Sunday, November 23, 2008

conversations with Dad ...

My dad had knee replacement surgery this past Thursday. Seventy-nine years old, the cartilage in his left knee was gone and his knee was just bone rubbing on bone. Dad has always had a very high pain threshold; never complaining, the kind of man who would just tough it out. He always kind of reminded me of Clint Eastwood in the sense of being very much an honorable, strong man, but warmer and funnier than the Clint of the old spaghetti westerns.

After work Thursday night, I drove the hour-plus to visit him in the hospital. His wife had just left for the day; my brother and sister-in-law had been by earlier. At a little past 7pm, it was just him and I. I love the times that he and I get to spend together with no one else around. We gab and gab and laugh and gab and laugh some more. The conversation always flows, no awkward pauses or anything, just a natural flow of conversation. We connect so naturally, so fluidly. He needed some pain meds that first night, so I used the button that dispenses .2mg into his IV and showed him how he could do it himself.

My mom was the sort of person that everyone naturally loved and gravitated to. She was friendly, lively, gregarious and could tell stories better than anyone I know. Dad was always a bit more shy and reserved; he was content to let her be the center at gatherings. But he has a wickedly funny sense of humor. Often at family events, I'd be in the background with him and he would absolutely have me in stitches until we were both doubled over in laughter, tucked away in some corner of the party.

He always worked two jobs when we were growing up, a full-time day job and then a part-time night job, always rising early even though he'd worked late into the night. I had ballet lessons and piano lessons due to his hard work. Every time I play the piano now, I say a blessing for both him and my mom.

After mom crossed over, my daughter and I spent a lot of time with him, doing laundry at his house every Thursday, sometimes meeting for Sunday breakfast. For a couple of years, the three of us all volunteered at a soup kitchen every Saturday. He and my daughter/his granddaughter often sat on the sofa with her snuggled up against him, his arm wrapped lovingly around her as they watched TV or talked. So comfortable and cozy with one another. He gave her away when she married.

After he remarried, he took on a new family with his new wife and her grandkids who came to live with them. He devoted himself to them just as he'd devoted himself to us as we grew up, but it meant, too, that we saw less of him, and it was rare that we spent time with him alone. I call him every week, though, and it's wonderful to just have that time with him.

In the past year, two uncles on my mom's side crossed over (Uncle Alfred and Uncle Art), several months apart. I drove Dad with me to their funerals and there we were again, talking and laughing, enjoying the presence of one another, so comfortable, so very happy together. The first man that I ever loved, the one who sets the standard for me of a man's dignity and honor, of faith and devotion, of family and love.

I went to the hospital again on Saturday, staying from 5 until after 11pm. His wife and her family all left the hospital around 7, so it was just him and me in the evening. I absolutely love doing things for him, but I also know he doesn't like to be fussed over; not because he doesn't enjoy it, but because he never wants to impose his own needs on others. Nonetheless, I had the opportunity to help him with little things: getting him water, talking with the nurses and with the doctor about his condition and needs, strapping on the booties after he'd visited the restroom, tucking his blankets ... just little things to help make him comfortable.

And we talked and talked, laughing and talking. We talked about politics, news, the economy, our new president-elect; about jobs he'd had, memories we share, about things I didn't know from the past. I'd printed out a few things that I thought he might enjoy: some e-mail funnies, my Veteran's Day blog post and an article about his old Naval ship, the Ernest G. Small. I brought him a Newsweek; we've always discussed politics in our family and this issue had some great in-depth reporting on the recent presidential campaigns that I knew he'd appreciate. We watched Cops together, amazed at the criminals' behaviors and excuses, respectful of the jobs the officers have to do. Dad had wanted to be a police officer at one point in his life and has an abundance of respect for the work.

He's doing really well after the surgery; he took a walk in the corridor today with a therapist using a walker. He had no pain at all when I spoke to him earlier this evening. I asked him if he'd like for me to come up tonight. (It's an hour's drive from my house to the hospital.) But in his usual, thoughtful way, he said "No, no. You need your rest. You have to go to work in the morning. But thank you. And thank you for staying so long with me last night."

I'll go again to visit him on Tuesday night after work, hoping selfishly that it can be just him and I again, talking and laughing together, sharing the love of a father and his only daughter. I'm abundantly blessed by having him as my father, and I never take this gift for granted. Thank you, God.

Photo: Dad and I on my wedding day, 1974

Sunday, November 16, 2008

leaving footprints ...

Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never ever the same.


"Is there a clock in here?" the woman asked.

I'd noticed her earlier when I came and sat in the waiting room at the car dealership. A woman a bit older than myself, nicely dressed, her soft white hair styled, lip gloss, glasses. A pretty woman, with a kind-looking face, reading in a nearby chair.

I smiled at her and said "I don't think so, but let me check my phone. It's 1:12."

Startled, she looked at me and I realized that I hadn't reset my cellphone for the end of Daylight Saving Time, so I quickly corrected myself. She relaxed and we both chuckled over my mistake.

She was going to pick up her husband from his dialysis treatment, she told me; she wanted to be sure she wasn't late. (My granddaughters tease me about always talking to strangers; I'm the "talk to strangers lady" they say.) How long does it take, I asked her. About four hours, she said. But he never complains. He's had a number of other health problems ...

And so began a wonderful, memorable conversation with the woman with the kind face. She went on to tell me about her husband, her eyes glowing with a soft, almost reverential love, the health challenges he'd had over the years and how he faced each one with determination and optimism. It was clear that not only did she love him, but she was amazed by the spirit in this man, too.

"How did you meet?" I asked her. "I always love hearing people's "meeting" stories." She giggled a little and told me about being introduced to him, a student here in the U.S. from Colombia, when she was just 18. A few short months later, they were married and had been married for 56 years. When he was growing up, his family had adopted a number of kids (if I remember, correctly, there were 18 in his family; could that be right? Yes, I'm pretty sure it is), children who needed a home, even though his own parents weren't wealthy, but had the most generous of hearts. She said that all his siblings were remarkable like him: good, kind, caring, fun, generous people, friends to all they met.

As we talked, her gentle voice made me smile deep in my heart as she told me about their lives together, their children and grandchildren and a new great-grandchild. I imagined her as a young woman, married to a wonderful man, as a young wife, then mother and on through her life. She glowed as she spoke. Throughout our conversation, she never talked about herself; only about this man that she so obviously loved wholly and completely and the family and friends that he had influenced by his own life.

For just those moments there in the car dealership, I felt our souls connect on a deeper level as she spoke. It was like an angel showing my spirit-self the beauty of their two lives together. I was enthralled, barely aware of our surroundings. Beauty has a such a compelling way of making us oblivious to all else sometimes, and I was witnessing beauty through her stories, enchanted at hearing about this man, and thoroughly enchanted with her.

Too soon, the service consultant came and told her that her car was ready. Smiling at me as she got up, she said "I've enjoyed talking with you. May God's blessings be yours." I said a blessing back to her and watched her walk away, her story leaving its imprint on my heart.

~ Namaste

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank a Vet

A friend told me that she calls her Dad on Veteran's Day and thanks him. I thought that was a beautiful thing to do, and I've started doing the same with my dad, who served in the Navy in the Korean War aboard the USS Ernest G. Small. On October 7, 1951, his ship hit a mine off North Korea, killing 9 and wounding 18 of my father's friends. Four days later, her bow broke off in heavy seas.

I also send a card to my uncle (mom's brother), who served in the Army in the Korean War. He lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine in the war. My dad (who was not yet married to my mom) met my uncle when he visited him in the hospital at an aunt's request. (The families knew one another.) My dad has always said that my uncle is one of his heroes. My uncle went on to have a family of 9 children, working three jobs to support them all, always jovial and teasing, never a word of complaint. He is adored by friends and family, the kind of man you instantly call friend.

I am very proud of both of these men and grateful to them, too, and to all the other veterans - uncles and friends - who have been in my life and are no longer here in their earthly bodies. I am grateful, too, for all those I've never met, but who served for all of us. I honor them for the sacrifice on behalf of all Americans.

If you know a vet, take a moment to give them a call or drop them a card, thanking them for their service in the cause of freedom.

And take a look at the beautiful montage video Amber has posted on her site:

Monday, November 3, 2008

tagged with love

As usual, it looks like I have some catching up to do. No surprise. Anyone who knows me IRL knows how completely, 100% reliable I am when it comes to time: I can always be counted on to be late. If I show up for yoga before class starts, everyone looks at the clock in surprise, thinking there must be some mistake. My family knows to give me false start times: if an event starts at 1pm, they tell me 12:30pm so I'll get there by 1. All of which is just fine with me. I know it's inconsiderate of others, I know that if I just leave a little earlier, blah blah blah ... I'm a grown woman. I know these things. And yet I'm always late. I consistently underestimate the amount of time things will take; I try to cram one more thing in before I leave the house. Truthfully, being on time isn't that important to me. When I get there, I'll be there. Until then, I won't. If I invite people over and they're late, it doesn't bother me a single bit. They'll get here when they get here and oh what a wonderful time we'll all have then. Time is a manmade concept anyway, a contrived convenience for humans; God doesn't wear a watch.

But I digress (which is making me get started later than I'd wanted to. It's almost midnight here and my modem is acting up on top of it. See what I mean?). I have three things to catch up on from bloggy friends, so let's get to it!

First, I received a super-sweet "I love your blog" award from a new blog friend, Rebecca. I'm really glad I discovered her. I absolutely love good, solid, thought-provoking writing. I'll re-read a deliciously written sentence several times (from a book, an article, a blog, whatever); often, too, I'll copy it down so I can read it again at my leisure. Rebecca writes beautifully and skillfully and it's a treat to visit her "Just a Thought" blog. Thank you so very much, Rebecca! You lit up my heart with this!

This award is to be paid forward, so here are the rules and the five that I nominate:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 5 blogs (can be more).
3. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
4. Link to this post and to the person who originally sent you your award.

My five nominees whose blogs I love (I love more than these, though!):

2. Luxie
3. Kat
4. Heather
5. Lisa


My other two can actually be combined. Both Lisa and Carol have tagged me to name some quirky things about myself. (Lisa's said to name 7; Carol's said to name 6. I could name 100, but I think I'll try to stick with just 6.) Then I'm supposed to name 6 (or 7) others to tag and have them do the same. It's very late and I'm very sleepy and besides, most everyone I follow has already been tagged and exposed their quirks for all to see. (Personally, I love quirks. I've always hoped to grow up to be a character; you know, someone that others mention with a smile and say "ah, she's such a character.")

So here goes with my list of 6 quirky things about me:

1. I can't wear a watch. They stop on me. Always have. When I was young, mom tried wristwatches, necklace watches, ring watches. They all stopped working within a couple of hours. I'd take them off and put them on the dresser and some time later, I'd find that they were working again. Tick-tick-tick. Several people have told me they experience the same thing or know someone who has. I've tested this using others' watches and had the same result. I haven't tested it in years, though. (See above about time measurement not being important to me.)

2. I think we all can hear the voice of God if we just sit quietly and listen from time to time. Prayer is us talking to God; quiet meditation is us listening to God. We all need that quiet space.

3. Being near a lot of leather makes me physically uncomfortable. Leather smells like death to me. I can wander in a furniture showroom and if I start feeling uncomfortable and queasy, I know I'm near a leather sofa.

4. When I lose something, I don't fret and worry. I feel that if I'm supposed to find it, I'll find it when I'm supposed to find it. Worrying or getting anxious doesn't change the result. Last week, I lost my cellphone headset. Calmly looked throughout the car several times. Three days later, I found it in a spot that I'd checked several times previously.
I wasn't surprised.

5. When I drink from a paper coffee cup or beverage cup, the seam of the cup has to be at the back where my fingertips hold the cup (like the laces on a football). If it has a coffee sleeve, the seam of the sleeve also has to be at the back. I will twist the lid and the sleeve around until this is so.

6. My closet is organized by sleeve length, then by color. Tanks sorted from light to dark, then s/s tees, etc. Same with my skirts and slacks. And there are no extra hangers. Makes things so much easier. I find things easily when getting dressed in the morning. When I wear my red tee, its hanger remains in the spot in my closet where the red tee goes. After I've washed it, the red tee hanger is right there for the red tee. I like things simple.

And with that, I'm off to bed! I hope you have a wonderfully, quirky week with cherished characters who make you smile.