Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

I start this day with so many emotions. Daddy has Alzheimer's, and for the last 2 years, we have wondered, at every holiday, if this would be the last holiday that he would remember. This year is different, we know that if we still have him next year, he won't remember any holiday that we have had, much less what we will do today for Father's Day.
Daddy was raised in a log cabin, along with 10 sisters and brothers. He was born during the depression. He told us so many stories of his childhood, stories of the hardships, fun they had as children, how things were done on the farm then, and the mischief that they took part in and caused. He shared so many wonderful stories with us.
When he met Mama, he was with someone else. They met at church. My parents dated for 2 years before they married, and my Mama had no idea the adventure that lay ahead for her. Daddy always told us that he wanted more for us than what he had as a child, and he made sure that we had more than he did. Daddy was amazing in his everyday life, there was no need to save amazing for special times.
My parents remodeled an older house, the majority of the work was done by them. Why should he hire someone to do the things that he could do himself, and do better? But it was not just the experience of remodeling an older house that was important, it was the learning experience that he provided for us. We learned about carpentry, plumbing, wood working, or any skill that goes with the remodeling experience. I remember lying on the ground, underneath the house, helping put the plumbing in our house. He patiently taught us about these things while he worked, and allowed us to work too. If we made a mistake, he showed us how to correct it. We did it all, from putting in the insulation, to hanging the drywall, puttying and sanding (I hated that!) to the painting and hanging wall paper. He and a friend made and installed the kitchen cabinets. Describing Daddy as amazing seems insufficient.
We did not know it at the time, but the lessons that we were learning then, would go with us for the rest of our lives. Whether it was the remodel of an older home, hand raising an orphaned calf, planting a garden, watching the weather, or watching him in a business endeavor, those were important lessons that would shape our young lives, and make us the people we are today. He provided us with his examples of how to live, and guided each one of us even as adults. Daddy didn't view his job as a parent, as a job, or a job with an end.
My memories of Daddy don't just include what he did with his hands, there were the more important things that he gently shared. We saw him read his Bible, and every Sunday morning he sat at his desk, and wrote out his check. Daddy tithed his money not out of obligation, but considered it a privilege to do so. It was my job to take the money that he had for each of us to give, and put it in the offering envelopes and fill the envelopes out. Daddy thought about others around him, he played a vital role in this community having a fire department. Daddy taught us the importance of looking around at the world you live in, to see where you could make a difference.
It is more heartbreaking than I can express, to now see this brilliant man that has given so much of himself, struggle with everyday tasks. I watch him struggle to walk, and listen to him speak partial sentences that seem to have no meaning. I see him look at me and struggle to find my name in his memory and answer him, even when he says the wrong name.
He will never know that I write this blog, or that I have written about him. Daddy can't read the stories that I write about my animals, he can no longer scratch my silly goat on her head, look at my new chicks, hold the new rabbits, give me advice, or help me do anything. Daddy seemed to thrive on helping us, and now he can't, and now he does not even know that he can't help us anymore. He can't sing with me, play the piano, discuss current events, or offer advice. We can't share the playful arguing that we have always shared. Several years ago, I purchased a cabinet from a man. He went with me to get it. Daddy insisted on keeping the cabinet at the shop to clean it, he also had in mind to paint the cabinet. I had it in mind NOT to paint the cabinet! We argued about that, and Mama helped me out, she told him that I really did not want to paint the cabinet. Until the last couple of years, we argues about that cabinet! Every time that he came to my house, he would ask if I had painted that cabinet. I would tell him that I had not, he would tell me that I needed to. I would tell him that I was not going to. And so it went, the playful arguing continued, but he really did want me to paint the cabinet! I never did paint the cabinet.
We have precious memories which in all honesty does very little at this moment to provide any comfort. Instead, I prefer to continue to look for those "ray of sunshine" moments that come unexpectedly. Such as the moment we shared last week. I have his sense of humor, if you can call it that, and we have shared so many laughs together, things that only the two of us would find amusing. He had a toothpick in his mouth, and he looked at me with that twinkle in those gorgeous blue eyes, and asked if I would like his toothpick? He smiled and chuckled. I told him that I did not, he proceeded to explain to me that it was a very good toothpick, and I was missing an opportunity in refusing his toothpick. We laughed, and for a precious few moments, I had my Daddy with me. The laughter we shared does not come often enough now, those ray of sunshine moments grow fewer and farther between. With each moment, I wonder if this is the last one.
Alzheimer's doesn't just steal the past, it steals the present and future, devouring it's victims while their loved ones watch helplessly, like an angry beast. I watch this and wonder if I will become a victim as well. Will my brothers, and what about our children? More than I don't want this disease for myself, I don't want it for my loved ones. I wonder when I can't remember a name, misplace something, or can't remember a phone number, is this my fate as well? Time will tell.
Daddy, I know that you will not read this, but you have been an awesome father to us! You have given us so much, you have helped to shape and teach us. The imprint that you have left on your children and grandchildren will go with us forever. Thank you does not seem to be enough, but we do, we thank you Daddy. You gave us your best, and you made our lives better. You did not save amazing for special occasions, you gave it to us everyday! I have tried to tell you this in my lifetime, I hope that you knew it. Unless I too, fall victim to this vicious, cruel beast, I will carry those memories with me. Thank you Daddy, for being the Daddy that you were to us! Thank you for loving our Mama! You have taken the best care of Mama and us, and loved and guided us in your incredible awesome and amazing ways! You taught us that life was imperfect, and so were we. We were going to make mistakes, and what we chose to do about those mistakes, was more important that the mistakes. You gave us your best, I love you Daddy! Happy Father's Day! I will remember it for you when you can't.

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