If you follow my blog you know Monday was my anniversary. It was also the day my Dad died. He’s the one who passed the storytelling gene on to me. So many of his stories are woven into my novels.
He fought for a long time. Parkinson’s Disease. Congestive heart failure. A hip replacement. Dentures. A broken shoulder and hip (the one NOT replaced). It was rough.
For the past five five years, my trips home were scheduled around holidays and neurology appointments. Tomorrow my husband and I will head that way for Dad’s last appointment. This one with my brothers to scatter his ashes on the farm he loved.
Dad hadn’t been the vibrant, charming, opinionated, storyteller I grew up knowing and loving for quite some time. And in a strange way, losing him, has finally freed me up to really remember the man I loved so much.
In place of the challenges of the last few years, here’s what’s now rising to the surface of my memory:
- Holding his ring and middle finger because that was all my little girl hand could manage.
- Tagging along whenever he’d let me. I enjoyed a Shirley Temple at a political something or other in Charleston, WV. So grown up!
- Birthday “dates” as a teenager and young adult. We’d get dressed up and go somewhere “fancy.” Oh, how special it made me feel.
- Singing in the car. Even as Dad faded, he loved to sing. Hymns, Sons of the Pioneers, Christmas carols. We both sounded terrible but didn’t let that stop us.
- Yard saling–we’d get up early on a Saturday and hit yard sales until we got hungry. Then we’d have a big breakfast at a diner somewhere.
- Graduation flowers. When I graduated from college, Dad emptied the fridge, took the shelves out, and put a HUGE bouquet of flowers in there so it’d stay as fresh as possible.
- Walking me down the aisle and dancing to “What a Wonderful World,” at the reception.
- Dad at the launch party for my first novel–the last time he traveled to NC. He told me how proud he was.
And then there was that smile. When I’m really happy, I have my Dad’s smile. Big. Infectious. Joyful. Parkinson’s–with it’s muscle immobilizing effect–robbed him of that smile. But last November, when we were at the neurologist’s office, he winked at me. It had long been our secret way of saying, “I love you,” without words. He’d been teasing the doctor and I knew there was a big smile in that wink.
I spoke to him Saturday. He told me he was feeling better and I believed him–which, I think, is exactly what he wanted. Before I hung up the phone I didn’t say goodbye. I said, “Love you. Talk to you soon.”
Man. I’m really looking forward to that.