My friend Rodney Southern wrote a blog post about what his father meant to him and it got me thinking that I need to do something like that. Three days after my dad celebrated his sixty- seventh birthday he had a massive stroke and in five days, he was gone. Those were the worst five days of my life and I am sure each one of my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and my children can tell you the same. My mom would admit it too because she lost not only a husband of 49 years but also a friend she had spent more than half her life with.
I was blessed to spend 44 years, 2 months and seven days with him. Of those last seven days, it was the last five days were pure hell but in his passing; he gave me the greatest gift of all. Please read this before you judge me.
My dad was the kind of man who worked hard and played hard. I remember him coming home from working third shift at the foundry and climbing into the school bus to take kids to school. He would go home to sleep and wake up to get the kids and transport them home. He and mom both worked very hard to make sure us kids had everything we needed.
My dad dropped out of high school to get married a few days before his seventeenth birthday, but you would never know that because he ended up being part owner of a multi-million dollar business. The greatest thing he ever did though was to create a living legacy to his family and all who knew him.
He always seemed to be giving of himself to whoever was in need. Plenty of times, I remember him fixing someone’s car, or telling him or her how to do it. He always seemed to have time for everyone, and rarely took time to himself.
When his grandchildren began coming 29 years ago, he began the tradition of giving them a chocolate bar at the age of two months. He wanted to be sure he was the first that did that, and that tradition carried on to his great grand babies. That first grandchild started her own tradition when she could not say Grandpa; her version “Bumpa” would become his nickname for the other 22 grandchildren and all of the great grandchildren who had the pleasure of knowing him. He spoiled them rotten and always had cookies for them when they would visit. He would put them in the wagon that was attached to his lawn tractor and give them rides all over.
If a grandchild needed or wanted anything, they told Bumpa and they got it.
My dad was a great man as you can tell. He was patient, kind, helpful, true to his word, dedicated and brutally honest as needed. He taught me many things in life and gave me many gifts over the years.
He taught me self-reliance when he held a chicken’s legs so that the head rested on a cinder block, and told me to swing the axe when I was ready. He taught me how to do household repairs when he needed help around the house. When as a struggling single parent I told him I wanted to allow my house to go back, he simply said “Jo do not do that. You are strong and smart and will figure this out’. I figured it out and followed his example of working hard to do what was needed. My house will be paid off within six and half years and I have paid on it solo for eleven years. My dad was a man full of wisdom and was always passing his wisdom to others. He was never pushy about it. He would gently guide you. His wisdom is a gift I accepted but not all those gifts compare to his final gift.
On November 22, 2002, my daughter lost her first daughter to what the doctors called a cord accident at 31 weeks. Every year on that day, I would cry, because Kylie was up there alone. Yes, she had my grandparents, but they never met my daughter so they would not be able to tell my granddaughter about her momma. My dad knew I always had a hard time on that day over the years, and he would call on that day just to check on me. It was his way of saying, I love you and I care.
On November 17, 2010, my dad had a massive stroke. When they put him on hospice care that afternoon I was devastated as the entire family was. Somehow, by the grace of God, my dad held on for the next five days. On November 22, as they were preparing to transfer him from the hospital to my parents home he slipped quietly away. It was very hard for the entire family, myself included.
I felt relief that his suffering was over as did my entire family. However, I was more relieved for a different reason, you see my dad hung on until the day my granddaughter passed. I was happy to know she was not alone, but I so heartbroken he was gone.
I do not like to think of November 22, 2010 as the day my dad passed, I like to think of it as the day Kylieanne got Bumpa all to herself. What a birthday gift she got. I am sure he is feeding her cookies and chocolate all the time. I am sure he is found the lawn tractor up there and has a wagon attached and is driving her around to show her the trees, flowers and animals. I wonder if she hangs on every word as he tells her the stories of his youth and our youth.
To my dad,
Thank you for that final gift; you do not know how much it means to me. Dad you know I miss you a lot, and I always will. Please take care of my Kylieanne and give her daily hugs from me until I can get up there and do it myself. Let her know that amber and I love her as much as we love her siblings. I so wish I could have seen her smile, laugh and play. I miss you both so much and love you beyond words.
You can read Rodney’s post, which inspired my post at this url http://rodneysouthernsays.blogspot.com/2011/12/daddy-is-gone-what-do-i-do-now.html?spref=fb
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