Friday, September 21, 2007


My father is 88 years old and he is failing rapidly. He and my mother both have had wonderful health all their lives - and for my father, that has drawn to a close. Last spring, his artificial knee got infected and it had to be cleaned out. The two surgeries that ensued and the rehabilitation and enforced hospital stay nearly killed him then, but he got better. He never really regained his earlier health, but he was able to live independently for at least this past year since then. He was diagnosed with Type II diabetes about 5 years ago, and since then, his eyesight has rapidly declined, which was the beginning of his trials. He would lament at length about how he just couldn't get over the loss of sight in one eye.

In August - August 10 - my mother and father celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. My father was barely able to get around, and had already begun to fail in a more rapid manner. Yet all three daughters came, one from NY State, and we went out to dinner. Compared to 10 years before, I couldn't help thinking how much had changed for all of us.

Now, it's September and my father is barely able to get out of bed. He can't sit in his favorite chair because he can't get out of it. My mother, who is 9 years his junior, has cared for him all this time, but is rapidly reaching the time when she just can't do it anymore. Add this to the fact that it was just found out through a cat scan that my father has been having many small strokes - that's why he has gone downhill so rapidly in the past 3 months - I think his time of crossing over is very near (and I hope it is since I don't want him or my mother to suffer any more of this debilitation).

Since they live 2 hours away from me, I can't be of much help very often - not every day as I'd like.

So, as I sit here trying to face what is before me, I remember my father.

When I remember things, I see it all so vividly. I can see the bars of my crib and
I'm standing up, looking over the edge. My crib is in my parent's bedroom in the house my father built in Middletown, NY. It is a split level house in a new neighborhood. In 1956, when the house was being built (and the year I was born) there were no trees yet, but that changed quickly. As I'm leaning over my crib, I see my father standing in the open door of the closet of their bedroom - to my left. He has on a light blue plaid short sleeved summer shirt, and he is singing "Home On the Range" to me. I can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday. He is young, dark-haired and handsome, and the closet light is on - it is late in the day. Perhaps he is trying to sing me to sleep.

Another time, company was at our house. My mother's sister and her husband, my aunt Josephine and Uncle Chester, who lived in Jacksonville, FL. were up visiting. I was maybe 5 years old, and I always had to go to bed at 7PM, even in summer when it didn't get dark until 9 at night. Everyone seemed to be having such a great time this evening, and the lazy summer sun was still coming strong through the windows of the bedroom, but off to bed I was trundled. I didn't mind so much because I was sleeping on the floor of my parent's bedroom so that the company could have the other bedrooms - and I thought this was exciting. I also felt so safe sleeping in their room.

I remember playing outside all day until finally it was time to come in, eat supper and take a bath before bed. I remember the feel of the hot water after a day of hard play, and the soft crisp clean smell of fresh pajamas after the bath.

My mother ironed our sheets - isn't that odd? They were washed and hung outside to dry, so that they absorbed the country air. Then she ironed them. Climbing in between those pristine white sheets that smelled like the summer breeze was heavenly. Combine that with the bath and the clean pajamas and it was home. Wonderful childhood home.

My dad taught me to pray the Our Father. I might have been 3 or 4 years old. I can remember he and I sitting on the concrete steps behind our dining room, facing the back yard. I remember thinking how serious he was and that this was important to learn.

I used to wake up - to me - in the middle of the night, and find everyone else in bed except my father. He was downstairs in the "playroom" watching Johnny Carson perhaps. I would climb up in his lap and go back to sleep and he would sit there with me until he was ready to go upstairs to bed himself, and he'd carry me up with him. So long ago. I'm 51 now, so it's a very long time ago indeed.

I want to record more of my memories of my father, my mother and my childhood. Stay tuned for more nostalgia.

No comments: