Monday, September 14, 2009

My Father - My Hero

Every little girl (at least the little girls I know) considers her dad to be her hero, in some way or another. I was no different. Although my dad and I didn't always get along and I didn't always agree with his parenting style or his actions, he was still a hero to me. My dad had a rough road to travel and he had obstacles on every path. He started his life with my mom when he was just 18 years old (and she was just barely 19). They would have celebrated 60 years of marriage this year (September 8). I said "would have" because today is the 4th anniversary of his death. They brought seven children into this world and ushered one out far too early in her life. They weathered many heartaches, trials, and tribulations. He was loved, scorned, hated, admired, disrespected, and venerated many times in his life.

My dad was not a “giant” of a man, but when he walked into a room his presence was felt and he made himself known. When he spoke, you listened. When he was mad, he was very mad. But when he was soft and gentle, he was very soft and gentle. Holly Dunn had a hit song with “Daddy’s Hands” several years ago and it was very much something that could be related to my dad…

“Daddy’s hands… were soft and kind when I was crying
Daddy’s hands… were hard as steel when I done wrong
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand,
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.”

When he died, it left a void in the lives of everyone. My mom spent 56 years with him and has missed him terribly. There were many times during that timeframe where leaving would have been easier, but they were dedicated to each other and sticking it out was the right thing to do.

Amy and Shaun were both on active duty when he died and although Amy got to come home, Shaun did not. His ship was off the Gulf Coast helping Katrina victims. The Navy has a poem they read at the retirement of personnel and Amy took it and modified it for my dad, who was in the Air Force when he was younger. It’s called The Watch and she read it at his funeral. It was very touching.

The Watch

For years
This airman has stood the watch

While some of us were in our beds at night,
This airman stood the watch

While some of us were in school learning our trade,
This airman stood the watch

Yes…even before some of us were born into this world
This airman stood the watch

In those years when the storm clouds of war were seen brewing on the horizon of history
This airman stood the watch

Many times he would cast an eye ashore and see his family, stand there
Needing his guidance and help
Needing that hand to hold during those hard ties
But he still stood the watch

He stood the watch for years
He stood the watch so that we, our families, and
Our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety,
Each and every night, knowing that an airman stood the watch

Today we are here to say,

“Airman…the watch stands relieved,
Relieved by those you have trained, guided, and lead
Airman, you stand relieved… We have the watch.”

We were fortunate that my dad lived as many years as he did. In the spring of 1987 he had a quadruple bypass, followed by a heart attack in July 1987. If he had not had the bypass he would not have survived the heart attack. The next 18 years were filled with heart problems, stents, a pacemaker, and a couple of heart attacks. Each time he got sick and was near death, he’d bounce right back and come home from the hospital.

So, when he went into the hospital on August 20, 2005 we all expected that he would once again bounce right back and come home. He didn’t. He got progressively weaker and was transferred to a nursing home for “rehab” but we all knew that there was really no way to rehab a worn-out heart and it would be just a matter of time.

The nursing staff went in and spoke to him at 6:15 that morning; when they went back at 6:45 to give him a washcloth for breakfast, he was gone - In a flash, the blink of an eye, a single heartbeat.

Even though you’re as prepared as possible for an event such as this, you’re really not. You just pick up the pieces as best as you can and move forward. He got to see the first great-grandchild born into the family, but there are seven of them now.

He was baptized in February 2005 so my mom has that comfort to lean upon. She will see him again when her time here is also done and that gives her peace.


Pat said...

I am so sorry for your loss. It is devastating to lose a parent. And yes, even though you were somewhat expecting it, it's still a hard pill to swallow. I've experienced the death of both my parents and it doesn't get any easier. This was a lovely tribute to your father.

What a coincidence that this is the third year anniversary of my brother-in-law's death, and I've been sitting here writing a post in honor of him. Maybe he and your father are friends up in heaven.

Not sure, ask Isaiah. said...

I miss you grandpa.