I love you, dad

Went and visited my mom today. I sat on the back porch and she sat on the other side of the door at the kitchen table and we used our phones to speak.

She’s been under quarantine while my dad’s in the hospital with COVID-19, and she’s hanging in there. I was very thankful that after a week she had no symptoms, but now she’s intermittently running a light fever. Her temp has been normal all day today, though, so that makes me hopeful that the virus isn’t going to hit her that hard. I don’t want to lose both of them at once.

She’s got cabin fever and is stressed to the max, but she’s tough and she’s doing pretty well. She cries often, if course, and did a couple of times today.

We laughed when I brought up a story about my dad I remembered from childhood. He was bound and determined to get fitted for a western-cut suit. You know, like this:

He finally got one, and a hat, and never once wore either. He also had a banjo that became a dust-collecting decoration in the corner of the living room, and he used to wear this shirt, which I absolutely despised:

His was green, though:

I took that pic when I was seven years old, and I’ll always cherish it. Those kinds of goofball memories of my dad are the ones that make me smile.

My mom said something today that broke my heart. Since we can’t visit him, she tells the nurse to tell him things, hoping he can hear them wherever he is. She said she was going to tell the nurse to tell him that we all love him and that it’s okay if he wants to go to Heaven. He doesn’t have to fight anymore, we’ll be okay.

My dad grew up hanging out at the local fire station in Shelbyville, Indiana.

He helped out around the place and rode along with them to fires. He went into the Air Force and served in the Vietnam war, where he saw things so awful it took him until last year to start talking about them.

He became a firefighter, then a fire chief, then a fire Marshall. He retired and taught college courses about hazmat. He went on mission trips and volunteered for all kinds of charity work, he and my mom. They were always active and helping. He loved kids and played Santa for both their church and neighborhood association parties.

He was always doing some kind of goofball stuff. It was his way of dealing with what we nowadays call PTSD, but it was also just who he was. He was the ultimate dad joke dad.

I’m going to miss him so much. I regret all the time we wasted fighting when I was a teenager, but that’s just life, I guess. It’s a phase guys go through, I think. And when I became an adult we got along fine again.

He was my hero when I was a kid. I was so proud of him, and told everybody about it. I still am. Love you, dad. I know I might never see you again, but that’s okay because I know you know I love you.

Never occurred to me that when all this corona stuff started happening that it would take my dad. I hate it. I hate all of this. But if it does take him, perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise. My dad’s a proud man with an ego as big as his heart. He was beginning to show signs of the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, which his mother and sister both died of. The idea terrified him, and that’s where he was headed. He was so afraid of losing control and losing his dignity, and now he’ll leave this world with all of that intact.

After a week of sedation and machines keeping his heart and lungs going, there’s been no improvement, and it’s getting to the point that my mom is talking about pulling the plug. His explicit written and verbally expressed wishes are that he never be kept alive indefinitely in the kind of state he’s in. It’s almost time to say goodbye… except we won’t get a chance to. I won’t even get to hug my mother if he dies while she’s in quarantine.

He had so many more trips to Branson to take, so many more vacation bible school skits to ham it up in, so many more cornball quips to drop. The world won’t be the same without my dad. He is a great man and this is entirely unexpected and out of left field and it breaks my heart.

Please, people: take this pandemic seriously. Call your parents and tell them you love them. They can be snatched away in the blink of an eye.

3 thoughts on “I love you, dad

  1. I am so sorry, Patrick. My grandfather had Alzheimers, and watching him degenerate over the course of a decade was one of the most awful experiences of my life. I would not wish the coronavirus on anyone, but if it is any consolation, there are worse things.

  2. Oh for sure. He was showing signs. The virus made sure that our memories of him will be good ones that won’t ever include him yelling gibberish and soiling himself in a nursing home. We are very grateful for that, bad as that sounds. That wouldn’t have been any kind of life for a proud guy like that

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