It has been seven years since my Dad passed away. He is in my thoughts quite often. Remembering times past together, and the wonderful things he did for our family. I try as often as we can to visit my Mom to spend time with her and to help out around the house. This house is the same home that she and my Dad shared. It is a beautiful home that she fills with pretty features and surrounds the outside with beautiful flowers and decorations. A very special gift for me each time I visit, I continue to find memories of him everywhere.
I do not feel that we are ever really ready to say goodbye. My Dad passed away after an over five year battle with Parkinson’s Disease. A very tough progressive disorder of the nervous system that gradually removed from him the ability to move and function. As the end drew near, my prayers began to shift away from a total healing to more of a comforting and strengthening for him and my Mom, she being his primary caregiver. I knew with each visit the potential was that he may be taken away before we were able to get back to them. I began to prepare myself for the time when I would have to say goodbye.
How do you prepare? My life was certainly a blessed life. Not only was I able to experience two loving parents, but my I had wonderful times and memories with my Mom’s parents and my Dad’s father. My Dad’s mother passed when I was around three. This has provided me with sweet pictures of her holding me, but I am afraid not much recollection. Rich I was in a family not only fairly large on both sides with brothers, a sister, uncles, aunts and cousins, but with families that really enjoyed getting together and having fun. Blessed. At that point in my life, I had not lost someone as close as my Dad. To tell the truth what bothered me most was I was being selfish. I did not want to lose him. I wanted more time with him. I wanted to be able to speak to him and hear him talk. To go places with him and Mom and have more fun with my wife and kids. I wanted more.
With time, the Parkinson’s took more and more away from Dad. Towards the end it took away his ability to communicate through normal speech. This not only made it difficult for my Mom to care for him, but meant for all of us losing his conversations. At times speaking with one another can be unappreciated, especially when we are busy. Once gone though, conversations become very precious. To hear what they are thinking, to know how they are feeling. To share what is going on in each others’ lives. Part of my preparing was making certain every time spent with Dad, he knew that he was loved. For him to know he was appreciated. Whether he was able to respond back or not, Dad knew before I left for my home.
Being able to continue going places with Dad and Mom become more difficult as the disease progressed. Trying to go places with Dad, who began having difficulties managing getting in and out of a vehicle, climbing up and down steps, and eventually required wheelchair access everywhere, made me realize what the term “Accessible” means. In the small town where they lived, many of the places we wanted to travel were hard to manage, difficult to enter, or downright out of the realm of possibility to visit. I began to understand that in lieu of places and adventures with Mom and Dad, what I had now was Time. Time together watching his Chicago Cubs play baseball (oh how happy he would be right now!), or watching a western movie, or just sharing with him the ongoings of his grandkids. Time became very special and thank God it seemed to slow down and each visit had rich connections between the two of us. To say I was preparing for his passing would be a lie. No, if anything, I was developing a stronger appreciation of what he meant to me. A stronger understanding of all the wonderful things both Mom and he did even if at the time I didn’t understand or take time to say thank you.
Inside the house is a work bench and table in a little shop. My Mom has left the room basically the same, cleaned out, but with the same feel, colors and maps Dad appreciated on the wall. Whenever I enter the shop to get a tool or item to help whatever task we are working on, I can still see and hear Dad. Outside their house are many trees and shrubs they both planted when they relocated some years back. There is a Mimosa that we especially recall, since Dad planted it from a seed, and cared for it in the early years. Now everyone shares in the beauty during the Spring and Summer months. In the front entrance of the house there are beautiful annuals planted adjacent to a memorial bench given to my Mom after his passing. A beautiful reminder, cared for much in the same way she tenderly and lovingly cared for him. This place holds many memories near and dear to me.
You see, I was never really preparing myself for his passing. That is not something I was capable or willing. God was preparing for me over time to accept and move forward. Not to be ready to say goodbye, but to move to the next part of my life with my Mom, and how to keep Dad close in memory. He is in me and all of those who were blessed to know him. He is everywhere that I am whenever I recall him. So I appreciate what my Mom has done and continues to do, for at this house his memory is planted everywhere.
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