My Most Prized Possession

My father passed away in December 2014. He had been sick for years, suffering from heart disease and emphysema. Pneumonia and a blood infection got him in the end. I was able to spend time with him during his final days. It was hard, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. As he started to go downhill at the hospital, he asked that mom get all his sons to come see him. I was at work when I got the call.

I walked into his hospital room, and I was floored. I had seen him just the day before. Although he was not able to talk much, he was somewhat alert. As I looked at him now lying in the bed, I noticed his breathing was very shallow. His eyes were closed. Mom leaned over and said, “Charles, the boys are here.” He opened his eyes real wide and looked at us and gave us all a salute. Such a special moment. I knew the end was near, but I was not able to get my arms around it.

You see, dad was my hero. Although we had a trying relationship over the years, he was always there for me. I was not an easy child to raise. Always in trouble. Lying. Breaking things. Mom said I slept all day and kept her up all night. She quit the ninth grade to have me at age fifteen. Dad was only nineteen. It was 1959. A long time ago. Can’t believe I’m fifty-five already. I spent thirty-seven years abusing drugs and alcohol. I had to go to state prison for three years at age nineteen. Unfortunately, I continued to get drunk and high after I got out of jail. I lost all of my possessions, and ended up a week from being homeless. Dad allowed me to move in with him and mom in 2008. Although I had a few relapses (the last one being right around the time of his death), he stuck by me. He would drive me to AA meetings and counseling sessions and physical therapy. I thanked him one day, and he answered, “Hey, this is what I signed on for.”

Anyway, dad worked in plastics all his life. He started at PlastiVac in Montgomery, PA right out of high school, and retired from Penn Reels outside of Landsdale, PA thirty years later. He was a genius at troubleshooting, and did some private consulting as well as full-time employment. He taught a non-credit course at a local college in the Lehigh Valley relative to the field of plastics engineering. He was an OSHA officer at several of his jobs. He built his own house from the ground up. He had a wealth of knowledge regarding gardening and lawn care. When he bought a house after retirement, he built a screened in back porch, two decks and a pond with a waterfall. He also was a great woodworker, and built furniture. Mom still has a lot of the pieces. He painted oils for years. The walls are decorated with his art.

Mom gave me one of his paintings after he passed away. It is a depiction of a street in Puerto Rico. I cannot believe the attention to detail. He even put birds on a church roof in the background. I love staring at the picture and imagining myself walking down the streets. Many of his oil paintings are fantastic, but this one is my most favorite. Mom said, “You may have it, but don’t ever let anything happen to it. You have to keep it til the day you die.”

That’s not hard to do when it’s my most prized possession.

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How Do You Go Forward?

Unfortunately, my father passed away at 5:07 p.m. on December 9, 2014.  Probably about twelve hours after my last post.  I expressed my thoughts about losing him, as he was not expected to live longer than a few days. Instead, he passed away later in the day on December 9th.  This was not a surprise to me, as he was very sick the past year.  He basically died from respiratory failure secondary to emphysema and pneumonia.  He had been on oxygen 24 hours a day.  Still, it is quite hard to accept that he is gone.  I have moments of denial, followed by extreme sadness and moments of acceptance.  I was with him when he took his last breath.  He had asked for “my boys” early in the morning on Monday, December 8th.  When mom told him we were there, he opened his eyes wide, looked at us, and gave us a “salute type” wave.  I am really grateful I was there for that.  Dad was definitely one of the good guys.  Protective, loving, supportive, stern, reliable, trustworthy, responsible.  He treated my mother like a queen.  They were teenagers when they started their romance, surviving 56 years of marriage.  Truly remarkable and inspiring.  I am twice divorced.  (Being a recovered alcoholic, I never knew how to be in a loving relationship.)  I can only hope that I too will discover a relationship like my parents had.

This is one of those situations where someone passed away during the Christmas holiday.  We’re making it through, enjoying the joy and love and magic of the season.  It’s hard to tell what it will feel like next season.  Being Christians, we truly do love celebrating the birth of our Savior, so that will make things easier.  Christmas is mom’s very favorite time of the year, so I hope that her joy and excitement for the season is able to survive through the coming years.

So how do you go forward when something like this happens?  Basically, you do it one day at a time just the same way you stay sober.  That, and by the grace of God.

I will truly miss you dad.

Losing Your Hero.

Every once in a while there comes a day when we must face hardship. Sadness. We question God, although we know He is Sovereign and He knows best. Still, we wonder why certain things have to happen. This is one of those days. My heart is heavy with grief as my father is facing his final days here on earth with us. I have always loved him, no matter how badly I sometimes treated him. I was not the easiest kid to raise. My lack of respect came from a god complex and too many drugs and alcohol. It did not come from a lack of love. I’ve been living with my parents since 2008, and I have been in awe of all the things my dad knows. The things he can fix. The problems he can solve. Did you know he never once had a late bill payment in his life? Amazing. He has a lot of integrity and discipline. I hope I didn’t embarrass him too much with my lack of those same things. Believe me, he rubbed off on me these last few years. Not too many people know he saved my life. I was homeless and jobless, getting drunk and high. He allowed me to move in with him and mom. I had no car. No driver’s license. He drove me everywhere. To AA meetings. To counseling sessions. To physical therapy. You name it. If I had to be there, he took me. He also showed me what a true marriage looks like. I don’t know any other couple as much in love as mom and dad. I can only hope to experience that kind of uncompromising love in my life some day. Right now, my only thought is how in the world am I going to move forward through life without dad? But I have to remember this: He took me in to his home in order to get me “up to snuff” so I could survive. So I could live. Thank you dad. And thank you God for helping me rebuild my relationship with dad these last five years. I am sure all who knew dad are going to feel empty without him. Just remember to reach out and grab the hand of Jesus. He knows exactly how you feel.