Tag Archive | Dad

A Year of Firsts ….. Times Two

“Year of Firsts”

That first year after a loved one passes away.

The first time going through any holiday without them — through an anniversary without them — through any birthday without them, especially their birthday.

Simply trying to go through any significant yearly life event without them, that first year, is tough on anyone.

This year, we have had to endure these “Firsts” once again. We had to first endure them when Mom passed away, nearly thirteen years ago.

Many times when a family goes through what I have often heard called their “Year of Firsts” they don’t have to consider a multiplier of two. This past year our family lost my Dad, to a tragic car accident and my brother, Stuart, to that vile and nasty monster, cancer.

Thankfully, I have some photos of some happy times in our lives…. a look at the other FIRSTS in our lives, back when I did not know the pain of having to be without these two wonderful men. Me, after my FIRST birthday, with my Daddy. And, my brother Stuart, at or near his FIRST birthday with me and our grandparent’s parakeet, Beadie.

A happier way to for me to look at a “Year of Firsts ….. Times Two”

 

Me and my Daddy, after my first birthday

Me and my Daddy, after my first birthday.

Stuart and Me, 1963, with Beadie our grandparent's parakeet

“Breakfast with Beadie”
January, 1963.
Stuart and me sharing breakfast with our grandparent’s parakeet, Beadie.

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Eleven. The calendar remains the same.

Eleven seems to be the most common.

Calendars repeat themselves, to the day, every eleven years. Sure leap years will vary this, they repeat to the day every 28 years. Stands to reason, but 2003 was not a leap year.

2003 to 2014 marks eleven years ago, to the day – January 26, that our Mom passed away. After all the time she had so courageously fought back the cancer that was ravaging her body, her passing was peaceful…very sad for us, but peaceful all the same.

With the 2014 calendar matching up with the calendar of 2003 memories come day by day….reliving that time frame, the last month of Mom’s time on this earth.

Taking a look back a few days prior to that last month, I remember that she had to be in the hospital over Christmas – yet we did have our family Christmas when she was back home – the calendar really meant nothing to us for that holiday. I do remember Dad and I watching a movie on that particular Christmas Eve, one that I will never watch again.

There are so many ‘lasts’ to that January – this year when those days come around the memories seem to be more vivid, even though they were eleven years ago. Yet, because they were eleven years ago, the calendar shows them on the same day, they repeat themselves just like the numbers that represent eleven, a 1 and another 1.

Some of those poignant memories, the lasts included, can be sharp and cut through your life like a piece of broken glass. Other memories of that time, the ones less painful, come and wash away some of the sadness of that day.

That month.

That eleven.

Rock Tober

I know the radio stations usually use this phrase as ROCKTOBER… but this Rock Tober has been different. Way different.

October rocked our family’s world. And this was after a tormenting second half of September.

In September we were cruising along, nicely. The first few days, Jeff and I were putting the finishing touches on planning our Canadian vacation to Nelson, BC in honor of our first wedding anniversary. We had a good Labor Day weekend, the next weekend a great celebration with some family and friends to note our anniversary. Then, we had an amazing trip!!! We made it back home in time to attend our niece’s wedding and celebrate.

Things started to unravel.

On our anniversary, a friend’s husband passed away. We were on our anniversary vacation and friends told us the next day.

The Monday following our return from Canada, my brother went to see his DR for a lump in his neck and sore throat combined with an overall tired/crappy feeling he’d been dealing with. Primary DR sent him to an ENT specialist for further review. Testing ensued. This DR did not like what he saw. Not one bit.

The DR told him he thought it was thyroid cancer. My brother not only had to deal with this himself, process the news, but… he had to tell his family. And…his daughter was still in Hawaii on her honeymoon. Thankfully, her husband is a great guy and would be there with her when she got the call from her Dad. The man who walked her down the aisle just a few days earlier. The man who walked her sister down the aisle just four months earlier… and their older sister, six years earlier.

The next weekend, we attended Sarah’s husband’s funeral. This was the very day, five years prior, that Jeff lost his first wife, Tina, to the ravages of diabetes. He was of great support to me and my friends. He knew of Sarah’s pain and anguish.

My brother had surgery so the DR could biopsy the tissue, survey the area and get more testing done and formulate a plan. Test results came, another meeting with the DR. A meeting with another DR. Decisions made. Thyroidectomy scheduled.

Meanwhile, on the other side of our family, Jeff’s Mom, my mother-in-law, had suffered a stroke. She and her husband were traveling near Eugene, Oregon when it happened. Thankfully, they had stopped at a friends’ home. He, being an EMT, knew something was wrong and urged her to let them take her to the hospital. She refused. He was persistent. “You can either go with us now, or wait for an ambulance.” She took them up on the ride to the ER. She was admitted with a stroke. At first she could still speak, garbled, yet she could still speak. The next day no words. She could understand the other side of the conversation, but could no longer formulate her words to hold up her end. Jeff and I both left work to go check on her. We were met by family. Luckily, she had been headed to where a majority of family members live when the initial stroke happened. We stayed with family. We were all blessed to learn that she had been accepted as a patient in one of the best rehabilitation hospitals in the state, when she was to be released from the hospital. The morning came and we went to help transport her from one facility to another. We got her admitted and got a tour of the facility and met with DRs, Nurses, Therapists and a Social Worker. A quite compassionate, caring, professional place. With her in good care, we left for home.

Back home, my brother was to be the guest of honor at a fundraiser. Firefighters and EMTs from the surrounding areas had gotten together to support him and his family. The rural community where he lives, works, volunteers and supports those in need all came together to support him. We wanted to be there too. Not only to support my brother and his family… but to personally THANK those involved.

The next Friday was the surgery. Our younger brother and his family had come to offer support. In-laws and cousins had also come. My brother had a great DR and lots of support. He was going to get through this, but it would be a long time healing.

My dad was not unscathed by my brother’s cancer scare. Dad suffered a lot of anxiety. His health suffered because of it. He could not sleep. He was more irritable. He was more sad. This was HIS kid and his kid HAD to be okay. Dad had told us that this had scared him. Of course it did. He was scared of losing his son. He was scared of the unknown. Dad has had severe health issues himself, including prostate cancer. He had helped Mom battle leukemia…. was right along side her all the way. He had seen his father and mother both battle cancer. He knew the odds. Yet, he knows of determination and good health care professionals.

Just a few days ago, my Dad called me at work…. he was not feeling well at all and had called the ambulance. We spent six hours in the ER waiting for tests to be run, to be analyzed and results determined. I finally got to take Dad home.

Here at the end of October, my brother is healing… yes, it has been a painful time for him, but he’s still around. My mother-in-law is making some progress and is out of the rehabilitation hospital and is now living with my sister-in-law. My dad is able to relax, so he can feel better… and I can too.

Prayers and hopes for all my family members. Me, I simply hope I did my Mom justice…. with her help I was able to help my family get through this Rock Tober.

Whatever October 2013 brings us, we’ll deal with it.

An Anniversary Remembered…..

A Wedding Anniversary remembered….. Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary to be exact.

June 16th. A day to celebrate. And, we did for 50 years. Forty-seven of those years were with Mom. Growing up, we’d usually celebrate this anniversary as a family. Unfortunately we had to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary without her, physically. My brother’s family and I celebrated this momentous day by taking Dad out to dinner – a fine celebration.

We also celebrated the wedding of one of my friends. She and her fiance were getting married in Maui on the same day of my parent’s 50th. Years earlier, a close friend of our family got married on June 16. My parents, of course, were in attendance and gladly celebrated their wedding anniversary with Randy and his wife.

As a kid, when we were old enough to walk to town by ourselves, I remember going to the local bakery (and a fine one it was) to make arrangements to purchase a cake. Not just any cake mind you. A “Happy Anniversary” cake. We told the baker what we wanted and gave them the money we had saved up. Then, the day came when we could go pick up ‘our’ cake. We CAREFULLY walked THE cake home and took it to our family room in the cool basement. Then we finished our planning for the surprise anniversary party we were throwing for our parents. I remember this was so much fun… to share in their joy of being married…. we knew of course that without their wedding, without their marriage… they’d be without us… we may not have been at all.

We had a grand celebration. This was not the only one, but one that holds a special place in my memory.

Years later, as a young adult living five hours from my family, I decided to throw them a 25th Wedding Anniversary party. I enlisted the help of my brother and his girlfriend (they were in high school then) and my younger brother too. I worked for a printer, so I’d take care of all the invitations and other printing needs. My eventual sister-in-law took care of reserving a lovely room in a building adjacent to the City Library — one of Mom’s favorite places. My brothers helped with other arrangements. We even ordered a special cake. 🙂

With Mom and Dad’s wedding photo and my calligraphy I designed the invitation. I had them printed and mailed out. I even sent it to the hometown newspaper to be placed in the local events section. The newspaper complied with my wishes (for a small fee). I knew the paper would come out on Thursday. Mom and Dad would soon be invited to their own surprise party. 🙂 🙂 🙂 The best part was… Mom was reading through the newspaper and took a double-take on what finally caught her attention. Calligraphy that looked surprisingly like that of her daughter. She looked again… and this time actually read the invitation. It was her daughter’s calligraphy.

Dad was a bit more difficult. He was at work as a parts-man for a farm implement company. Dorothy, the company secretary, asked Dad if he had seen the newspaper yet. He said he had not, he had been busy all morning. “Besides, not much of anything new, same paper as usual. I’ll read it when I get home.” Dorothy…”You may want to take a look at this one sooner. There’s something that just might interest you.” So at her persistent urging he took up the newspaper and began reviewing the pages. “See, not much here.” he said. Dorothy told him, “Look again.” …..  Dad did. “Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch!!!” “That’s our wedding picture.” “My kid put our wedding picture in the paper.” “Looks like we’re having a party!!!” He called Mom to share the news. The same she found out only a few minutes before.

For their 25th Wedding Anniversary we went all out. A traditional wedding cake with a 25th Anniversary theme. Punch. Nuts and mints. Guests of family and friends at an afternoon reception. A grand celebration. Not bad for some kids who no longer lived in the same house. We even decorated their car. Mom and Dad had made such a big deal of their car NOT being decorated at the time of their wedding that we felt compelled to make up for it. My brothers were charged with that task… they were also on the hook for cleaning it all up too. 🙂

Their 40th Wedding Anniversary was not a surprise, but we did have a lovely celebration. This time an afternoon garden party at my home, since I had moved back closer to family. We invited family and friends and even ordered up a beautiful June 16th. Was such a happy and fun day. Another grand celebration. Another anniversary cake.

Their 45th Wedding Anniversary was far more sedate. By this time Mom had leukemia. We had a quiet celebration at their home. Just immediate family. Yet a beautiful event to celebrate, regardless.

As I noted earlier, their 50th was celebrated without Mom, a family dinner out with Dad.

At times Dad has not enjoyed celebrating since Mom is gone. So, we’ve tempered our remembrances…. yet, we seem to acknowledge it in our own way. We realized that at times Dad needed it to be just another day.

This year, on Father’s Day — June 17th — Jeff and I had Dad over to celebrate Dad… to celebrate Father’s Day. We had planned a late lunch, a relaxed day… good visiting, a movie to watch and… later our traditional Strawberry Shortcake… Fresh stawberries, homemade biscuits topped with whipped cream.

During the Father’s Day pre-lunch conversation with my Dad, he asked, “You remember what yesterday was?” “Dad, of course I do. It was your’s and Mom’s Wedding Anniversary.” “Would have been 56 years.” Dad said. I smiled and told him that Jeff and I had just calculated the years out the day before, on the actual date.

So very pleased to hear of an anniversary remembered….

Her Shoes

Mom's Wedding ShoesI certainly did not remember seeing them before.
Yet, I KNEW what they were.

“Mom’s shoes!”

“Mom’s WEDDING shoes!!!”

Dad was clearing out some things after Mom had passed away in 2003. He had planned to give those shoes away. “Give Mom’s shoes away?” I grabbed them up and exclaimed, “NO WAY!” “We’re NOT giving Mom’s wedding shoes away.”

No matter if I never had the chance to use them, I was not going to give away the shoes Mom wore during her wedding.

I saved the shoes. I stored them away at my house. Some day, some one would be lucky enough to have the pleasure of using them.

Seasons passed. Mom’s wedding shoes were still safe in my closet.

In October of 2008, I met Jeff. We seemed to have a lot in common and yet enough differences to make things interesting. We established a friendship that became a wonderful relationship. Soon I realized I had fallen in love with Jeff. And, Jeff felt the same about me.

February 14, 2010 we became engaged. I KNEW what shoes I’d be wearing sooner than some day.

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Mom’s photo, Mom’s wedding shoes, my wedding bouquet….photo taken shortly before my wedding to Jeff on 9.10.11. Notice the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” in the arch of that shoe.

Mom's wedding shoes, my wedding dress

I wore my Mom’s wedding shoes, the ones she wore in 1956 when she walked down the aisle to marry Dad. I was honored to have Mom walk with me at my wedding, as well as walking with Dad. I love them both. Those shoes must have some magic in them, Mom and Dad were married for 47 years and blessed with a great relationship. Jeff and I are looking forward to many wonderful years together.

Showing Mom's wedding shoes

Mom walked me through my wedding ceremony. I wore the same shoes she wore at her wedding. We showed them off at the start of our wedding ceremony, so that all our family and friends would know I was walking in her shoes.

A Valentine….

to Oregon…. in honor of 153 years of statehood and what a beautiful state she is.

to Mom…. for her love of Oregon and instilling that love in me… for taking her children on trips in Oregon.

to Dad…. for being born and raised in Oregon…. for stories of life in his home state.

to Jeff, my husband…. for also being born and raised in Oregon…. for his love of a never-ending Oregon adventure and wanting to share all those with me.

to myself…. for being born in Oregon and choosing to live in Oregon…. for my love of the beauty that is Oregon…. my home state.

I Love You All

A Great Influence

January SunsetMom passed away on January 26, 2003 after a courageous battle with acute myelogenous leukemia. Yet, while she is physically gone, I know she’s still with me. She still is a great influence in my life. She still helps me, by her grace, to know what is the path for me, to be confident in my choices. By following her example, I know to do what is right.

There are times when I can feel her presence, know that she’s ‘here.’ Sometimes I feel a strong influence, I know she’s had some part in something that has happened in my favor, whether it is of good fortune or a lesson learned. Sometimes, things that I did not believe I could do or never really did all that well somehow turn out great, as if she were here with me, guiding me all the way through — as with the batch of bread rolls I made on January 26th. Other times, I see a butterfly wafting by on a breeze, I know Mom’s spirit is floating by with a gentle, ‘Hello… you’re doing great kid – keep it up.” Then there are times when I am in “the right place at the right time” to see a family member, meet up with a long lost friend, take in a beautiful sunset, experience life as its best, I know Mom’s had a hand in that. In fact, I am certain she brought me to a place that I could feel comfortable reaching out to some new person in my life — the man who became my husband. The man who Mom would have dearly loved to have in our family. The man for me.

Jeff and I were married on 9.10.11 with family and friends all around. I walked in Mom’s shoes throughout my wedding… the very same shoes she wore on her wedding day, fifty-six years ago. Those must have been magic shoes, she and Dad were married for forty-seven years and had been together for fifty-two. With that kind of influence Jeff and I will be fine.