It was Sunday January 12, 2014, around 10 a.m., when my phone rang. Mom had called earlier in the morning and said dad was struggling to breathe. He had gone to the hospital the day before and the breathing treatment he received helped, but he was struggling again. An ambulance was dispatched, but to no avail. By mid-morning dad was gone.
This past weekend we held dad’s celebration of life service, and to be honest it was a tough weekend, but it was also a good weekend. Not celebrating my dad’s death, but rather celebrating his life, and celebrating the man he was.
As I listened to various family members share their favorite memories of dad once again I went back in time to the summer of 1973. I had shared this story earlier in another writing titled – “Muddled Through,” but I wanted to share it again because it so aptly represents dad.
It was 1973 I was twelve years old. One summer day my dad and I went to the coast. You may be thinking “So what, they went to the coast.” For my siblings and I spending one on one time with dad was a big deal.
In those days dad was a mill worker. He worked the swing shift. During the week we did not see much of him. He left for work before we came home from school, and he was in bed when we got up. Weekends were the only time we really were able to see him, except for the summer months that is.
Dad had an incredible work ethic. If he was not at work, he was working around the house. The home we lived in was a “work in process.” By that I mean there was always some kind of carpentry job that needed done, and dad was a good carpenter. So between his job, chores around the house, a wife, and five children, he was a busy man.
Since ‘dad time’ was in short supply, getting a day alone with him was rare, so when he asked me to go with him to the coast, I was thrilled. Not only was I getting dad time, I was getting out of the valley.
It was hot in the Willamette Valley that summer. We were averaging ninety-five degree weather, and the valley was experiencing a drought. The wheat farmers had harvested their crops, and were tilling the soil for the next year. There was a haze in the sky from the dust, there was no wind blowing, and I have major dust allergies! Needless to say, I was miserable.
We had no A/C unit in the house. That was before A/C units were affordable for the average American. Instead, box fans were put in the windows, which had no screens, to circulate the air. So, basically, we were circulating dust, flies, and any other flying animal that was on the outside of the house.
Times sure have changed, haven’t they?
Anyway, dad and I loaded up in the family 1965 turquoise Chevy, and headed to the coast.
Dad stopped by a local convenience store and bought us both a Pepsiã . In those days Pepsi came in a glass 16oz bottle. To this day, I can hear the sound of the cap coming off the bottle. I can see the bubbles forming and coming to the top, and I can smell the Pepsi as dad handed me my bottle.
Nat King Cole and Benny Goodman were playing on the radio. Big band on A.M. was what dad listened to in those days. I talked most of the way to the coast, though to this day I do not know what I talked about. All I know is that dad listened as I talked. It was one of the best days of my life.
As a young adult I was critical of my dad. I felt he had failed as a father, but the older I became, and as I grew up, my opinion of dad changed. Over time I came to the conclusion that there were more good days with dad than bad. That day with my dad was one of those good days. He could have stayed home. I’m sure mom could have used his help with chores around the house, but instead he spent time with me.
This morning as I sit here in my chair and I reflect on the father I had, and I think about all the good talks dad and I had, I realized I will miss talking with dad. I will miss his grin, his bear hugs and the way he use to kiss my forehead. He will be missed, but in a way he still lives on because I will carry a bit of dad with me.
With that said, and one last time,
“I love you dad. See you soon, on the other side.”