Posted tagged ‘father’

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.

The Hand Grasp of My Father

February 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                February 16, 2018

                             

“Dad, look who’s here to see you!”

I entered his hospital room and caught sight of the elderly man, withered and worn out. His dinner tray, that he hadn’t the least bit interest in, was in front go him. Perhaps a six year old should be made to eat his peas and carrots but not an 89 year old man in his last hours.

He mumbled a few words when he caught sight of me. I think he said, “Well, hi, son!”

And he grasped my hand with firmness and purpose.

That hand had grasped me a number of times over the course of my life. Sometimes it conveyed discipline and disappointment, and at other times it told me of a father’s pride in his son’s accomplishments and decisions.

I remember that hand on the back of the bicycle I was learning to ride. I’d be wobbling like a Saturday night drunk riding it down the sidewalk. Dad would be jogging along behind me keeping me propped up, firmly grasping the back of the seat. From the front it must have looked like a car in serious need of the wheels being aligned, but from the back it was a view of the youngest child taking another step in the long ride of growing up.

“Dad, I can’t get the lawnmower started.”

Dad came out to the garage where I was struggling with the machine. His hand firmly grasped the handle on the end of the pull cord and he pulled. On the second pull the motor took off and he looked at me with a slight smile that non-verbally communicated “You’ve got to put a little muscle behind it.”

“Thanks!” I sheepishly replied.

I remember the grasp of the hand at the end of my ordination service on June 24, 1979. I had just been given the charge to ministry, been prayed over, and congratulated…and then there was Dad’s hand grasp telling me how proud he was of me, but also the importance of the calling.

Last summer we stood in a side classroom of Beulah Baptist Church. The worship service had ended a few minutes before that and there was a woman who had requested that the deacons pray for her. A serious medical condition had been discovered. They invited me to join them in the prayer circle around the lady. I stood next to my father, Deacon Emeritus of the church, grasped his hand, and then listened to him and others pray for the woman. His hand hold was firm, just as his faith in the power of prayer was strong.

Within an hour we held each other’s hands around the dinner table as he prayed for the blessings of God upon our meal and family.

When I would come from Colorado to visit him in the past few years he would reach his hand towards me at meal time, grasp it with care, and pray the dinner grace.

After several minutes in the hospital room he finally releases his grip and allows my sister to feed him the chocolate pudding from his tray. Unlike the peas and carrots he eats all of the pudding. It’s the last food he will partake of, a taste of sweetness that describes the effect of his life on so many others.

Less than a day later he passes on…and it’s okay! Like his hand grasp, he is a man who had a firm grasp on what is important in life.

That last grasp of the hand. I’m extremely thankful that God allowed me to have it. In my memories of Pops i’ll hold on to that moment for a long, long time.

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!

Writing to Dad From 2,000 Miles Away

June 3, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        June 3, 2015

                                    

(I received word this morning that my dad is in the Emergency Room of a hospital about 2,000 miles away from me.)

Dear Pops!

      I love calling you that when you answer your phone. You always know it is me calling when I greet you with those words, “What do you say, Pops?”

      I wish i could be sitting beside your hospital room bringing a smile to your face with that greeting, but, instead, I’m a couple thousand miles away typing this on my laptop.

      It’s hard to not be close enough to touch you…to wait anxiously for an updated text from someone close at hand. I want you to know that I’m praying for you. When I told Diana, my administrative assistant, about you, see took time out to pray for you…and me! Prayer is something I don’t need training for, just a sense of urgency and taking the initiative to approach the throne of grace.

      Dad, you have always been special to me, but in recent years as I watched you wait upon Mom and make sure that her needs were being met, you became something different.

      Impressive! 

      You held it together when Mom was coming apart. You fed her when she could not feed herself. You listened to her when she could not communicate. You changed her diaper when she soiled herself. 

      You were impressive and impressionable!

       I don’t believe a father can leave a greater gift for his children than a Christ-like handprint for them to remember. Not necessarily a sermon preached, but rather a sermon lived out. Although your heart has issues, your heart for God and people is healthy. When one of my kids tells me that I’m just like my dad I take it as the highest compliment. 

       I remember certain things that you did, like fixing liver and onions for dinner that actually tasted good; startling the neighbors each year when warm weather came by putting on a pair of shorts with those white legs of yours that were a little blinding to the eyes; preparing your Sunday School lesson to teach with your materials and Bible covering the kitchen table; and teaching me how to tie a necktie. 

       Let me confess something to you while I’m thinking about it. I was the one who broke the blade on your pocket knife. You had probably already guessed that, since I tried to scotch tape the broken blade back on. Thirteen year olds think they can cover up anything!

       Dad, I’m praying for strength and recovery. I’m praying for more conversations in the coming days even by phone. 

       Rest…and rest in his arms!

Your Son,

Bill Wolfe

      

Meeting Women With My Dad

April 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  April 8, 2015

                                            

I’m in Ohio for a few days visiting with my dad. Today I was able to do something that was a little weird. I met some women with my dad!

I realize that an explanation is needed. Pause for effect!

My dad moved to a brand new senior adult independent living complex a few months ago. The last time I was home for a visit it was just a concrete slab with the promise of apartments rising from it. Today it is a spanking new impressive structure with a beautiful foyer, dining room, and nice view of the Ohio River flowing just a hundred yards away.

As Dad and I walked around his hallways I met “the women.” Bonnie lives across the hall from him with flaming red hair and high painted eye brows. For a while, I found out, Dad and Bonnie partied together…that is they had a “party line” on their phones…just like it used to be back in the fifties…or whenever “Lassie” was a TV show. A party line is about as close as my dad gets to partying these days, and the phone company finally solved the problem to restore privacy to each one of them. It still was a little awkward to meet the lady who lives within whispering distance of my father.

I met Valerie who immediately gave Dad a hug. She takes care of his needs, like delivering his newspaper each morning, which she slides under his door. Whereas Bonnie is within a presidential term of my dad’s age, Valerie is a generation away from him.

And then there was a lady who used to live across the street from my dad’s house, and now she lives down the hall from him. Bonnie on one side, Valerie delivering his newspaper, and a former neighbor down the hall…he’s surrounded!

What does a sixty year old son do when he discovers that his dad is a charmer? Blush!

Mom and Dad were married for 65 years? It has been a year and a half since Mom passed away, but I’m still getting used to the reality of the present where my dad and I can have a conversation and not have Mom ask him what a six letter word for a brownish songbird would be in the middle of our conversation.

What it also says is that my father is a heck of a guy that is valued by those who meet and get to know him. He brings a warmth to a cold March afternoon, a listening ear to someone who receives minimal attention, a chuckle to the downhearted.

So let him meet all the women he wants! Bring some sunshine into the lives of the widows who keep flocking around him. Let him be a blessing to others…just as he has been a blessing to us!

Our Father

June 20, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 19, 2014

 

   (I’m doing a month-long writing test with WordPress.Com. Each day we are given a different assignment. Today’s was to open a book to page 29 and write a blog about the first words you see. In fact, we were to write it in letter form.)

 

Pops!

I know it’s weird, but Your name came up in my reading today. Who would have thought your name would be on page 29 of the novel Divergent!

Crazy!

Actually it was “our father” in the second paragraph that got me thinking about you. Since you celebrated your eighty-sixth birthday yesterday perhaps my eyes focused more on finding those words.

I thought I lot about you. The Omaha Steaks should arrive in a couple of days. Living in Colorado so far away from your place within a stone’s throw of the Ohio River makes me a little sad. I wish I could have been there to celebrate with you. Omaha Steaks are about as fitting a tribute as I can find.

Your hamburgers are still the best IN THE WORLD! I have not found any one who can contest that claim. It’s a family memory. My kids miss them just as much as I do.

My sister and brother will always remember special things about you when we say those words: Our father!

We will always remember your tendency to think before you spoke. It was as if you were sorting the words in your head like Scrabble letters, looking for the right combination that would be clear and wise.

Let’s be honest! Mom used up most of the words that were spoken in our household each day, but, Dad, when you spoke it was listened to. Not that we didn’t listen to Mom…just maybe a little less attentively.

That’s another thing that we will always remember about you, Dad! How you honored Mom, especially in the last few years of her life when she was uncomfortable, confused, and sometimes demanding. You sat by her bedside, fed her dinner, changed her when she soiled herself, and listened carefully to the mumbled words she would speak. Your love for 65 years was evident.

Continue to know that your children and grandchildren love you deeply. I wish I was sitting on the couch with you today watching the Reds on TV, talking about Kentucky basketball, and stories that have been told and retold.

We love you, Pops! Your the best!

Fed Ex me a hamburger, would you?

 

Your Son,

Bill Wolfe