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Remembering My Father

At age 84, after celebrating a 65th wedding anniversary with my mother in October, and a good Christmas with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, my father died on December 27th. The last year in particular had been one of declining health, and as he made clear to us, he was “ready to go,” whenever that happened.

As prepared as we were for that “whenever,” his death was sudden. And besides, “preparing” and “doing” aren’t exactly the same thing. But my mother, brother and I — along with the three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren — are okay. Of course we’ll miss him, and of course there is sadness. But there are also lots of good stories and memories. We’ll go through the grieving process, as everyone must at multiple times in our lives. And we’ll be okay.

Daddy and I had our ups and downs, our agreements and disagreements. All normal stuff. He wasn’t a “talker” with the family, not when it came to expressing feelings, though he did that much more so with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which I loved. But through the words he did say, and through actions, there was never a doubt that he cared, that he loved us.

Four years ago I moved back to Texas, in large part so I could be here with my parents, to help as needed. Over that period of time, the needs grew, another natural, expected process for most of us, as we age into the “elderly” ranks. It’s not easy to watch, of course, and no doubt it’s not easy to do, either. But among many other things, I’ll have the experiences and memories of being with my parents as they honestly (no pretenses about what was and is happening) went, and go, through the “end of life” processes. I’ll know them in ways, and share life with them in ways, I could only have by being with them through all of this.

That’s a kind of gift. It’s not one with only laughter and happiness — though that is certainly included. But because it includes the difficulties and adjustments, it’s that much more meaningful a “gift.” That’s not a rationalization or something to make me feel better — it’s just reality. At least it is for me. Mother has her own significant health problems. We talk openly about that, and whatever else.

I’ll miss the less-talkative-about-“serious” thoughts and feelings; frequent updates on the weather forecast (my father was a retired farmer / rancher, and knowing the forecast was a daily “must” he never gave up); repeated stories from the past and observations about the great-grandkids … all that and more which made up his daily life for the last few years.

I’ll adjust to not having it, as I adjusted, over many years, to no longer having the hard-working farmer / rancher / husband / father / active community volunteer, etc., person in my life. Of course, the person he was remained at the core — the looks and abilities changed, but Doyal — or as I knew him, Daddy — was solid, with a distinctive sense of humor, and even though it wasn’t something he could often express directly, loving. His faith was key to who he was, as it is with my mother.

I’ll still miss him, of course. But as it is with the deaths of people we love, he’ll remain a presence in my life. It will be in a different kind of way, but still real.

Next week I’ll get back to regular posting, and to regularly reading Taylor’s posts and reader’s comments. I look forward to that.

10 Responses to Remembering My Father

  1. fangio January 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Best Wishes, Joyce.

  2. Ramsgate January 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    My condolences, Joyce.

  3. TPAZ January 2, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    Joyce, knowing that your father is at peace will help with your pain and the grieving process. Also know that Doyal was very proud of you as we all are here at TM.

  4. Cujo359 January 2, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    That he was ready to go might be a comfort, but I know it won’t make you miss him any less. I’m sorry for your loss.

  5. Joyce Arnold January 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    Thanks, all. I very much appreciate your thoughts.

  6. lynnette January 2, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    Beautiful piece, Joyce. Losing a parent is such a profound loss. It took me about five years to really come to a healing place after my dad’s passing. Your father sounds like he was truly a man of substance and integrity. Your father’s generation (same as my parents’ ) was not overly demonstrative with feelings and emotions, but the children knew they were loved and secure. I appreciate your thoughts on the aging process – my mom is 84 with dementia and I am her caregiver. As Mom has said, “It ain’t easy getting older.” I hope your beautiful memories of your father bring you comfort and peace in the days ahead.

  7. secularhumanizinevoluter January 3, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    Being with and participating in the end of life transition of a loved family member or friend is without question the most moving and bitter sweet life experience anyone can ever have.
    My deepest sympathies Joyce.
    I honor your grief and give you joy of your experience of your Father’s love.

  8. Jane Austen January 3, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Love and condolences to you and your family. It doesn’t matter how long we have them, our parents are always missed when they leave this life. It’s the wonderful memories and love that sustain us. Peace be with you Joyce.

  9. Lake Lady January 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Joyce~

    Maybe like me you will find that your Dad comes back to you through the things he loved. Right now the lake is full of geese and four trumpter swans, and I feel close to my dad who would have loved the scene. Happens to me often.

    You might feel your Dad in a georgous Texas sunset or the first signs of spring or the sight of a newborn calf or with a front coming through but he will be there and you will feel him.

    I am sorry for your loss and send love to you.

  10. newdealdem1 January 6, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Dear Joyce,

    Please accept my deep condolences for the loss of your dad. I lost my mom 30 years ago and I will never not miss her in my life. She was my anchor and best friend.

    Your dad seems like one righteous man who loved you and your brother and mom above all else. That will never change no matter how everything else changes.

    You continue to have my deepest respect for who you are no matter the changes in your life or the pain you suffer with the loss of your dad. Please know that you are blanketed by so many of us who post here with love and comfort and compassion for your loss. Also, I have enormous respect for you who didn’t abandon your parents in their hour of need and vulnerability.

    Bless you my internet friend and may you continue to receive all the blessings that the universe bestows upon you for your selfless dedication and love for your parents who gave you life and love and even though nothing is ever perfect in human relationships, the mutual love and respect between you and your parents trumped all else.

    As Lake Lady said: “I am sorry for your loss and send love to you.”

    Bless you, Joyce.

    With love and respect and deep sympathy,

    Laura

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong