I don’t recall Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t born yet. In fact, I would be over a decade in arriving on this planet. We grew up having a great respect for our country, our Armed Forces; after all, Dad was a medic/support person in both WWII and Korea. I’ve told this story before, but please cut me some slack. Today is the day, in 1988, that we told him goodbye. Nothing has hurt that badly since. I wouldn’t let it. I retreated from everyone I loved; even my children. And for that, I’m sorry, guys. I just didn’t know how to handle what I felt. All I knew was I wanted nothing to hurt that badly again.
Not being unkind, my mom is like a Drill Sergeant. Very stoic. We never saw her cry. I’ve not heard her say she misses him, not even once. If my brothers and I were all together in her presence, she would get angry if we talked about him. We didn’t know what to do. We needed to grieve together, and that didn’t happen. They had taught Mom to be that way. It’s what got her through. We all had unhealthy ways of coping with those feelings of loss. It wasn’t pretty.
My oldest son was seventeen. They diagnosed dad with lung cancer on Frankie’s birthday. Cancer, the gift that kept on giving. Fifty-one days later, Dad died. He lost over fifty pounds. I’m glad he didn’t lose his hair. He had beautiful hair and was a handsome man. I learned to listen to Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and how beautiful Lena Horne was from Dad. All significant memories. No one can take those from you. Dad spent a lot of time with Frankie, and taught him what to look for when you buy a used car, etc, etc, etc. Dad was the best male influence on all my kids.
My younger son, at thirteen, grieved openly and hard. He gets it all out of his system, and he’s done. He remembers funny things, and he tells us stories and asks questions. He was such a brainiac. Dad loved to tease him and his little sister, Becky. She was “Dolly” to Dad. He adored her, and I loved that he did. He told me what good kids they were.
I’d see him every weekday at the hospital, over my lunch hour. We talked about lots of stuff. We talked more in those fifty-one days than we had in my life. It was wonderful. The last thing he told me, on my lunch hour, Wednesday, December 7, 1988 was, “Sis, I just can’t fight this anymore. I’m tired.” I took his glasses, covered him up, kissed him on the forehead and told him, “Do what you’ve got to do, Dad. I’ll always watch out for Mom. Love you.”
At 4:20 p.m., Mom called me at work and said, “Call your brothers, you all need to come.” around 5:45 p.m., he passed. Quietly. Painlessly. No more pain. Thank God we had such a wonderful dad. He was tough, no doubt about that. You learned lessons, as we should have. The thing I learned most from him was “Do it right, or don’t bother.” I hear his voice while I’m writing. I feel his encouragement. No one can take that from me. I miss you and love you.
I learned a better way to grieve. I have told my kids about my mistakes and apologized. It’s a case of hoping they learn from your mistakes. It’s a gift when you do that for your kids. It’s a way to stop the craziness that travels from generation to generation. People always used to keep things to themselves. “Don’t tell your business.” Now, with social media, perhaps people share too much. We need to put aside the idea that we know everything, how to do everything. No one is that balanced; after all, we’re human and full of flaws! It’s a courageous act to admit it. And then learn a better way to do something. Ah, balance.
I know Dad would love the Babe. They have similar qualities. Deep sense of right, deep love and caring of others, firm yet fair. I was lucky my kids were good people; they have all turned out well. It’s the best thing you can hope for. It was hard to transition into being an empty nester. When you’re busy providing and working and studying and family dinners every night, you build up a momentum you keep on until you look around one day, and by gosh, they’re gone! On their own! You raised them to do that, now what?
You decide to write a book, and you write a blog, and you work with a book coach to learn. Life is good. We balance life. Life is the Babe and me, making the most of it; in sickness and health, in pandemic and wellness, in respect for the unknown and certain. We’ll make it. Together.
Thank you for reading today. I appreciate it. Spread happiness, not the Pandemic. Be Kind. Be Safe. Be Careful. Count your Blessings. We all have a lot. See you tomorrow!