I’ve been thinking back to the days that I first heard the wobble and whoosh that gave way to the steady beating of a heart in each of my kids, remembering all the emotions that burst through, unveiling the thoughts of the possibilities of the life to come. The adventures that will be had, the love that will be shared, the memories that will be created. All to be cherished and looked back on as a priceless treasure no one could ever steal or destroy.
Lost in a moment of deep memories, my mind flips to memories to the other side. The side of looking at life through the eyes of a child. The memories of what it was like to grow up. The memories of love and pain, adventures and struggles hit me like a wall of water that swallows me to the point of almost drowning. Gasping for a breath, I struggle to the surface, following that familiar beating sound that steadily encourages me to push on up to the breaking point. Pushing through, breathing deeply, I clear my mind to focus on the sound of the heart monitor beating steadily. I’m whisked back to reality to knowing that when I focus my vision, life will not have miraculously changed.
My Dad will still be in the hospital. He will still be on the ventilator, and the future will still be uncertain. I can’t go back in time to change or prevent anything that has happened. He had fallen and hit his head, and then because of that first fall, he fell two more times over a few days causing more injury to his head. This, in turn, caused stroke-like symptoms that needed to be treated within the ICU. That is how we arrived at this point. He had to have brain surgery to alleviate the pressure in his brain that the blood had caused. This, in turn, was making his symptoms worsen. This is where we are now.
I say to myself, one last touch before I’m drug back to overwhelming reality. I reach out and clasp onto the thick, strong, familiar rough surface that I have hung onto for safety so many times before. A dear friend of mine, Gerri, always called these particular type hands Scottish paws. This seems to be a common trait of someone with a Scottish heritage. But this time is different than other times I have held his hand.
There is no return in the grasp. I breathe deep holding onto the air in my lungs, I clearly hear and feel my own heartbeat, almost in sync with the monitor.
At that moment, it was like all the memories of life gone past flew through me. I tried to lock onto one, but just as quick as they fly into reach, they are snatched away, replaced with others. 49 years of experiences flutter by like fingers skimming the pages of a thick, old book. Some pictures impress deeper than others, causing me to laugh, others make my heart sink a little deeper.
The ones that hung with me were some of the stories I loved to hear him tell over and over again.
Like the time our family went to the shore and brought back crabs. I was young, maybe 5, if that. I can still smell that pungent crustaceans’ odor. As the story goes, there were some stray cats that loved to sit on our porch, singing and wooing the night away. The loud calls of the lovesick felines drove my parents nuts. So, my dad got the bright idea of using his saltwater catch to its fullest potential. As the story goes, he placed the crabs out on the front porch where the cats would gather for their nightly serenade. I have no clue how he kept the crabs on the porch, but I do remember the occasional screech of a cat being pinched. For some reason, the chorus of cats never came back to our house. I don’t know why this one has stuck with me so strongly, other than that he would laugh every time he told it.
Another thing that resurfaced was the many times my dad was willing to help me try and achieve a new goal or be willing to do some of the craziest things. Back when I was teen, I started a Christian singing group, and we would use backtracks to sing and added some simple choreography. My dad was our sound guy. He would hit play on the tape deck and adjust microphone levels. He would also flip the toggle switches on our custom light board that he had made. This was his thing, and whether he would admit it or not, he loved doing it. Somewhere along the line, we got him a sunvisor from a Christian music radio station to wear when he was on the job. This was no ordinary sunvisor, folks, oh no, this visor had small chasing LED lights powered by a 9v battery attached to the back strap. He called it his “Kit Hat” because it was like the hood light on the car in the TV show Knight Rider.
Another funny example of the ends to which he would go to help is when I entered a lip sync contest. There was $75.00 of Christian music at stake here. This was a huge deal! So, I came up with an idea to perform. Just to make sure the odds were in my favor, I entered three different times once by myself, second with my singing group “Live Wires For Christ,” then lastly as a trio. The trio didn’t start out as a trio. At first, it was only my best friend at the time, Sam, with me. I thought it would be fun to do a funny song that had… shall I say an Italian flair. Sam was a proud Italian and loved to let everyone know it. So, the song we wanted to do was by an artist named Carman; the song was called “Spirit-filled Pizza.”
We started to plan out our song and what we would do to act it out and everything was awesome, until we got to the last part of the song, because we needed just one more person to make it really work.
Here is the idea of the story portrayed in the song. Two cousins wanted pizza, so one sends the other out to an uncle’s pizza joint. But the one going to get the pizza got distracted, wandered into a church and got saved. When he returned to his cousin, he “claimed” his life for Jesus. Then six months later the other cousin accepts Jesus. Then all he wants to do is find his little brother, and claim his life for the Lord. And that is the song in a nutshell.
So, we had Sam and me, but we needed a little brother. Somehow, we convinced my dad to play the part of the little brother. My dad has a full beard and is pretty straight-faced. He was not the upfront, on-stage kind of person unless it had to do with being a cub scout pack leader. He was kind of a serious guy. Dad has always worn jeans or work pants, with a pocketed polo, and most of his polo shirts were of a pastel color. You could always find a pen and a small tablet in the shirt pocket, and if you saw him right after work, he would have half a Zagnut or Butterfinger bar in there too.
So, besides dad being like a fish out of water with this, he had one other issue that no one thought of. On the week of the contest, my dad had his teeth removed, and had false teeth made. He got his new teeth the day before the contest. I recall him having a difficult time with the fit of the dentures. He was saying that unless he clinched his teeth together they felt like they would fall out or worse he was afraid that if he squeezed too hard they may pop right out of his mouth. As a teen, this all seemed very amusing to me at the time. I assured him that it would all be good, and we would go easy on him.
See, when it came to the part of the little brother, dad would come out, sit down. Sam and I would grab ahold of him, kind of doing the revival evangelist routine, pushing him back and forth with laying on of hands and such. We really did shake him a bit, but I promised we would tone it back a bit for the actual performance.
When it came time for our number, everything was going great. We had the audience eating out of our hands. Then it was time for my dad when he came out the crowd erupted and that energy transferred to Sam and I, and we hammed it up. The only thing dad could do was sit there and hold on to his teeth for dear life. He couldn’t help but laugh. So, he sat there looking at us like we were crazy, but he had the funniest smile that didn’t change throughout the whole time. He looked like the Cheshire cat smiling.
He admitted at some point his teeth started to move but he kept them in his mouth. We came away with third place with that song. The song I did alone actually won first place. I have a VHS tape of the contest; I’m sure it would make great YouTube content.
I could go on with other experiences that stick like glue, trains and slot racers, matchbox cars, touring buses. He always wanted his own touring bus/RV. I’m sure as any dad, he had and has dreams and hopes for me and my children. All too much to take in, but in times like these, we long to drink from the firehose to get as much as we can, because the moments are not guaranteed.
The visions that rush my head are overwhelming, but the one thing that is a common thread that he showed and taught me was love. You work with what you have and do your best to provide for those who God has entrusted to you, all the while loving in a way that is so deep that it’s almost impossible to express. All except when you feel the touch of a rough, strong hand grab on to your hand, and then you just somehow know. You know that you are loved, and have been loved as only a proud pop can love.
It almost physically hurts to let go, but the hope is there that better days are coming. Knowing that three things remain… faith, hope, and love, which love is the greatest of these. Love is all we really have to give and receive. To quote my dad’s favorite band of all time, The Beatles, “All you need is Love. Love is all you need.”
As I write, my dad is still fighting to overcome this place that he is in. My faith stays solid, and I look to the future with the hope that he will recover. I’ve been told that it will be a very long road to recovery. The daily updates give me more hope that this 73-year-old man has a chance to live a vibrant life again.