soon I’ll be able to share your stories. They just weren’t meant for me alone. I love you. It’s custard pie in Heaven today! Happy Birthday!


Coming soon…



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Little Van

A lot of miles were put on Volkswagons in our family—from Bugs to Carmen Ghias to Westfalia Vans—Dad loved them. My parents made many trips to Tucson in their white Westfalila to visit my sister and her family. Dad, the Eagle Scout, liked to camp, Mom liked hotels. Dad liked to sail, Mom preferred B & B’s. He usually won because, well, because he was Bill. Once he had an idea, he was set on it. Mom was a trooper.

Dad loved road trips and could drive straight through from Milwaukee to Tucson with just a few hours’ rest while Mom took the wheel. He had a CB radio and worked his way into the truckers’ VIP circle with a little van as only Dad could. He would talk through the night to the truckers while Mom tried to sleep—like pilot to pilot, or sailor to sailor, only this was trucker to the guy in the VW van. He told me he’d have great conversations and would sometimes get help with directions. Halfway across the country one night, on wide open interstate, Dad heard, “Little Van, Little Van! Your turnoff is just ahead!”

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After that van was sold, Dad regretted it, and before long was on a search for a new one. When he found a used one in California, he talked Mom into flying out with him to pick it up. With a couple boxes of camping equipment in tow so they could take their time and enjoy the drive home together, they were off to California. They landed in pouring rain, loaded their equipment into a taxi and went in search of the van owner’s address. It was still pouring when the cab driver dropped them off with all their equipment, and it was still pouring when they discovered the van was filled with mildew. Mom said, “You can buy it if you want but I am not riding in that vehicle with you.” She called a Honda dealership and bought a little bronze CRV  which she loved and they had a great trip home staying in B & B’s and hotels.

It’s the same little Honda that arrived to pick me up every Sunday morning for church with Dad these past five years. It’s the same little Honda that would pull up our driveway to pick up Sam and me for trips with Dad to the Island. It’s the same little Honda that Todd and I drove  out to 80th and Capital this afternoon to have shipped to Tucson for my sister’s daughter, Kira.

And now it’s the little Honda named Billie Dee. I know Mom and Dad are smiling.

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Picking Up the Pieces

A great windstorm arose…and beat against the house, causing one of the old crank open attic windows to break off and crash on the cement driveway below.

 

Then He arose and rebuked the wind and said, “Peace, be still.” And the wind ceased and there was great calm over the house.


Todd was busy fixing the screen on the back door–such it is with a 125 year old house. Charlie and Lauren were already there with a big brown paper bag picking up the glass when I got there. “Be careful, don’t cut yourself,” I said putting on my big rubber gardening gloves that hindered more than helped.

 

“It’s thick,” Charlie said. And together we picked up the pieces as we have so many times in life.

 

Within an hour the sun is back out, reflecting its transparent beauty through the deep green of the old oak’s leaves.

 

You may be passing through a storm but He is with you and says, Peace, be still, to quiet both the wind and your soul.

 

Mark 4:37-39

Bookends of Laughter

Don and Charlotte Chrysdale have been in our lives for as long as I can remember and way before that. Don and Dad have known each other since they were three. They were Boy Scouts together. Their parents met at church and played Sheepshead together. We grew up alongside their seven children—Peter, Pam, David, John, Mathew, Elizabeth and Patricia.

We were connected again recently when David and I ran into each other on a Friday night at the bar at Hollander, waiting for our tables. We wrote down each other’s numbers and I promised to stop by with Dad to visit Don at the Catholic Home. We never made it so he brought his mom and dad to us for a visit yesterday.

Don and Dad just beamed at each other. “We’re still here!” Dad said. “It’s great to see you Don.”

“It’s great to be seen!”

After sharing some stories, Joanie said to Charlotte, “Do you remember all that good food you brought over when Mom died? Remember that yellow squash casserole?” (Yes, and the sliced turkey breast, stuffing and cake.) “A lot of people had stopped by and we didn’t know what we’d serve and then you walked in with a feast!”

“I don’t remember that but that’s what your mom always did for me. I do remember one time in particular she and your dad came walking up our driveway bringing food to our house. I don’t remember what it was, like you do,” she giggled. “But I remember she had her scarf wrapped around her head because of the chemo. Even then she brought food.”

(I can’t even remember the last time I took food to someone’s house.)

Don brought up Dad’s fellowship to study architecture and our travels camping through Europe. “Remember how you drove along and you’d have the kids pee in a pot?” Don’s whole face lit up. “Then you’d throw it out the window!”

(Really?)

Charlotte had told me recently that though Don’s memory isn’t what it used to be, it all comes back to him when he talks to Dad. The wonders of friendship, I thought as I sat and took in the conversation—the beauty of being understood by someone, of being loved. Isn’t that all any of us really wants?

“Have you heard about the new movie that’s out?’ Dad asked Don.

“What movie?”

“Constipation,” Dad said.

“No…” Don looked quizzical.

“It hasn’t come out yet.”

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Shoes at the Door

Todd and I have had continual banters about leaving my shoes at the top of the stairs at home so I don’t track dirt across the carpeting. He’s put a nice big swatch of extra carpeting there to remind me. I use it to wipe my feet like a bull getting ready for a stampede but he says dirt travels. He can support his position, he says, by the trail I’ve created from the steps to my closet. I don’t see it. It’s amazing we stay married. I have come to believe he’s part saint.

I think he’ll be pleased to hear that while I’ve been staying at Dad’s I’ve gotten into the habit of kicking my shoes off at the door. Things change.

Things change when you step inside a door closer to life because you’re nearer death. Time becomes timeless. Space loses boundaries—morning becomes night, and night, morning. Dad and I were up in the night and he was talking about going to the Island today. It’s 10:48 a.m. now so I know we won’t be getting an early start.

“How do we do this?” my sister and I ask each other. “How do we do this?” What do we say?—call me when you think you’re dying again, Dad. I gotta go now.” We miss our husbands—but I can see mine every day. She’s 2200 miles away from home and work—I’m within walking distance to both. The world goes on around us, where days are measured in minutes not breaths, where shoes are carelessly worn across carpeting, where death is seen as the end and life as finite

Don’t talk about death in front of Dad—not death where it’s the end. Don’t bring up the end because to him, this is a new journey, a new beginning—a new life. Don’t mention grief. “We are celebrating here,” he tells the nurse.

“It’s so beautiful here in your condo, Bill,” she responds as her eyes search the photos that stand in layers on the shelf beside her—it’s as if she’s searching for an explanation. She won’t find it in the flat, two dimensional reflections of our images. It’s a Living Presence she senses which brings a timeless beauty, that dwells within and fills the room where my shoes are sitting at the door. “I can feel the family’s love,” she says. “You all seem to be doing just fine.”

I think we are. This is a time to be treasured not measured.

When heaven begins to open, you find yourself standing on holy ground and you just know inside—you know the time has come to leave your shoes at the door.

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Sunday with Dad

I was following behind Dad as he took charge of the walker that has lived for two years in the basement storeroom. Anytime we made the slightest suggestion to get it out for him, the answer was, “No”.

He’s good at getting around with it now though and with the wheels, I call him Billy Speedster. As he makes his way around the tight corner between the bed and the dresser I hear him muttering, “It says in the Bible, when you get old, you’ll need help.” These days are blending together and like Dad, I lose track which day is which. But there is some freedom in that, even joy.

I want to have the scriptures Dad treasures engraved in my heart and I spent yesterday morning reading through his favorites–the Book of John, Chapters 14-17. It begins with Jesus comforting his disciples and I love how, all these years later, the words sound as though they could be spoken directly to us. The first verse is one of Mom’s favorites, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for them and will come back for them. When Thomas says that he doesn’t know the way, Jesus tells him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

These are the words Dad has lived his life by. Ask a cashier at his grocery store, a neighbor, my son or my husband, or even one of my best friends who might just happen to run into him at CVS, Dad will want to know how your faith is and isn’t afraid to ask if you know Jesus. Dad’s touched hearts and ticked others off.

“Love each other as I have loved you,” Jesus says in Chapter 15:12. I counted seven times that he says, “Remain in Me.” And three more times, “Remain in my love.”

I have the privilege of spending these holy days with Dad and I can’t help but want to share them. Dad is sleeping now so I can’t ask him but I would guess that if he wanted to share anything from his heart to yours today, it would be just that–remain in God’s Love.

“Debbie?” I hear Dad’s voice calling from his bedroom.

“I’m here, Dad,” I yell back as I run down the hall. He’s sitting up and turns his head. Out of the corner of his eye I catch the twinkle.

“I thought this was a Bed and Breakfast ”

“You ready for breakfast, Dad?”

“Yes!”

June 19, 2016image