My Life and Welcome to It
*Disclaimer-The posts in the blog series, My Life and Welcome to It, are written from the heart, mind, and soul. These won’t be polished pieces. Typos may occur and sentence structure maybe wonky at times.
Last week was the six year anniversary of my dad’s death. It’s weird to refer to it as an anniversary. In my mind anniversaries are something to be celebrated. There are days when it feels like he’s been gone longer and days when it feels like just yesterday we said goodbye. You’d think the memories of that time period would have faded over the years but for me they are as clear as if they were still happening.
Marion Dreher Gaskin, was a 6’4, 200+ pound gentle giant. In the 1950s he made his mark on the Clemson University football field. I won’t go down his entire list of achievements which includes Hall of Fame status at both Clemson and in South Carolina Sports. You can Google him and find out all that stuff. I’m here to tell you what Google can’t.
Daddy . . .
Yes, I always called him daddy. After all, I am southern. It’s perfectly acceptable for a grown person, no matter male or female, to still call their father daddy. However, if you still call your mom mommy past the age of 4, it’s just weird and kind of creepy. Don’t do that.
Daddy was a great dad. He led more by example than sitting you down and talking your ear off. Although on occasion a conversation was necessary. Like the time when I was around 8 years old and asked him what a hooker was. My mom used to be a big soap opera watcher. I’d heard one of the characters on the Young and The Restless say the word. I asked my mom but she claimed stupidly and told me to ask my dad. Smart move on her part. Keep in mind this was back in the 1970s at a time when people didn’t discuss such things as freely as they do now.
After asking me where I’d heard such a term, my somewhat conservative father told me that a hooker was a bad girl who smoked and drank. That was enough for me at that age. Although it did occur to me that both my parents were social drinkers and my dad smoked. But I never thought to challenge his definition.
He loved his family, football, hot dogs, and whistling. I got my humor as well as my night owl tendencies from him. He had a quiet strength that I never saw waver, even toward the end of his life.
On January 1, 2010 my dad was taken to the ER and admitted to the hospital for back surgery. He hadn’t been able to walk the week prior. I won’t list his medical issues because that would make this post super long. Besides, they aren’t the point of this post.
Over a three month period I witnessed my father, the biggest and strongest man I knew physically wither away. He never did regain the ability to walk or even stand. He developed an issue with swallowing which made it impossible for him to eat or drink, causing him to end up with a feeding tube. His lungs weren’t able to pump enough oxygen into his body. There were four occasions in which the doctors told us Daddy wasn’t going to make it. A priest was called and he was even given last rights. We sat and waited. And waited. And waited. None of us wanting to leave his side because no one should die alone, especially your dad.
But each time the doctors were sure Daddy wasn’t going to pull through, he’d rally. The day after one of these episodes my dad would have a pretty decent day but then went back to what had become the status quo for him. He was in limbo. Not able to fully live his life, but not ready to give it up.
Every day for three months my mom and I would go be with Daddy from morning until late afternoon. My sister took the night shift, going after work and staying until visiting hours were over. It was an extremely stressful time that wore each of us down. But it didn’t matter. The point was to be together. And as difficult a time as it was, looking back on it, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. Because every single day for three months we sat in a room and were truly together.
And what was great was that up until the last few days of his life, my dad’s mind was sharp. He knew we were there. And even though there were a lot of tears during that time, we also had laughter to get us through.
In Presently Perfect (The Perfect Series #3) there’s a scene in which Noah finds out his dad is in the hospital. He races down the hallway toward his dad’s room. Outside of the door stands doctors and nurses who parted like the Red Sea. Noah enters the room, sees his dad, and immediately knows he’s gone. That scene was inspired by my dad’s last day. All the months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes we had been by his side, my dad passed away alone.
I hated myself for a long time for not being there at that moment. Everyone deserves a thank you and goodbye. I didn’t get to say thank you and goodbye. But as I waded through my grief and guilt something occurred to me. Daddy had gotten his thank you and goodbye. Every day for three months he saw how much we appreciated him and felt how much we loved him.
So stop worrying about updating your Facebook status or using just the right filter on your Instagram photo. Put down your phone and turn off the computer. Spend time with those you love. And never miss the opportunity to say thank you before you have to say goodbye.