It’s Sunday night. It’s been an emotionally long weekend for me. Three years ago, Saturday (4/8) I lost the best man in my life, my dad. He is the one that I measure all men against. I had lost people in my life prior to my dad, but that one hit me and the rest of the family members very hard. Nobody’s perfect, but he was close. His smile could light up a room.
I will miss the times we spent together talking about various things. He always knew what to say to me. When I decided to leave my ex, and get a divorce, he reassured me that I was making the right decision. He taught me how to ride a horse, fix fences, cut grass, and work on big rigs (he was a truck driver). While his job took him away from home a lot, he always called home every evening. He was home for the important things in our lives such as graduations, proms, and weddings. The smile on his face when he walked each of his daughters down the aisle is priceless. He was proud of both of us and you could see it in those moments. I have so many favorite pictures of him, but my ultimate is from my first wedding of the father-daughter dance. The look on his face and the little talk we had on the dance floor will be forever etched in my brain.
When I was sixteen, we took our family vacation to Washington, DC in August 1985 for a family wedding. I will never forget that trip, my dad and I spent a whole day together touring Washington, DC. We went and seen all the major monuments. Those are memories that no one can ever take away from me. We had such a great time. I got the pictures out from the trip and looked through them today.
For his 75th birthday in 2004 we threw him a surprise party. He loved it. Family and friends were there he was the center of attention and was smiling the whole evening. He enjoyed himself so much he wanted a big party every year. I think he was a little disappointed he didn’t get a big party like that for his 80th.
It’s been three years and I still have the horrible memories of his last days in the emergency room and hospital room. I have tried many ways to forget about those days and to think only of the happy memories. When you see a loved one go from being an adult to virtually a two-year-old it affects you greatly. It affected all of us. That’s what Alzheimer’s/dementia does to a person. It is a horrible disease and when the patient has other medical issues on top of it, the symptoms can be worse.
This disease started affecting my dad years ago. However, early on it was just little things he was doing or forgetting that you would expect from someone increasing in age. It wasn’t until the last year of his life that the stages started progressing faster. My mother took very good care of my dad. She made sure he had everything he needed from food to medicine to comfort. She made sure that his needs were handled before doing anything for herself. She kept him safe when he couldn’t take care of himself.
A few hours before my dad passed away we were all in the hospital at his bedside. There were a lot of relatives there at that time. When we left to go home to sleep, my mom asked me to go back to the room with her so she could give him a kiss and say goodnight. I am grateful she asked because I had the chance to do the same. An hour later we got the call from the hospital, he had passed.
I talk to my dad every day. I know he is a guardian angel for our family. There have been too many times when I needed someone watching over me. When I was moving from Pennsylvania to North Carolina it was in the winter (end of December) I was driving a rental truck in the wind and snow of the West Virginia Mountains. There were times I did not think I would make it. But I got to a safe place and stayed for the night and the only way I made it was because of my dad watching over me. There were a couple road trips I made in the winter from Charlotte to Nashville where I got in the mountains and could not see in front of me, again he was there and got me through it. Last year when I had some bad health issues and was told I should be in the hospital, he got me through all that too. Every time I need help I feel his presence. No one will ever convince me that guardian angels do not exist because he is one for me and my family.
When you lose someone special, you never truly get over it. You do move on, but you never forget all the memories they left in your heart. I have two shelves on a bookcase dedicated with pictures and things that remind me of him. I know he would have loved listening to my adventures, my road trips, and my new business plans. He loved chocolate and was always willing to be a taste tester for me.
You never know when your time on this earth will be done or when someone you love will be taken away from you. Enjoy the life you have been given. Tell your family and friends that you love them. Do not have regrets. Follow your dreams. Love as though there is no tomorrow. Be a positive influence in this life instead of a negative one. Most of all remember you are loved.