Posted tagged ‘Dad’

Dad’s Day Without Dad

June 17, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                June 17, 2018

                                 

It’s a weird feeling this morning! Today is the first Father’s Day I’ve experienced without Dad! He passed away four months ago at the wise old age of 89. Tomorrow would have been his 90th birthday. there’s

Dad has always been there. Though we were separated by five states his presence never seemed to be far away. Our Sunday night phone chats became our routine. When he didn’t answer his phone I worried…so I’d call my sister to see if he was okay. More times than I can remember he’d call me back as I’d be talking to her. I’d switch calls over to him and after answering he’d give his customary reply: “Well, hi son!”

“Did I get you at a bad time, Pops?”

“Well, I was on the pot!” He would say it like it was an unusual occurrence. 

Today, however, things have changed. It’s Father’s Day without Dad. It has the feel of eating fried chicken without also having mashed potatoes and gravy. Kind of strange and empty. 

My dad was a consistent man of faith, an even-paced Jesus journeyer. Through all his radiation treatments for cancerous growths on his ear, nose, and bladder, he never lost his humor and lightheartedness. The radiation technicians at St. Mary’s Hospital loved on him, enjoyed him, and treated him like their own father. When his name was called to come on back from the waiting area for his radiation “zap moment” of the morning he would always have a word for the attendant that would bring a chuckle and a smile. It’s how he was. His bouts with cancer weren’t seen as being setbacks, but rather moments in his journey.

When I became a father back in 1981, like any first-time dad, I had the deer-in-headlights look. What do I do? What don’t I do? I had taken a class back when I was a student at Judson College, taught by Professor Ted Hsieh, entitled “Marriage and The Family”. I still have the notes from that class, and I was tempted, when Kecia Corin Wolfe arrived, to get the lecture notes on parenthood back out and do a quick review. Instead, however, I looked into the mirror of my memories of Dad. What would Dad do? What did Dad do? How I fathered my own three children had the imprint of his parenting impression of us.

And so today I’m living with his memories, impacted by his personality. I’ll go out for a run this afternoon and wear the University of Kentucky hat that was his. As I’m huffing and puffing it will seem like he is close at hand. As my feet trudge along I’ll recall some of my favorite “Pops Stories” that I listened to numerous times, and yet, never tired of the warmth they would bring to my soul. 

It’s just weird! Dad’s Day without Dad…it sounds like the title of a horror film! In essence, it’s simply where I am on my journey, a place of wonderful memories and an aching grief.

Dad’s Things

February 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           February 19, 2018

                                             

It’s a small apartment located at the end of the first floor in the Wyngate Senior Living Complex. Dad has lived there for about the last three years, making new friends and acquaintances with other travelers of life’s final chapters.

Later on today and tomorrow my sister and I will spend some time over there going through some of his possessions, and breathing in the memories.

Dad passed from this life to the next on February 15 at the age of 89 years and 8 months. His was a life well-lived!

His apartment is a testimony to who he was and what had become entwined in his life.

There are the oxygen tanks that testify to his health limitations. Like a changing autumn landscape, I had noticed the changing interior of his apartment when I would come for one of my visits to southern Ohio from Colorado. Medications, the medical supplies a diabetic would need, blood pressure monitor, and (Sorry, Dad!) a good supply of adult diapers, his apartment spoke about that winter season of life that most of us will arrive at.

Scattered through the living room, bedroom, and closet are numerous items with the initials “U.K.” on them. Dad graduated from The University of Kentucky. He was proud of his Wildcats, suffering through many a football season and much happier most basketball seasons. There are UK shirts, hats, mugs, plates, flags, and the 1951 UK Yearbook. He had attended Kentucky after getting out of the Navy, but it wasn’t easy. He had married Mom, welcomed Child #1, our brother, Charlie, and provided for his growing family as he wore the hats labeled student, employee, husband, and father. Things were not easy during his UK years, and yet those years shaped him with the elements of resolve, perseverance, and organization.

Come to think of it, using the word “scattered” to begin that last paragraph would be the antithesis of who Dad was. His apartment is organized. His papers are organized. His cupboards are organized. By golly, his dresser drawers are organized!

There are Rotary remembrances. The service club had been a part of Dad’s life for close to forty years, joining the Ironton, Ohio chapter not long after our family moved to the town in 1969. Service defined Pops! He fit well in the organization that was sewed into the community’s fabric. But he also served the church, served his neighbors, and served our mother in their sixty-five years of marriage. He served as her caregiver in the last few years of her life, and at Wyngate he did those little acts of service. I remember my sister telling me that Dad tutored a woman who lived in the apartment next to him on how to give herself an insulin shot. She was scared to death, but Dad was able to bring down her anxiety about being poked and help her jump over that hurdle.

Pictures and pictures! Photo albums filled with pictures…framed pictures…pictures attached to his refrigerator…pictures with meaning and memories. The pictures give “snapshots” of his journey…family, church, laughter, friendships.

Going through Dad’s things, I realize, is important for my walk of grief. It’s ointment for my aching soul as I cry out for my father to come and sit beside me. Most of the things in his  apartment will end up going to Goodwill or to someone else who needs furniture or dishes, but for now I need to be amongst “his things”. It’s a part of letting go and finding peace.

Scolding Pops

June 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      June 21, 2017

                                          

I was sitting next to Dad in the waiting room of the eye specialist he was scheduled to see. The day before he had experienced some blurred vision in his right eye and I had taken him to see an ophthalmologist. He couldn’t see anything such as a cataract, thus the referral to the specialist.

Before the ophthalmologist appointment I had taken him to the hospital for a CT scan of his lower abdomen area. He had been experiencing some discomfort there, and had dealt with a bout of bladder cancer a couple of years earlier.

My cell phone buzzed in my pocket. It was my sister calling. When I answered she asked me the question: “Did Dad tell you that he was suppose to go to the Emergency Room?”

I glanced at the 89 year old gentlemen sitting on my left side. “No, he didn’t say anything about that!”

“The hospital called yesterday afternoon and told him that he needed to go to the ER because he has a bowel obstruction.”

“He didn’t say anything about that to me.” I stared at him like he had stared at me when I was 12, and he had received a phone call about my misdeeds. “We’ll finish this appointment and head to the hospital.”

I said goodbye and turned to the offending senior, who had a sheepish look on his face. “So…you were suppose to go to the ER yesterday?”

He looked at me . “Yes!”

I thought of possible responses, such as the ones he had said to me when I had violated family behavior guidelines. This would have been when he said to me, “You’re grounded!” Or, “No TV for a week!” But those punishments seemed a little excessive for an 89 year old! So I took the easy out, yielding to my belief in his wisdom and common sense.

“So why didn’t you tell us?”

“Because I wanted to wait until after lunch today!” Dad had turned 89 on Father’s Day and we had ordered a cake that would be enjoyed by him and the other thirty residents of Wyngate, the senior complex he lives in, at lunch. “But it backfired on me!”

“How so?”

“I was going to tell both you and your sister after lunch, but since the sign in the office here says to mute or turn off your cell phone they must have called your sister when I didn’t answer.” He was unrepentant, and yet a rule follower, a contradiction in human form!

“I wanted to enjoy our dinner last night and then lunch at Wyngate today, and then I was going to tell you.”

I did not have my “I can’t believe you would do that” speech rehearsed. He seemed a little old for the tirade that begins with the words, “When are you going to learn?” or “When are you going to get some common sense?”

I couldn’t fault him. He was actually thinking of others. He knew that my wife Carol was fixing dinner the night before, and he knew the Wyngate residents would be disappointed if the birthday cake was delayed. In fact, my brother-in-law delivered the cake and the residents took care of most of it. By the time they stopped eating it the wording on the top of it simply read “89th Dad!”

That’s my dad! Putting a higher importance on the taste buds of senior folk than his physician’s urgent plea to get to the Emergency Room. I faked a look of disappointment and then we finished our eye exam.

I helped him to the car, and as we drove towards the hospital he said, “Bill, let’s stop and get a sandwich on the way!”

That didn’t seem like a good idea to me. After all, he had a bowel obstruction. Logic told me that I should say no and proceed to the medical center, so I looked at him and responded, “McDonald’s, Arby’s, or Wendy’s?”

 

Enjoying Dad

June 18, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         June 18, 2017

                                        

Today is my dad’s 89th birthday! Extraordinary, considering he had a heart attack when he was 62! 62…that’s one year younger than my age right now!

He is sharing his birthday with Father’s Day, a double star on the family calendar! So today Carol and I will celebrate with him, probably take him out for dinner tonight, and talk about what was, what is, and what is to come.

I’m a bit surprised that his 89th has even come to be. Last year we were back for an Ohio visit on his 88th. When he blew out the candles (Two candles of the number “8”, not 88 candles!) someone asked him what he wished for and he cleverly replied, “89!”

I’ve reached the enjoyment stage with Pops. It’s a place that many sons and daughters don’t arrive at. Fathers often regress in their children’s minds from being strict to irrelevant to crotchety! The next generation moves out and moves on, living their own lives with just a hint of their fathers’ influence and presence.

Sad, but true! We become so self-absorbed with careers, our own kids, and our own routines that our parents become people in the rearview mirror.

I’m increasingly thankful that I’ve reached the point of “enjoying Pops!” Last night as we broke bread together at a local restaurant I peppered him with some questions about his courtship with Mom. How that came to be? How long had they known each other? What drew him to her, and vice-versa?

Our conversation was punctuated by amazement and laughter, as family stories were shared and details discovered. My dad had lost his dad when he was 14 in a mining accident. He shared the events of that story, the loss and the ripple effect of that loss. Losing his dad meant that my grandmother had to move him and his two siblings to Wittensville, Kentucky to live with his Uncle Sam, thus setting in motion a series of events that brought him together with my mom at Oil Springs High School.

My generation, and any generation once removed from their parents, tends to forget the stories of our past that have brought us to where we are in the present. We minimize the importance of pre-history, that is… the stories of our parents that precede our existence.

And so we talked and laughed. When my dad laughs his whole body shakes, especially his shoulders and head. He often slaps his knee with his right hand in extended appreciation of the humorous episode that was just shared.

I’ve noticed a few other things that stand out about him and his life. He has several University of Kentucky hats, fashion displays of his college alma mater. The other day he asked me to get him a Kentucky hat from the closet to wear. Expecting for there to be one UK hat when I opened the closet door I was a bit taken back to see “the collection” on the the top shelf.

I’ve enjoyed watching him converse with his “neighbors”, the other thirty people or so who live at Wyngate, a senior living complex in Proctorville, Ohio. Meal time at Wyngate is more about telling stories, and other stories as a result of the stories, than it is about the food. What can you say about egg salad? Not much, but you can tell a number of stories from when your family had chickens back in the day…that cause other stories very loosely connected to chicken to spring up!

Enjoying Dad has a warmth to it that is comfortable and satisfying. Watching the many Wyngate Widows smiling at him is a little hard to get used to, but also causes me to smile. Yesterday I joined him for lunch and we sat with two Wyngate ladies. I could tell that they find him charming and…enjoyable!

So today I’m going to seek to be showered with his laughter and bathed in his tales of what has been. I’m simply going to enjoy Pops!

Leaving Pops

February 11, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            February 11, 2017

                                           

Five days with my dad…not a lot of time, but deeply meaningful.

I flew into the massive Charleston, West Virginia airport on Thursday afternoon. Dad came home from another time-share experience at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington the previous Tuesday evening. When I knocked on the door of his apartment at Wyngate Senior Living Complex, heard the invitation to come on in, I was taken back by the tubes he had in his nostrils receiving oxygen. He looked a bit frail and “dragged out”, as he would say!

We chatted about this, that, and the other, soothed by the ointment of each other’s presence. After an hour or so it was time to let him be for the night. We had seen each other after an absence of about eight months. It was almost like checking in on one another to make sure we were okay, and now we could sleep.

The next day when I walked into his apartment I was taken back again, but this time in a good way! He didn’t have the oxygen machine going. He looked like he was “with it”, the familiar smile authentic and inviting.

“How’d you sleep, Pops?”

“I slept like a baby! Went to bed about 10:30 and didn’t wake up until 5:30!” Seven hours! My dad hadn’t been able to sleep for seven hours straight since he was…was…was probably in his seventies! Getting all the body parts of an almost 89 year old body to cooperate at the same time is on the same scale as getting all of Congress to agree!

“That’s awesome, Dad!”

Well-rested conversation flows much better than dragged-out dialogue. We talked about new great-grandchildren and grandchildren, “remember when” moments and tall tales of previous aunts and uncles.

“Are you going to have lunch with me?”

“Sure! Are you going to eat in the dining room?”

“Yes.” He hadn’t ventured down the hallway to the dining room of the complex since he had come home from St. Mary’s. He grabbed his “hurry-cane” and we headed down towards the room of wisdom and crankiness.

The residents who had arrived before him recognized his re-emergence from his isolation. Smiles and greetings floated his way, and he made the rounds to each table hugging the widow ladies and shaking the hands of the few men scattered around. We sat with Chuck, who hears about as well as someone on one side of the Ohio River listening to conversation on the opposite bank. Dale joined us, parking his motorized scooter in a spot close to another. Navigating through the scooter and the walkers in the dining room was like driving through a Walmart parking lot! Chuck could walk, but not hear. Dale could hear, but not walk! Senior complexes are a pantry of can’s and “can’ts”!

Meeting Dale and Chuck, as well as others, opened up hours of shared stories from Dad. I learned once again about Carl, who had been born four miles from where Dad had been born in eastern Kentucky, and is a constant source of encouragement for Dad; and Leo, who had been at the same Navy basic training camp with Dad and Carl in Williamsburg, Virginia.

We revisited the story of Leo setting off the fire alarm about a year earlier because he was frying bacon in his apartment at 9:00 on a Friday night. We laughed about the possibility of motorized scooter races in the parking lot. We paused to remember Nellie, the lady who lived in the apartment next door, who Dad had taught to give herself insulin shots. Nellie had passed away a few months before.

Each day of my brief visit followed this path of remembrance and revelation. Super Bowl LI was the first Super Bowl my dad and I watched together. Awesome!

And then Monday night I said my goodbyes. His embrace contained strength and joy. It seemed as if each day had been a step of progression for him.

Whenever I say goodbye to my father I realize it could be our last visit, our last embrace, our last walk down the hallway…and I treasure the moments of the stroll!

Dad-Sitting

February 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      February 4, 2017

                                       

My dad has had a January to forget. Two weeks in the hospital…one week home…and then back in the hospital for another week. He loved the nurses, but disliked the meatloaf.

So I had the opportunity to fly in for a few days and be with him. My dad turns 89 in about four months. He’s no spring chicken! In fact, his spring sprung a while ago. The times I’m able to come back to the southern tip of Ohio from the elevation of Colorado are special, deeply personal, and filled with shared stories.

Yesterday I walked with him down to the dining room of his senior adult apartment complex. A slow walk, but a steady walk. When he arrived he made the rounds, giving a hug to each of the women who, I swear, all initiated the embrace. He shook the hands of each man before setting down at a table with two of his peers, Leo and Dale. It was Dad’s first meal taken in the midst of the gathered “white hairs”, and it brought a sense of exhilaration to the 25 or so. He is loved and appreciated, always ready to give a warm word of greeting and an engaging question.

Then it was back to his apartment to sit and talk. Three days earlier I had “grandbaby-sat” for a two year old. Now I was “Dad-sitting” a man who was almost twenty-six when I was born!

We shared stories about teaching, his military service, Kentucky basketball, and all the nice nurses who cared for him at the hospital. Our conversation wound its way through the many rooms of our lives, one door leading towards the next one on the other side of the story.

I told him stories from my recent three-week teaching stint and the one student that I sent to have a chat with the assistant principal, and he told me about the student who he had a difficult  time with when he was student teaching high school agricultural science.

We got on the topic of security guards at schools, banks, and other places, and he recalled the pre-security days at the Social Security Administration office he managed…the times when an irate citizen had to be calmed down simply with words, not a Taser gun!

We have a way in our culture of devaluing our older folks, minimizing their relevance and becoming deaf to their voices. Thankfully I’ve come to the point of seeing how treasured my life is because of the father I have. The occasions of “Dad-sitting” are dwindling, shared moments waning, and I breathe each one of them in as if they are my last sip on water in a long journey.

Tomorrow I’ll watch the Super Bowl with Dad. I can’t remember the last Super Bowl we watched together! It may actually be the first time we’ll share the moment. The game will become secondary to just being together. I’m sure we’ll laugh at some of the commercials and take bathroom breaks while Lady GaGa is being a spectacle. We’ll talk about the Cleveland Browns of the 60’s, the Ironton High School Fighting Tigers, and recall when my big brother came back from an away game that the Williamstown High School football team had played on a Friday night and said to Dad, “Look Dad! Real mud!”

We will simply sit and enjoy the moment. The depth of life is made from moments like these.

Eighty-Eight!

June 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 18, 2016

                                           

My dad is celebrating his eighty-eighth birthday today! Unreal!

He is the last of the generation immediately above Carol and me on the age pyramid, a gentle gentleman who never seems to be rushed in the sharing of wisdom. Wisdom and advice needs to be dished out and savored like smooth Kentucky bourbon whiskey…slowly and with great contemplation. I wouldn’t know, but my older brother, a tour guide at the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery outside of Frankfort, has told me so.

It is remarkable that my dad, Laurence Hubert Wolfe, has made it this far. He has overcome a boatload of challenges through his nine decades…if you round it off to the nearest whole number. Named after two Baptist ministers, Laurence and Hubert, who helped his dad get out of the bottom of the drinking problem barrel, Dad brought us up Baptist. My brother, sister, and I frequented services and events at church three times a week…Wednesday night, Sunday morning and evening. I equated the trusted firmness of Dad’s arm with the unwavering love of God, as I leaned up against him about the time Pastor Zachary launched into his sermon. I will never know how heavy my head felt to him by the time the sermon was rounding thirty minutes and heading for an hour, I just knew that my “lean-to” never wilted.

That memory, that picture, is a telling illustration of who my father has been and still is. Consistent, solid, dependable, tender, strongly compassionate.

Dependability seems to be in short supply these days, as fathers do their own thing and seek to romance whatever or whoever pleasures them. Dads who stay the course, who keep their promises, are a rare breed.

Dad has been that rare breed. Interestingly enough, my siblings and I didn’t know that was unusual. We thought our dad was like all the other dads. We thought all dads embraced their wives in the midst of the kitchen, like my dad did, and then obediently would give my mom a kiss after she had said to him “Kiss me slobber lips, I can swim!” We thought that was normal! We thought we were normal! We thought all dads were patient, and all dads were home on Sunday nights after church eating popcorn and watching Ed Sullivan on TV. We thought all dads listened to their wives vent about what Myrtle had said to Thelma about Betty’s potato salad that had been brought to the Penney’s employees’ potluck that day. In those days there were no baseball games on TV to divide a husband’s attention, so Mom had both of Dad’s ears…and she used them with no consideration of moderation. Like Dad’s arm in the Central Baptist Church sanctuary pew, he was my mom’s “lean-to” for listening. He stayed with her in the midst of her rational and irrational moments.

Moving ahead a few decades he also stayed with her as she dealt with ill health, and then became bedridden, and then as her illnesses took away her ability to verbalize her thoughts and feelings. In their sixty-five years of marriage he had heard her say enough to know what she was thinking even when she could no longer say it. Even in the midst of Mom’s confusion towards the end of her life when she thought that Rachel Ray was Dad’s new girlfriend because her picture was on the front of a magazine laying by her bed, Dad stayed the course.

Now that he has his own apartment in a senior adult living complex that is heavily populated by widows, and lean on widowers, he gets to listen to a swarm of women every day. And they love him! He’s now the lean-to for a bunch. Valerie, Bonnie, and Bernice bring him his morning newspaper. Bernice is 93! She looks at his dinner plate as he passes by to see if he is eating healthy, even though she isn’t! Bonnie’s door is right across the hall from Dad’s staring at it, in his son’s opinion, too uncomfortably close! Robin, the building’s manager, is wonderful as she converses with him, always seeming to cause a chuckle to rise to the surface.

A lovely ninety-six year old was talking to Dad this week about the women all buying bikinis, and she was considering going topless! Dad listened and laughed. I blushed!

Tomorrow Carol and I begin our road journey home. We will worship together with my sister, brother-in-law, and Dad, and then say our tearful goodbyes. It will be hard to release the embrace, but we have our own family…that is, two generations below us on the age pyramid…to go home and hug. Three children, two son-in-laws, and three grandchildren to be the “lean-to” for. Tomorrow I’ll sit in church with Dad, just like I did fifty-five years ago. His physical strength has waned since then, but I know that his strength of character is abundant.

In new kinds of ways he’s still my “lean-to!”