Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Remembering Dad (May 1926 - June 2006)

This past week, I've been thinking about my dad. Two years ago today was his memorial service.

Dad with Ruth, our beloved stepmother. A very happy day, our youngest brother's wedding in May of 1993.

Dad in May, 1947 and just back from 18 months in Germany. What magnificent cheekbones! What a sharp dresser! What blue eyes! Yep, that's my dad. Amazingly, he seemed to have no idea just how handsome he was.

In the distance is a peaceful spot where, years ago, the property of four farmers came together. They each gave a bit of land for a church cemetery. And there it is.

Through the cornfields and up over a little knoll. I visit here almost every time I'm home in Ohio. Mom is buried there, as are her parents and grandparents. And now Dad is buried there too.

In the woods to the side of the cemetery is this huge old tree, clear around in the very back. It's a silver birch, a tree expert told me quite confidently and well over 100 years old. I'd say 150.

At the base of this tree, Dad died of a self-inflicted wound. After many days passed, I visited the site and by then, several rains had washed the tree and area. And for that I am very thankful.

Well, for one thing, it's posted at the front of the woods, No Trespassing!

It was very early on the Friday morning that he died, the coroner figured. Two days later was Sunday, Father's Day. Amazing how plans change so fast. And see, I had planned to call Buehler's florist on Saturday afternoon to order a nice bouquet for Father's Day. Instead of that, I was writing an obituary.

For the most part, I felt quite detached from Dad's death. But when I wrote a piece for a eulogy, that's when I went through a pile of tissues. I don't know that I've cried much since then. Sometimes a person can hurt deeply, but tears don't come. Or, as one brother put it, maybe we said goodbye years ago.

On my recent trip back to the US, I don't recall being weepy at his grave or when I went back into the woods. But a couple weeks earlier, I was in Dallas going a box of his tools -- hammers, screw drivers, wrenches, pliers. Seeing his tools caught me off guard somehow. And I had to dig around for a tissue or two. But I had neat plan for those tools. I engraved his name on each item and then gave them out to a niece and nephews as a way to remember their grandpa. They had so much fun sorting through and picking out pieces. And that brought me joy.

Several years ago, in 2003 Dad made a first attempt on his life. That was unsuccessful, thank the good Lord but I went back to the US for 8 weeks to give him a hand. I remember a conversation we had about all that. I told him I was so glad that he was still with us. If you had died, we would have never, ever, ever recovered from it, I remember telling him. I never thought - I don't imagine that it even occurred to any of us - that he would try again. But then, after it really happened, it was clear that he had been planning his death for quite a while and that he wanted it to be absolutely final. And, certainly that was so painful, such sadness, such grieving. But you know, a person really does recover. A person really does heal. And life goes on. And I can look back on many very special memories. And for that I am so very thankful.


Jeanette M said...

Your willingness to share your oh-so-personal, tragic, and poignant story, and to do it so transparently and with such love in your voice is remarkable.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I can only echo Jeanette's sentiments. My uncle--my father's brother--was born in '26. He, too, is now gone. It's extraordinarily painful to watch as the aged remnants of the world's WWII generation pass in final review.

One of my closest high school pal's mother passed from Alzheimer's just last year, at age 92. "The Long Goodbye," my school pal termed his mother's ten-year struggle with the disease. Her death made me think just how lucky were my own father and mother in that they both died quickly, and without a trace of pain.