Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Dad

A few posts yesterday got me reminiscing and thinking back to my childhood. Then as I looked at the date I realized my Dad died 10 years ago today, on April 7th, 2000. He was 72. This is just a walk down memory lane for me so feel free to skip this post.
1958: My dad (30 yrs old) and me (4 yrs old) playing checkers.
(He quit smoking cold turkey shortly after this picture was taken)
My Dad came from a large family—he was the whoops kid, born 10 years after his closest sibling. He had a Grade 10 education, sailed on the tankers on the Great Lakes and quit for a land job at an oil company when I was born. He worked shift work all his life and made sure we all got through University—all five of us! When we were young my parents packed us up every summer to go camping. Later we got a trailer, then a cottage. I don’t remember much of my childhood other than being the fat one in the family but I do know I didn’t block out any terrible incidents. My dad was just there. He taught me to use tools, to change a tire and how to drive—with all the yelling and screaming. I build things like him. I fix things like him. As I get older, I also look like him. He was there to reassure us in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis when we all thought we were going to die in a nuclear war. He worked two jobs to support 5 kids and my mom. He loved Oh Henry bars and so do I. Sometimes when he worked afternoons, he would call my mom and have her keep us awake until midnight because he was bringing home Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC). A bucket with all the trimmings cost $4.99 (ok, it was the 60’s). He didn’t drink much but had a beer or three and loved hockey—the Detroit Red Wings were his team until Bobby Orr became the star of the Boston Bruin’s. He watched old war movies on Sunday’s and hunted deer and moose in the fall.

Life seemed to be going well for all of us until 1974 when my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was 45. I was 20. When I married in 1981, she was in a wheelchair and in 1986 we put her in a nursing home because of my dad’s ill health. She was only 58 and so was my dad. By the time they had enough money to travel, my mom was hit by MS and that never happened. They were able to go to Hawaii once with her in the wheelchair. I think that is one reason I have tried to travel so much and have not waited until I am old. You might never reach “old” and even if you do you might not be healthy—my biggest fear.

My dad became ornery as he aged, angry at my mom’s illness, ticked off that all their retirement plans were now gone. He had angina, diabetes and a small stroke by his late 50’s and didn’t take good care of himself. He had a pot belly but wasn’t more than 30 pounds overweight. None of us kids were around much as most of us lived hours away and rarely visited. So the work of taking care of my mom fell to him. We all dealt differently with her illness but mostly avoidance of being with them. He continued to work but found it lonely which led to him having a girlfriend who cooked for him and travelled with him. When my mom found out, we kids were drawn down the deadly slope of choosing sides. Mom never forgave me for wanting to continue to have a relationship with my dad. She has since died but that will be another post.

Diabetes did him in. That year (2000) he returned from a vacation with an infected toe which put him in the hospital. He was there about 2 weeks before anyone knew. He hadn’t even called my mom. In fact no one could get in touch with him to tell him his brother had died. He was devastated when he found out he had missed the funeral. After multiple tests, he had his toe amputated but they also discovered his circulation was so bad from the poorly controlled diabetes, he would have to go home to build his strength and then return for major bypass surgery. The day he was leaving the hospital, he got up, collapsed and died of a blood clot to his lung. Quick. It’s how we all want to go. It was a blessing because I knew in my heart that he would probably not survive the second surgery. I called him in the hospital before his toe was amputated and just before I hung up I said "I love you". I don't think I had ever said that to him before. I didn't get to speak with him again, but in thinking back, I guess I had said everything I needed to say.

As I sit here writing this, I think of what he went through. I used to think, why doesn’t my dad just do something to get healthy. Diabetes is preventable, so is high cholesterol, high BP and heart disease. Why doesn’t he lose weight, exercise and eat right. Well now I’m in the same situation with all the same problems. So I have to say to me: “Why don’t you just lose weight, exercise and eat right”.

I hope that seeing my dad die young from preventable diseases kicks my butt and helps me do this once and for all. I have exercised for years but gave up and just stopped last year. But I’ve started again—4 km walks. I am also going to start weights soon as well. I can’t say if my dad is watching over me right now but I think so. I am a big believer in signs and I’ve had a few since making this decision to have the lapband. The first was that my pre-op diet began on his birthday (January 26th). I am getting a fill today at 4:00 (the anniversary of the day he died). I see pennies on the ground and always say, “Hi Dad”. There have been two sitting on the floor at work for weeks now.

I also believe that we carry a part of those that have died in our hearts. No matter how hard we try not to be like them, it is inevitable that we will, in some small way. They are in the memories and pictures we have, the mementos that they left us and the lessons they taught us. So I leave with a “Hi Dad, I’m working hard to be healthy”. I know you would have understood. And if any of you got this far, spend a moment to think of someone you have lost and just say Hi.

19 comments:

THE DASH! said...

OH myyy... I have a tear going on. What am amazing post, Sandy. Truly amazing. I love that you opened up about your father and mother, actually your family as a whole. It all came to a rather sad end but you just deal, like you always do. And the fact you want to change things so you don't run the same road just makes me admire you more.

I love the new blog page too. Very pretty.

tessierose said...

Sandy, that was a lovely post. I'm sorry for your losses. I'm sure your Dad would be very proud of you for taking charge of your health. I miss my parents too and find one of the blessings of the passage of time, is that as the years pile on, I no longer remember anything unpleasan about my parents, just the good. Thank you for sharing.

Bonnie said...

Thanks for sharing. I agree that our loved ones are still with us and I definitely can feel my mom. She was my best friend and I think about her in some way pretty much every day.

Kristin said...

You write so beautifully about your dad, Sandy. You are right about finding a way to stay healthy, and doing the things you want to do NOW rather than waiting.

Darlin1 said...

Wow----Got my tears going! You are a great writer and very motivational. I miss my Dad also. I am trying really hard to be healthy myself!

Carmen said...

awesome post :-)

Band-Babe said...

This is a beautiful post. And it is so motivating for me to stay healthy. How sad if my kids have to watch the last of my life with me being so unhealthy and unhappy?

Love the dates coinciding... but I don't really believe in coincidence...

amandakiska said...

Sandy Lee, My eyes are filled with tears! What a sweet post. Your dad sounds very special - human, but a good man. I'm so glad you've figured out how to honor him by doing the things he couldn't. And what a doll you were (and are!)!

Joey said...

Were you trying to make me cry? :)
Your dad looks so much like my grandpa. I never met him, but I long for him so much. Odd to miss someone you never knew. But everyone talks about how great he was and how much he loved family, I just know we would have had a strong connection. But because of his lifestyle he died at a young age and in my mind he would hope that his death was a lesson to us to take care of ourselves.

Thanks so much for sharing. This is totally Barbara Walters week!

-Grace- said...

Thank you for sharing this. I'm very touched (and crying). I'll be sure to say Hi--thanks for reminding me to!

Lonicera said...

Wow Sandy, that's so close to home and how wonderfully you tell it.
Dad had diabetes which he neglected - in his last years drink was too important to him and he didn't care - and a sore toe should have been amputated but he was 84 and they kept putting it off because they must have known he wouldn't survive. The infection couldn't be controlled though, and he died suddenly of a heart attack.
I also lost a diabetic friend recently following a third amputation... and I'm insulin dependent myself. It's carefully controlled, but not enough, or I wouldn't be overweight and be unable to keep away altogether from sweet things. The band was my bid not to die before my time, and (as many others will say) it's the best decision I ever made.
I really do appreciate your sharing this family information - other experiences do help one to feel less alone. Thank you.
Caroline

Debi said...

I too have tears in my eyes, and trying not to flat out cry!!

I totally understand what you went through with your parents as mine are in a similar situation right now.

Both of my parents are in poor health and we are not sure which one will die first. We expect them to go sometime between now and 2-3 years from now at most!!

Jess said...

Very touching, tear jerker! I just lost my grandmother in February and it hits close to home. She died of congestive heart failure and from not taking care of herself. Very sad. It is motivating. I used to smoke occasionally when I drank alcohol and I haven't touched a cigarette since Granny died. I refuse to. Her smoking and bad eating is what ended her life. Thanks for posting such a heartfelt moment. I like the pic too, you look like a lil Shirley Temple. hehe

Jennifer said...

What a beautiful memorial to your father. You getting healthy. I'm sure he would be so proud of you Sandy!

Marie said...

Wow Sandy what a great post. Thank you for sharing your family story. Very touching and inspirational. We all have relatives who passed away before their time. I especially love that you say we need to do the things while we are healthy because you never know. I am a true believer in that. The bills will always be there, but life will not wait.

Barbara said...

What a beautiful memoir.. I saw quite a bit of me in your writings. My dad is still alive, but the same hard worker and determined to see us become independant success stories. Such a special relationship you had.. not every father and daughter have that to reflect upon. Your memory of the pennies made me smile.. what a nice thought to keep tucked away in your heart. And I love your picture (I have to say I can see you in that little girl) Isn't funny to see then and now.. And a big thank you for giving kudos to my New Rules. I almost have to repeat them daily to confirm my committment. But it does give me a sense of peace and control about things. Be well and thank you for sharing these very dear memories..

Rebekah said...

Wow! What a great post! I am so sorry that I just realized that I'm not a follower of your blog!! Your comments are always the ones I pay special attention to at my blog!

Band Groupie said...

Sandy, what a wonderful post. I'm all choked up! What a lovely tribute to your Dad! I'm one of five siblings too!

Dad would be so proud of what you're doing and I'm sure he's watching over you now!

Girl Bandit said...

I too have a tear in my eye...of course yu still loved your dad...who wouldn't. My grandma had MS and it is a hard road. I am sur eboth your parents are proud of your for changing your future....luv u SL

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