My Dad recently passed away one month shy of his 93rd birthday. Here’s one story that embodies his spirit and legacy, courage, perseverance and joy.
Dad could still muster the energy to walk to the end of the driveway and into the passenger seat of my convertible. Over the years I did my best to look out for him, to visit often, and otherwise do whatever I could to make sure he felt loved, cared for and not forgotten.
Driving along winding two lane country roads that carve through the canyons (central California ), I’d point out the vineyards, old barns and livestock.
“Hey Dad, look at the horses, see em over there?”
He turned his head toward them and smiled. We drove a little farther.
“The air feels so good, the air feels good.” Dad remarked, speaking just loud enough for me to hear.
The rush of wind and fresh air had animated his spirit. He felt so good away from the care home, the oxygen hose and the routines that otherwise collapsed one day into the next.
Not long after seeing the horses we came upon a rather large Bull grazing but otherwise oblivious to our presence – were it not for the sounds of Frank Sinatra blasting through the Harmon Kardon speakers in the car.
So naturally I parked, the three of us eyeballing one another while the music played.
“That’s Life!” Sinatra’s voice was booming.
Dad did his best to sing along and even though he couldn’t belt it out like he used to he smiled and raised a hand skyward, emphasizing this refrain:
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race
Indeed, he’s had been up and down and over and out many times. He always seemed to find a way to ‘get back in the race’.
“Thank you Jer, thanks a lot”. Unless he was too tired to say so, he made sure to thank me.
“You’re welcome Dad, get some rest and I’ll see ya tomorrow.” .
Not long after this he’d arrived home yet from another stay in the hospital. No longer able to get out of bed on his own, I understood this was the beginning of his ‘transition’.
“What’s today? Is it Sunday?” Dad managed to ask me from his hospice bed.
“No Dad, it’s Thursday”. I told him and then turned to put his TV on.
“Hey Dad, ‘A Face in the Crowd’ with Andy Griffith, do you remember this one?’”
He nodded ever so slightly and it was clear he was no longer interested in TV, his focus turning inward, moving toward Spirit.
For the next several days he lie there, floating in and out of consciousness. Sometimes he’d struggle, trying to express something that neither I nor the hospice care nurse could understand. I hated seeing him this way. He was no longer able to do any of the things he enjoyed, long walks and a good meal before falling asleep in his favorite, well worn recliner.
There would be no more drives through the countryside like we’d done only a few weeks before.
Dad was near the end but not quite there. It was getting late, I was tired, hungry and looking forward to the homemade meatloaf Joy had warming in the oven. Dad would have insisted that I eat and get some rest, as he had told me a million times before.
I hesitated before leaving and planned to be back early the next morning.I whispered into his ear, then kissed his forehead.
“Dad, I’ll be back soon. I love you.”
A few hours later his caregiver called to let me know that Dad was now resting in peace.That was Sunday evening, he’d waited after all.