Remembering Father’s Day 2013

Posted: June 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Dad had several health setbacks by the time September 2012 hit. To walk from Point A to Point B, he shuffled his feet because he feared that he would fall down. Already a soft-spoken man, he was almost silent. Words were replaced by smiles. He was no longer perfectly filling out the newspaper crossword puzzles like he had done for years. And he slept — a lot. The already-extensive, erratic sleep hours had increased just as much as the trips to the hospital.  I knew back in autumn 2012 that Dad had become a shell of his former self. I was prepared for the then-upcoming visit as Mom and my sisters phoned, e-mailed, Skyped and texted with news of Dad’s deteriorating condition. I hadn’t been back to the Cleveland area in over five years at that point. My own life in the Peach State got in the way.

When we arrived at my folks’ house, I was happy to see him as he was happy to see me. There he was, my biggest supporter who believed in me as I believed in him. During that autumn visit, we cleaned out the house knowing that one day, Mom will have to sell. Memories of happy and not-so-happy times came flooding back.  It was a wonderful trip that I will cherish.

After that September 2012 visit, Cami and I left Cleveland feeling melancholy and upon retrospection, in tears. Cami recently lost her husband, mother and some pets within four years. Too much loss in such a short span of time for someone in her mid-40s. Now, here I am and with someone who understands deteriorating conditions, hospital rooms and nursing homes all too well. Indeed, it’s just not fair, but at the end of the day, nothing is fair. We strive for fairness, but it’s never 100 percent achieved. I still wonder why that word exists.

About a month or so after that Ohio visit, Dad experienced a stroke and most likely minor strokes in the subsequent months.  Mom made the painful decision to put Dad in a nursing home. Tough choices plague us throughout life, but when one must make a tough choice involving the closest person, the emotional pain cuts deep — deeper than expected.

I made the easy choice to visit Dad for a much-too-brief Father’s Day weekend with my now-teen daughter. After a smooth flight, we got into the rental car and went straight to the nursing home. We beat Mom by a half hour. Dad was confused as I first approached him. He was ambling along in his walker to get to lunch. Certain words were recognizable, but for the most part, Dad could hardly express himself.

When Mom arrived in the nursing home lunch room, Dad seemed to perk up. Mom had me cut and feed some of Dad’s pizza. His appetite was voracious. After lunch, Dad was able to get back to his private room which is festooned with family photos alongside his adjustable bed. Mom had me help Dad into a wheelchair. That was a bit tougher than expected since Dad does not have muscle strength. It’s dead weight upon the person who helps Dad get from one place to another. I wheeled Dad down to the outside courtyard where at least for an hour or two, he could catch some fresh air and sunshine — a tough thing to do most of the time in Northeast Ohio. For me, somehow going outside, even for a fleeting moment,  gives  hope that we can all forget our personal problems and the world’s problems. Perhaps that is why I enjoy outdoor running and cycling.

We pretty much repeated the same scene on Father’s Day with some exceptions. On that day, the nursing home put on a musical performance for its patients and visitors alike. My friend Chuck, who I have known for well over 30 years came in to visit. Chuck hasn’t aged a day since high school while I am supposedly wearing my years with some type of grace.  After Chuck’s brief visit, Mom ordered in pizza for all of us to enjoy in the nursing home’s atrium area where one of my sisters joined us. During the whole weekend, Dad spoke one clear sentence: “I just cannot talk anymore.” When dinner was finished, we wheeled Dad back out to the courtyard for a while. He grew tired. We took him back to his room where he can somewhat get himself back into the bed.  After adjusting the bed and  turning on his 13-inch TV, I hugged Dad goodbye.

Did Dad get to do all the things he wished to do in life? Not exactly. Dad told me through the years that he wanted to be a geologist, but his parents urged him to go into something more practical, something where a man could have a good family. Dad became a pharmacist and candidly admitted that he loathed the career and business. In his spare time, he poured his energies into home projects and later on, took on the crossword puzzles and studied dictionaries. Dad achieved what he could under the circumstances. My parents wished to live in a bigger house. After 31 years in what my mom called a “shack,” they moved into a much larger house and paid it off. Dad finally got the library that he wanted. Mom got the family room, kitchen and deck that she always wanted. They took occasional trips to Las Vegas and even took a Hawaiian cruise.

No, Dad didn’t get to become the CEO of a pharmacy chain making him rich and notorious like some his colleagues became through the years. Dad didn’t move us into a mansion on the hill. Dad didn’t shower us with whatever we wanted all of the time. I wrote earlier that Dad was my biggest supporter. He worked long hours in the pharmacy to put my sisters and me through school so that the three of us could have a shot at decent lives. He took us on Sunday drives to the Ohio countryside and on occasional vacations to places like Los Angeles, Toronto and Washington. He moved us in and out of dorms rooms, apartments and houses. Dad was always incredibly dedicated to his family. He just took good care of us. Dad was simple. Dad was honest. They just don’t make ’em like that any longer and if “they” do, it’s a rare occurrence.

Dad is 79 on June 23. None of us will ever know how much longer Dad will be here on this planet, but we know one thing: we love him dearly.



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