Monday, October 27, 2008

Some days are harder than others.

There are two days every year that are not quite so rose-colored-glasses-sunny-side-of-the-street for me. They aren't horrible days, by any means, just a little bit harder than normal. One being today, October 27th, and the other being April 27th. October 27th, today, would have been my dad's 72nd birthday. (Wow, now that I'm typing that out, 72 sounds so old for me trying to picture my dad, but he was 40 when I was born, so that's about right!) And April 27th is the day he passed away, a mere three and a half years ago. Many of you already know the story, but for those of you that don't, here's the short version: my grandfather (step-dad to my mom, but the only grandfather I had known) passed away in March 10, 2005 -- somewhat expected since he was in his 90s and had recently had his health rapidly decline. My grandmother, who was not doing the greatest herself, but was much younger in her early 80s, passed away two weeks later March 25, 2005. The day after her funeral, my dad went to the doctor to get checked out (a big deal for my dad the doctor-phobic), and within days we found out he was in Stage 4 kidney cancer. Bam. Just like that. He passed away a month later on April 27, 2005. (He had hardly been sick his whole life, so I wasn't exactly planning on losing him so very quickly, not that anyone ever plans on these things.) A few days after his passing, we got a call from our adoption agency that the baby we were waiting to bring home had been reclaimed by his birthmother (a more rare occurrance in international adoptions). He was the baby we had shown pictures of to my dad before his passing. Sheesh. This would be where the ol' phrase "when it rains it pours" would be very appropriate. At that point I was starting to wonder if somehow a new chapter of Job in the Bible would be written with my name in there somewhere. (I kid, I kid, but it was starting to look a teensy bit comparable!)

Needless to say, 2005 was not the best year for us. But God is good, and He brought a new baby referral into our lives immediately, and a year later we brought our son home and named him after my dad. And I must admit, I am truly grateful that I did get that last month with my dad to say goodbye, rather than have him stolen away from me with no warning at all. Time has definitely worked to heal my wounds of losing so many so suddenly, and most days are easy. But there are days like today where I just wish I could sing Happy Birthday to my dad.

He was a great guy. Always laid-back, very easy-going, very satisfied with life, never one to want much more out of life than being with us, watching John Wayne, listening to big band music, and cheering on his favorite college football team. He was a very quiet man (except for yelling at the TV during football and basketball, the only times during my life I ever heard him raise his voice), although he could talk your ear off on occasion. Oh, and he loved ice cream and ate it almost every night (I think this is where my love of ice cream comes from).

Right before his funeral, one of the funeral directors came up to me with a small velvet bag in his hands, asking me who to give it to. Inside the bag was my dad's wedding band. This director obviously didn't know my mom had made the decision to leave it on his hands in the casket, but I had opposed her decision. I gratefully accepted the bag, opened it up, and stuck it immediately on my right ring finger, surprised when it actually fit! (My dad was a small guy.) His ring has remained on my finger ever since, and it has been such a comfort to me, feeling as if he is with me throughout the day and experiencing life with me still. Speaking of the ring, though, I must tell you what happened last year, about a year and a half ago. I went to the Walmart grocery store to pick up some groceries, and while I was in line paying (with cash), I thought I heard a coin drop. I was in a hurry and didn't care about losing some change, so I hurried out. Later that day, I realized his ring was not on my finger. And then I realized something even worse -- I had actually forgotten that day was the anniversary of his passing (which I attribute now to trying to actually mentally block it out because the loss was still so deep at that point), and on that day of all days I had lost his ring, in my mind, one of the only tangible things I had to remind me of him! Seriously, losing his ring on the actually anniversary of his death?! Oh, I was beside myself. When I retraced my steps that day, it finally occurred to me that it had probably been lost there, but when I called, they had not found anything like a gold ring. I cried buckets and buckets and buckets, knowing that more than likely someone had walked off with a free gold ring. The next day I decided to go in to the store and ask in person, just in case. Sure enough they too told me that nothing of the sort had been found, but I was free to look inside their lost and found drawer. Back in the corner, there was the ring. I started crying tears of joy right there in Walmart (and I am not normally an emotional gal) and told them the story. The Walmart ladies joined me with tears of their own. I have never loved Walmart so much. ;)

my dad, Sept. 2004, shortly after the birth of my nephew, his first and only grandson he would get to see (there are now 3 grandsons total, with one more arriving next month sometime)

Happy Birthday, Dad. I'll be sure to eat some ice cream in your honor. ;)


Lorrie said...

Val, this was a beautiful tribute to your Daddy. He was the nicest man. And, what a story about your treasured ring! Wow! Sorry we missed you last week. We'll look you up again! Love, Lorrie

mo said...

What a beautiful story. I cannot tell you how happy I was to read that you did indeed find your precious ring. We also lost a parent two years ago October 21 and it still is so painful to think about her and how much she is missed.

Karen said...

I am right there with you with the Dad thing. My Dad dies right about this time two years ago. He had not been feeling well, went to the Dr and was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. He had massive tumors and left us in three short weeks. I will always remember making the decision to leave the hospital on Halloween that year to make sure my kids got to go Trick or Treating even though my Dad was not going to make it. I wanted my little people to have a Halloween, know what I'm sayin?
Lots of things bring back memories of my Dad to me but it's the little things I think of most, the way he always called me "kid" even well after I became an adult, the way he shuffled as he walked down the hallway in his socks, the way he always told us as kids to "always have your shoes on so you're ready to go, you never know when you'll need to go somewhere". To this day I always have to have my shoes on, even just hangin around the house with nowhere to go.
Hold those memories of your Dad close to your heart and he will always be right there with you. xoxo

Amylouwho said...

Very nice post. I'm a little late commenting - I'm catching up on some reading this morning.

My dad passed away this year a month after my baby boy was born. Unfortunately, I knew when I saw him last fall that it would be the last. So he didn't get to meet him - we live too far away. It's hard to lose a parent. I know time makes things easier, even when they aren't here physically.

My mom wears my dad's wedding band every day too.