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.