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Posts Tagged ‘dad’

Memories of my Dad

The last few weeks I’ve been dreaming a lot of my Dad and stories he used to share with me when I was a child.  Quite often on a Saturday morning my Mam would wake me and strip my bed.  She’d put me into bed with my Dad and he’d snuggle me in and tell me stories.  I think he was hoping I’d go back to sleep, but it never worked out that way.

My Dad was born and raised in a city…Manchester.  There was a canal that some people fished in…my Dad fished in it for bicycle parts as that is what he saw dumped in it most often.  His first bike was a Frankenbike made up of about a half dozen different bike parts.  He and his buddy Charlie got up to all sorts of mischief in their youth.

My Dad was an introvert and craved alone time.  As my brother and I grew up Dad got less time to himself.  At one point he bought an inflatable dinghy from a garage sale and used to take it out to Minnow Lake.  He also bought a fishing rod because, in his words, “if a man is seen alone out on a boat he’s a weirdo, but if he’s fishing, he’s okay”.  So he used to inflate the boat at a gas station, shove it in the backseat of the car and head out to Minnow Lake.

He’d put the dinghy out and he’d jump in with the fishing rod, then float for awhile, set the rod out (note, no bait) and lay back and relax.  He never had a paddle with him.  When I asked him this he said “eventually I’ll blow close to shore” and he must have because he always came home.  In the city where we lived, there was a roving news reporter who would capture footage of local landmarks and places of interest that would be used as a backdrop to the nightly weather forecast.

One Saturday night, after supper, we were watching the evening news when the weather shot came on.  The weather announcer said “and here we have footage of a solitary fisherman out enjoying the sun on this beautiful summer’s day”.  And you could see it, the yellow dinghy, the sole of my Dad’s shoe propped up on the edge of the dinghy and the fishing rod bobbing in the water.

“Dad”? I asked.  “Good Jesus” he replied. “I can’t be left alone anywhere!” We all had a good laugh at that.  My Dad’s fishing adventure captured on film for all eternity, or until it was filmed over.  The last time he took the dinghy out he was happily floating around the lake when the wind shifted.  He began to float towards shore but heard a slight hissing sound.  By the time he reached shore the dinghy had taken on water.  He safely dismounted the boat (do you dismount boats?)  rolled up the dinghy and threw it in a nearby garbage can.  I asked him where the boat was and he said he was finished with it.

Perhaps he saw the leak as a sign from God or perhaps he realised he could be solitary in some other way. Regardless, I’ll never know the answer to that.  But thinking about seeing his foot on the evening news does make me smile.  My Dad, the television personality…or at least, his foot was.

 

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I should be sleeping…in fact, I should be fast asleep in my comfortable bed.

Instead I am downstairs, puzzling over why I’m not sleeping.  I’m tired.  In fact, I’m more than tired…but here I am, wide awake and not the slightest bit pleased by it.

My brain won’t shut off…I need a dimmer switch, or a pause button so I can properly turn it off and sleep.

The past month has been a veritable roller coaster of emotions…I presided my first wedding and baptism in BC.  Both were incredible experiences.  I have my second wedding this Saturday.  I have been to the doctor to address some of my medical issues and surgery will be needed in the next while.  It’s day surgery, but recovery will be at least two weeks…likely in November.

I’ve learned I have sleep apnea and am using a CPAP machine.  It’s taking a bit of getting used to, and is meant to improve my quality of sleep, but right now I am dragging through most days.

Yesterday an empty glass bottle fell from the top of the fridge onto my right big toe.  It hurt incredibly…so much so that after a few hours I took myself to hospital and discovered that it’s not broken, but there is soft tissue injury.  The bruising is horrific, and the toe feels better, so long as I keep it elevated.  When I try to walk, it’s not a pretty scene.

I’ve become used to walking everywhere I live…and today I had to drive to a local appointment…which I knew I needed to do to get better, but it sure did bug me. I guess what it comes down to, I don’t like being less-than-abled.  And I certainly don’t like asking for or accepting help.

I have incredibly kind parishioners who have offered to help with errands, etc., and me, Miss Independent, prefer to do it myself.  Which, for now, I can do…albeit slowly.  Under doctor’s orders I have to rest my foot for a week, staying off it as much as possible.  I’m used to walking every day and not being able to do that is throwing off my much-needed routine.

Argh.

My Mam turns 80 on the 23rd of August and I am flying to Ontario on that date, spending 6 days there.  While there I will see some people, but not everyone I want to as there’s just not going to be time.  And as we plan for the celebration for my Mam, I can’t help but remember my Dad and how he made it to 79 11/12.  I’m convinced he died because he didn’t want to write his driver’s license exam.  In fact, he died of pneumonia.

I miss my Mam.  I miss my brother.  I miss my best friend.  I miss my grands.  And yes, I miss many people in Ontario.  But Fernie is home to me.  I have an incredible congregation and I’m making friends.  I have traveled the area and am learning my way around.  My sense of direction isn’t getting any better.  Every day I stop and look around.  I live in the Elk Valley and am surrounded by mountains.  Every day they change.  They are a part of me.  And I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Perhaps I’m feeling homesick for Fernie before I go back to Ontario?  Is that even possible?

After my Dad died I wanted to do something to memorialize his 80th birthday.  After a great deal of prayerful consideration and lots of research I decided to get my nostril pierced.  It would have driven him batty that I did so, and I must confess, that’s part of why I did it.  Every time I see it, I smile.

For my Mam’s 80th birthday I wanted to get another piercing to mark the occasion.  So again, after prayerful consideration and a lot of research I decided to get my daith pierced.  The daith is the thick cartilage in the ear.  Daith piercings have been used to alleviate migraines, which I’ve been getting.  And I must admit, while the initial piercing did hurt like mad, I have not had a headache since.  The ring that sits flush against my ear is barely visible, but it reminds me of my Mam.  I wonder what she’ll say when she sees it?

If I had to name one emotion right now it would be unsettled (is that an emotion)?  My pain level is higher than usual due to the healing ear and healing toe.  I know my pain will get better just as my toe and ear will heal.  I’ve realised that when it comes to personal illness, I’m not the least bit patient.  I want to be well, and I want to be well RIGHT NOW.

So I’ve journaled about my frustration, and I’ve prayed.  I tried yoga, but hyper-flexed my sore toe when I stood up…yet another brilliant move.  I’ve made a list of things I must do this week.  And a list of things that must be done before I fly out next Tuesday.

I can do the things that need to be done.  I know I can.

But first I need a good night’s sleep.

So, I’ll bid you good night and try this sleeping thing again…g’night.

 

 

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my Dad died.  It was a “good death”.  He simply stopped breathing.  His wish had been to die alone and he did.  My Dad was a stubborn man, and I inheirited that remarkable trait.  For some reason I’ve been thinking of my Dad a lot this past year, especially when I was moving across the country.

On that day my Mam and I had been to the cemetery to make arrangements for interment.  We stopped by the hospital and chatted with Dad.  Mam had some time with him while I chatted with the nurses.  We knew the end was coming but didn’t know if it was hours or days.  When dad finished his conversation with Mam he winked at her…something he had not done in a long time.  Something he used to do often when they were courting.

I asked if it was okay for us to go to our next stop, the funeral home.  He said to go ahead, he wasn’t going anywhere.  Dad believed in being organized, another trait I inheirited.  I told him we’d be back in a couple of hours, he said not to worry.  As we concluded the conversation I said “Dad, I -” and he interrupted with “Shut it!”  I laughed and said I’d see him soon.  He replied “Take it easy”.  His signature response.

My Mam and I went to the funeral home to make arrangements, leaving dates blank.  Pages and pages of administrative details were signed off and then I took Mam home for a cigarette and a decent cup of tea.  I called the hospital from Mam’s and the nurse told me Dad had died about 45 minutes earlier…peacefully.  We were in the funeral director’s office at the time.

I told my Mam.  She started to cry.  I called my brother and spoke with my sister-in-law who said she’d tell him.  I called the funeral home and told the funeral director we needed to get things started.  She was shocked.  So were we.

The next few days were a blur with arrangements, conversations, visitors, shopping for a funeral suit, dress, shoes, writing a homily for my Dad…and of course, choosing music and readings for the service.

I think Dad would have been pleased with the send off he received.  Many of his colleagues were there, and many of his former students.  My brother gave a great eulogy and I gave a homily and when we were finished the Legionnaires formed an honour guard and laid poppies on a wreath.  The Sgt at Arms and I presented my Mam with the first poppy pinned and then we played Frank Sinatra singing “My Way”.  Very poignant as Dad always did things his way.

I’ve a busy day today as it’s Sunday.  But when my work day is over I will go to a local pub and raise a pint to my Dad.  I can’t get Labbatt Blue here (thanks be to God), but I will raise a pint of local lager to him.

I love you Dad.  I miss you.  Take it easy.

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I’m not a fan of the unknown.  I like to have a plan, and more of then than not, a back up plan.  Some call that being anal retentive.  Some call that being organised.  I simply call it life.

When my Dad was sick, I tried to get him to talk to me about his Celebration of Life.  He had asked me, once he knew he wasn’t going to get better, to preside his service; not because I am a priest, but because I am a Legion Padre, and would do it “properly”.  It was high praise from my Dad and while it was the most difficult thing I have ever done, nobody would have been able to do it the way I did it.

I am loving the mountain view from where I live.  I get out every single day and walk.  It may be a few blocks or it may be a few kilometers.  And every time I walk its with my head up so I can see the majesty which surrounds me.  Sometimes it’s so beautiful I can barely catch my breath.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad.  I have no idea why he’s on my mind so much but he is.  Today was a very productive and active day.  We had our mid week worship, went to the Seniors Center for lunch (which is often the highlight of my day, if not my week).  I applied for a BC driver’s license.  I did laundry, chatted with a friend and tried to watch a movie.

I can’t settle.  I’m feeling tension in me, not a pain per se, but more of a level of anxiety.  And I’ve no idea why.

So I logged onto this blog and did a search with the tag “dad”.

We had a complicated relationship.  He was my idol and hero for many, many years.  When I was in my late 20’s I made a relationship decision that hurt him badly.  And so we did not speak for close to a decade.  When we began speaking again it was, initially awkward, but eventually we found a more comfortable place to be.

When we learned his anyeurism was not operable I tried to get Dad to plan his service.  It took nearly four years but we finally had the conversation.  And it went something like this…

ME:  So, Dad…

DAD:  What?

ME:  Have you given any thought to what you want for your service?

DAD:  No.

ME:  It’s something we need to discuss.

DAD:  I know.

ME:  When do you think you’ll want to discuss it.

DAD:  Not now.

ME:  Okay.  Maybe next time I’m here.

DAD:  Maybe.

We had this conversation likely a dozen times.  Finally I hit on an idea…

ME: Dad?

DAD: What?

ME:  Have you had a chance to think about what you want?

DAD: No.

ME:  Do you think we need to have this conversation or do you want to leave it with me?

DAD:  What do you mean?

ME:  Well, I’m thinking you can either tell me what you want, or I’ll do what I think you’ll want, which will definitely not be what you want.  Is that what you want?

DAD: No.

ME:  Okay then.  (silence)  Well?

DAD:  Well, what?

ME:  Your service?

DAD:  What about it?

ME:  Readings?  Hymns?  Homily?  Eulogy?  Location?  Party?  Interment?

DAD:  Don’t care.  My Way.  No Way.  Yes, you and David.  Legion.  One round on me.  At the Columbarium, but not the Legion one.

ME:  Thanks Dad.  What that so hard?

DAD:  No.

ME:  Good.

DAD:  So you’ll take care of it then?

ME:  Yes.

DAD:  Good.  (silence)  Don’t you have somewhere else to be?

And just so you know, the readings were carefully chosen by myself and approved by my family.  We played “My Way” when the service ended.  There was no homily.  Both my brother and I provided an eulogy.  The service was at the Legion with his ashes present.  As soon as the service ended, the bar was opened…and we raised a glass to Dad.  We found a niche in the Columbarium that was not visible from the road.  I think he would have liked that.

I was looking at the photograph we chose for his service.  It was taken after my Convocation from Seminary.  He’s sat outside, looking less than impressed, with a cigarette in his hand.  A picture that simply captured the essence of my Dad.  I believe it was my brother who took the photo.  I don’t have much of anything physical as a reminder of my Dad.   I have his university diploma which is framed and hangs proudly on the wall of my office.  I have the cigarette case my Mam gave my Dad when he graduated – the first university graduate in the family.  I have an ornament I gave him for Christmas many years ago that was given back to me.  And a cardigan with a hole in the elbow that he used to wear when he was marking.

But much more importantly than that I have my memories.  His stories, which he captured in words and I now have one of only three copies ever bound.  His story telling mannerisms.  His sense of humour.  His down to earth nature.  His ability to tell it like it is and, as I age, not care what people think…to a certain extent…okay, that one is still in process.

I miss my Dad.  This is one of those moments I often speak of with folks who are bereaved.  Grief will hit like a thief in the night.  And you will be left breathless.  And as suddenly as it came, it will leave.  And you will be alright.

I will be alright.

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I recently celebrated my 7th anniversary with my current congregation.  As I look back I am surprised that I am celebrating such a milestone, while at the same time it doesn’t feel quite that long…strange.

Just after my arrival I met a man who was diagnosed with cancer.  We have shared quite a journey together over the past seven years.  He is back in hospital and learned recently that his cancer has spread to muscle.  For the past few years he, his wife and I have fallen into specific roles…his wife cries, I get angry and he accepts whatever is thrown at him.

A bit more than a year ago I asked if he wanted to discuss his celebration of life.  He politely but firmly told me that he wasn’t ready.  And I accepted that, telling him I would be ready whenever he is.  Last Sunday when he was readmitted to hospital he told his family that he wanted to talk to me, that it was time to have this conversation.  So I headed up, notebook in hand, to have, what we both knew, would be a difficult conversation.

He is a father and grandfather.  He is a devoted member of a local service club.  He is a tireless worker for the Church and is more on fire for the Lord than anyone I have ever seen.  Whenever I am shaking my fist in anger he takes my hand and tells me, “it is what it is”.  such wise words.

Today we celebrated communion around his hospital bed, with each of his daughters and his beloved wife.  It was a very emotional experience, as this is the first time we have all shared communion.  I was taken aback at the sacredness of this hospital room.  Portable xray machines and staff coming in and out of the room did not deter what we were gathering to do. There was a tremendous respect from the medical personnel who were tending to his room-mate.

We joined hands in prayer, offering prayers and praises to God, giving thanks for the joys and bounty of this life and asking for peace as my friend and parishioner reaches the end of his life.  I found myself saying words that we were all thinking but otherwise afraid to say aloud.  A sacred hush filled the room as we finished the Lord’s prayer, and each one of us had tears in our eyes.

At times like this I am reminded of the sacred journeys that we take as members of the body of Christ.  I am always astounded at the weight of the sacred when we stand together in the presence of our Creator.  We have shared so many moments of joy together, and many moments of loss.  Eventually we will have these moments only as memories, but I suspect these memories will be sacred.

When I was posted to this parish I was given only one instruction:  love them.  And I have.  This family has taken me into their own and welcomed me.  My parishioner was particularly wonderful when my father was dying and I was so very angry.  He sat and listened to me as I ranted and raved that it “wasn’t fair” that my father should have to suffer.  He gently and lovingly took my hand and said “it is what it is” with a shrug and a smile.  He wasn’t ignoring my feelings, rather he was reminding me that there are many things over which we have no control.  And he was right.

I shared with him today that he has taught me so much about patience and grace.  He has taught me about understanding and acceptance, whether I like the outcome or not.  As he begins his sacred journey back to his Creator, I am reminded of the incredible gift we are given as clergy.  We are taken into people’s homes, their lives and their souls, as members of the family.

I expect to have many more hospital visits with my parishioner.  Each and every one will be treated as a sacred moment in time, as it will never be repeated.  And eventually the visits will end.  My heart will break when the time comes that he returns home to God.  It will hurt as much as it did when my own Dad died.  And I know that God will give me the strength and the Holy Spirit will give me the peace I will need to say what needs to be said.  And to comfort those who need comfort.

When we can silence ourselves, in the midst of crazy busy-ness, then and only then can we turn to hear, to truly hear the voice of the one who loves us the most.  It is only when we truly surrender our power that we  can feel God’s love surrounding us.  There are some things that we are not meant to know.  We may not like it; I know I surely don’t; but we must learn to live in that tension.

Another lesson I learned from my parishioner.  In his wise words “it is what it is”.  Thanks be to God.

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My Dad died. My mother and I were sitting in the funeral director’s office at the moment Dad drew his last breath. He wanted to be alone. And he was, save for a nurse who had come in to check on him. She knew his wishes so she was quiet as she stood by him, but not near him as he drew his last breath.

Today, in the province where I live, it is election day. My Dad never missed voting. He taught my brother and myself the importance of an educated ballot. In his mind, using a ballot was exercising choice, it was about making a decision. And my Dad always made educated decisions. He wouldn’t necessarily get to the all candidates debate, but he would talk to them if they came to the door. He would pore over the profiles in the local newspaper. And would never tell us for whom he would vote until after he had voted.

We didn’t discuss politics at home, Dad was not a political being, but he understood the importance of casting a ballot, of making a choice. And he believed that every vote counted, whether or not his vote was for the elected party.

It was two years ago today that my mother and I waited in the hospital parking lot for my brother and his family. We changed vehicles so Mam and I could take the boys to her house and let D & M visit with Dad. Both N & S were awesome. I even figured out the seat belts on the car seats.

When D & M got back to Mam’s we sat and chatted, laughed, cried, reminisced and remembered Dad, especially when Dad was well. His last couple of years were filled with faulty heart valves, pneumonia and COPD, among other things. But there were moments of laughter. He wrote his life story and I have it on a disk.

I miss my Dad, more than I can express in words. So today I will stay busy. I will vote this afternoon and I will never, ever forget him.

Take it easy Dad, this ballot will be cast for you.

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For the most part I am a fairly laid back individual. One of the realities of my vocation is facing death within the Congregation and with members of the community itself. Something that has bothered me for a very long time is the infuriating necessity people have to use any word, other than death.

Flowers die, plants die; they don’t take a dirt nap. Although that pun is pretty funny.

Pets die, or they are euthanized. It drives me batty when I hear someone say that their beloved pet was “put to sleep”.

A friend of mine spoke of just this thing as she eulogized her father. When my dad died a few years later I heard her words coming out of my mouth. A paraphrase of what I said went something like this…

My father died and it hurts.
He is not “resting in the arms of Jesus”. If you knew my Dad you’d know that he and Jesus weren’t on a first name basis.
We did not “lose him”. He is not wandering around the Wal-Mart parking lot looking for us.
He did not “pass away”. He did not “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
He did not “kick the bucket”. He could not lift his leg that high.
He did not “expire”. He’s not a parking meter.

I think you understand what I am saying.

My dad died. It hurt. And trying to soften what happened did not make it any better.

Why are we so afraid of saying “death” or “died”? A quick internet search turned up over 100 euphemisms for dead, some of which are absolutely hilarious. Some of which are entertaining, and some are just plain weird.

When I meet with a family whose loved one has just died, my first words are “I’m so sorry” and I wait for them to speak next. If they don’t, we sit in silence, or, if appropriate, give them a hug.

So many well-meaning people said completely useless and even insulting things to me, thinking they were being helpful. I am a person of faith. A religious person. My father was not. So attempting to be “helpful” with phrases like “he is now at rest”, or “in the arms of his Saviour” were not helpful.

My dad believed in something greater than himself, and I believe he was at peace with God, but he did not get into specifics. I don’t think he prayed on a regular basis. Because that was my dad. He appreciated being on the parish’s prayers list. “If it doesn’t do any good, it won’t do any harm” was his thinking.

I love my dad and I miss him. We’re having a provincial election on the anniversary of his death. Kind of ironic, given how he felt about politics. He didn’t like euphemisms about things like death and yet he would often cope with the death of his friend by writing down as many euphemisms as he could think. “Taking the great dirt nap”, “shuffled off his mortal coil”, “six feet under”, “croaked”, “snuffed it”, etc.

I think “popped his clogs” was one of his personal favourites, and this exercise helped him come to terms. But when he saw the family he would say “I’m sorry” and nothing more. because truly, there isn’t anything else that is helpful to say.

So on the 12th of June I will cast my vote, as my dad always said “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”. I love my dad. I miss him. One day I hope to see him again.

He didn’t “slip away peacefully’, although he had a peaceful death. He didn’t “pass”, he’s not an exam or an abandoned vehicle. He died. It hurts. But it’s supposed to.

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