Morning Light

imageThe storm passed through in the night and I didn’t even notice. I woke up this morning and the light in Dad’s room was on. He was sitting up reading his devotions as he used to do. He hasn’t been able to sit up on his own for a while.

“Dad?” I walked over and he looked up at me.

“I’m not dying! This is exactly what I was afraid of.”

“Well, you have a little energy. This is a good thing.”

“I swung my legs around and sat up.”

I smiled.

“But I told Dr. Tschopp I was dying.”

“Well Dad, it’s true, we all are.”

“But I told her I need hospice.”

“That’s good. I think we do.”

“Joanie’s coming home. I’m supposed to be dying.”

“You’re hardly eating. You don’t have much strength. I think we do need Hospice and it’s great Joanie is coming. She wants to see you. I guess God’s giving you a little extra time to get your heart right. If that takes ten years…well, what can I say?”

The doctor called then and we talked through a few things. By the time I hung up the phone he was back asleep. Do you think he’d notice if I make a single serving of Cream of Wheat…?

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I’m Gonna Miss Dad

Dad’s paper wasn’t delivered in the morning so I went to get him one after work. I picked up a couple extra bananas too and took a walk to the hot bar to see if I might find something for Todd and me for dinner. They had hamburgers and brats and sauerkraut, mac and cheese—all the things that remind me of Dad. I remembered all the times I’d come there to pick up a quick dinner for him—after an afternoon at the doctor’s or one of those long hospital stays.
My arms held the paper, some blueberries and bananas so when I felt the tear roll down my right cheek, I reached to wipe it but dropped a banana. I bent down to pick it up and felt the spasm in my back from sneezing on Sunday seize up. It’s hard to carry large loads of emotion around with you all the time. I’m working on that but I’m going to really miss my dad.
When I got back to the condo, I handed him his paper. His head was tucked down as he does so he can swallow but I knew he was getting ready to say something. I waited.
“I felt really bad sending you for my paper.”
“You didn’t send me, Dad. I wanted to go. I needed a few things.”
“Well, I love reading the paper but I realized after you left that I’d rather talk to you.”
I sat back into the couch then. “Well, here I am! You can have both!”
We did talk for a while but I felt the usual pull of needing to be in two places at once. I have a wonderful staff that seems to understand and have tried to extend the same support to them. My Dad raised us to put God first, family second and work third. (That’s not easy.) And I have a wonderful husband who seems to understand. None the less, my back aches and like Dad, I’m eating less and sleeping more. Letting go isn’t for the weak.
Dad is very organized and had his Power of Attorney papers completed with his attorney years ago while Mom was still alive. I will have to take the lead on what it says and the most challenging part of it is the last line. Dad has written in a scripture: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10). Mom had said the same thing to me in her own words: “I don’t want you crying over me. It’s just my time.” I had promised her I wouldn’t. But I did.
So, when I was in the kitchen of Dad’s condo last night, putting his dishes in the dishwasher, tears rolled down my cheeks. My hands were full so I couldn’t brush them away. I felt the strong urge to go back and sit down with Dad and tell him I’m going to really miss him when he’s gone. But I didn’t. I knew I would cry and didn’t want to upset him.
I want to be faithful to the Words I read in his Power of Attorney. They are important to him and I know, powerful. I told him when I started writing his stories that I would be sure to let people know that he was happy about going home to Jesus. He corrected me that day. His eyes beamed. “Happy?” He said. Joyous! Why, I’ll be Joyous!”
In my experience, God has always provided what I needed just at the right time. I’m certain He will provide Joy in my heart for a life well-lived when the time comes. Because that’s what I want to share from Dad to you.

Well-Rested

Dad called at 1:00 pm today: Hi Debs, I just called to let you know I’m still alive!

Me: Is everything okay, Dad?

Dad: Yeah (he chuckles). I just slept til 1:00!

He sleeps later and eats less but his sense of humor and spirit are great.

Me: Well, you’re well-rested! I’ll come over and warm up your breakfast.
(I drop what I’m doing and arrive just as he is reaching for his shoes. I hand him one.)

Dad: I think I should call my doctor and let her know how much I’m sleeping.

Me: What will she do, Dad, give you something to stay awake? (He chuckles again.) I think you look well-rested.

His Cream of Wheat has turned to a brick by now so I thin it with Ensure and warm it up. I wait for him to get off the phone with the Journal, (His paper wasn’t delivered again this morning, he loves his paper) making me late for a meeting but that’s the way these days go. I tell him I’ll pick up a paper after work and give him a kiss.

Dad: Thank you sweetheart. I love it when you stop by.

He smiles the smile that melts my heart: Do I look well-rested…?

Yep, well-rested!

I love my Dad.

The New Bed

 

It’s Saturday morning and the phone rings as I’m making coffee. “Debbie, I can’t find the mattress protector.” Dad bought a new bed this week.

“Didn’t you buy one?”

“I thought so.”

“I’m pretty sure John (my brother) said you did.”

“Louis (his friend) put the bed together for me so I’m not sure what he did and I don’t see it. I want to go over to the store and have them show me what it looks like.”

Pause. “Do you want me to go with you?”

Pause. “Well, that would be ideal. I’m just ready to eat my breakfast. I’ll call you back.”

Todd said to tell Dad to look around for it because It’s probably right there but I called Steinhafel’s instead to check out his order. I didn’t have any success and got totally frustrated with the salesperson. (I found out later he bought it at Mattress Firm.)

After a while, just as I was walking out the door to go to Dad’s, he called back to say he had talked to the store. It was on the bed and things were all straightened out. What he thought was the fitted sheet is also the protector.

“Oh, I was just on my way over,” I said.

“Well, I hate to ever tell you not to come over.”

“Okay, I’ll come over anyway.”

When I got there I had to check it out. All I found was a fitted sheet. “Dad, you were right the first time. It’s not here.” I hear the squeak of his boot as he makes his way down the hall.

“They said it looks like a fitted sheet. It’s there.”

“That is the fitted sheet. You have a mattress pad and a fitted sheet but no protector.” As he walks into the room I notice a small box sitting on his dresser. “What’s this?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t open it.”

I read the type across the front, “Mattress Protector”. We look at each other.

“I guess I should have opened the box.”

I love my dad.

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Handy Handkerchiefs and a Goodnight Kiss


Is it just me or is there something about the way some people say your name that makes your heart hum?

“Debbie,” he said.

I looked up from my meatloaf and mashed potatoes to meet his eyes and smiled. I love hearing Dad say my name.

“I lay on my back when I take a nap. That’s how I sleep.” Where’s he going with this I wonder and nod.

“I realized the seam of my jeans and my belt really bother the bone in my back.”

Dad’s losing quite a bit of weight these days. He can’t seem to keep it on.

“But I figured out that I can put a handkerchief in each pocket and then I’m fine!”

Red or blue I wonder but don’t ask.

“It lifts you up,” my husband says. “That would never work for me.” We laugh.

Don’t ask me how we can make a conversation about a sore back bone funny but we do.

Hellos from neighbors who love Dad make a perfect ending to supper and then we drive back to Dad’s condo together–Sam and me with Dad in his Honda and Todd following in the little convertible  Dad takes it slow getting out of the car and holds my hand as we walk down the carpeted corridor leading to his door.

Once inside, I fill his water glasses, lay out his PJs–just because I want to not because he wants me to–and put a piece of cheesecake by his chair, as he dresses for bed.

It was hard to say goodbye but I noticed Todd and Sam from the kitchen window sitting on the curb in the parking lot so gave Dad a hug and a kiss goodbye  “Do you have something warm to wear In the car?” He asked.

“I’ll be fine,” I said as I thought how much I loved him still worrying about me catching cold in a convertible. “I can wear Todd’s jacket if I need something,” and I leaned in to give him one more kiss.

As I slid into the car, Sam climbed onto my lap and Todd put the jacket he had brought along for me over my shoulders  “Dad was worried if I’d be warm enough,” I said looking across the parking lot into the condo window he and mom used to stand at together, waving goodbye.  I wanted to see him there now. I knew it would take too long for him to walk from his bedroom to the kitchen. Todd revved the engine then and as he backed up I saw Dad’s figure appear. He was waving.

I held up my jacket so he could see it and blew him a goodnight kiss.

It’s the little things I treasure now–my dad’s bandana handkerchiefs, shared smiles and nods, the outline of a hand waving to me from a window across a parking lot, a jacket thrown over my shoulders unexpectedly and especially the sound of my name spoken with sweet familiarity and with love.

 

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Smart Phone

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This past weekend, Dad and I commented on how grateful we were that we made it through the winter without either of us getting sick.  We’re both vulnerable to catching pneumonia, him more than me.

 

This past Thursday, the nonprofit that I work at was holding its first ever gala fundraiser.  It’s a long story but several months back the board had suggested we cancel it after a couple challenges came up at the office. But, undaunted, my new development director supported me and together, with the board, we forged on.

 

Well, Dad came down with pneumonia on Wednesday afternoon and I had to take him from urgent care then to ER on Wednesdsy night.

 

It all worked out. He came home from the hospital yesterday and the event was great.

 

I made his dinner tray tonight and knowing the bacon wrapped around the ham loaf may not be  the easiest to eat, I unwrapped it and set it on the side of the plate as a sort of garnish…well, more to fill out the plate because his servings are so small. He has no appetite. I told him he could eat the soft part. (More calories.)

 

“I hate bacon”, he said as I set the tray down on the foot rest in front of his favorite chair. Bacon removed from plate. I know someone who will like it. (My dog Sam)

 

Dad sits messing with his phone.
“Dad, your food is getting cold.”
He looks at me, “I can’t get the mute off.”
“Give it here, you’re too hard on the phone, gentle swipe, see there?”
He nods and smiles. “You’re so patient with me, Debbie.”

 

“I know…and that’s why there’s wine…”
“I still can’t get the mute off.” He continues fiddling with it and says, “It’s still there.”
“Where?”
“In the lower left.”
“I don’t see it.”
“There.”
“Where?”
“In the lower left.”
“I don’t see it, Dad.”
“Look on the TV.”
“The TV?” I close my book. “Oh, I see it there.

 

Dad…your phone is smart but not that smart. You need your remote.”
He picks up remote and turns off mute. Takes bite of ham loaf.
“Is it cold, Dad?”
“Uh-huh, it needs a minute or two.”
I carry my glass of wine with me to the kitchen, refill and heat meat.

 

Saturday night with Dad!

 

Fridays with Dad

Every Friday at 5:15, I call to order Dad’s favorite fish fry. All I need to tell the hostess is my name and she knows: 1 fried cod, extra tarter, extra slaw to go. When I take it to Dad’s, I pour him an O’doul’s and we sit and talk and catch up on the week.

On this particular Friday, I had had a remarkable meeting that week and when I told Dad about it he told me that he had spent the day praying for me.

I asked him how you spend a day praying for someone and he said, “It’s hard…things come to mind and I let the Lord inspire me.” When I asked what I will ever do without his prayers he said, “Why you’ll do the same thing I do, pray for the next generation. And you’ll do a great job.”