Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Dad: 1930 - 2015

He had a full-time job at the auto factory which helped financially support his full-time farm.
He sold off the dairy herd when his fourth child was born, and by the time his fifth child (me!) came into this world, he sacrificed a plot of good soil to build a brand new house for his wife to raise all the children.

Depending on the season, my dad worked different shifts at the auto plant.  He was either getting up long before the kids got up for school, or coming home long after everyone had gone to bed.  Occasionally, he would take weeks-long voluntary layoffs so he could get the crops into or out of the ground.
When he wasn't at the plant, he was in the barn or in the fields.

Many days when I came home from school, I didn't know where my dad was.
"Is Dad home?"
"He's out in the field planting corn."
That meant Dad was home.  He wasn't in the house, but he was home.
That was just fine.

Once, I arrived home just in time to watch Dad's truck drive away.
"Where's Dad going?"
"He's gotta go to work, of course."
"I didn't even get to say goodbye."
That was kinda sad.

A lot of nights I'd go to bed while Dad was still out.
"When will Dad get home?"
"It'll be late. You'll be asleep."

Mom told me that Dad checked on all of us kids when he'd get home in the middle of the night.  I have to trust that it's true, because I never once saw him do it.  His night time stealth never woke me.
Mom and Dad told me that one night, Dad peeked in on my sister and me.  Lily was asleep, shivering in her bed with no blankets or sheets, and I was nowhere to be found.  After a short investigation, Dad found all of Lily's bedcoverings stuffed under her bed.  When he tugged on them, he found me wrapped up inside them.  Apparently, I had tumbled out of bed, rolled to Lily's side of the room, and stolen all her blankets.  Dad untangled me, put me to bed, and covered Lily. 
I hadn't woken up.  I have no recollection of this having happened.  I have to trust that it's true.

There were plenty of other nights I woke up to hear Dad snoring.
He had that annoying kind of snore where he would stop breathing for a while and then snort in air suddenly and loudly.  (Always amusing when he woke himself up with his own snoring on the couch, btw.)
I don't know how Mom felt about Dad's loud snoring, but the sound was always calming to me.  It meant Dad was home.  It meant we were all safe.  It meant Dad was there to take care of everything.
Whatever the reason was that I was awake, if I heard Dad snoring, I felt peace, and I fell back asleep.

Dad retired from the plant decades ago.  He kept farming even after he sold the farm to his youngest son.  He sacrificed another plot of good soil to build a second brand new house to retire in with my mother.
His wife of 50 years was lost to cancer five years ago. Seven months later, he lost a daughter to cancer as well.
He fought and conquered two kinds of cancer himself.  When the kidney cancer returned, he did his best to stand his ground, but the scars from his previous battles would prevent another victory.

I visited my dad for the last time last week.  Even though we told him he didn't have to, he insisted on standing on his own two feet to hug The Husband, the boys and me goodbye.
That was Wednesday.

Army Sister texted me late Monday night to let me know Dad's time was near.  She wanted to know if I wanted her to call me as soon as Dad slipped away, or if I'd rather she waited to tell me in the morning.
"Call me right away," I texted back.
I tossed and turned for what seemed like a long time.  How near was "near"?  I almost wanted to stay awake and wait, stand watch with my siblings even if they were 400 miles away.
I wondered if Dad might come visit my dreams as he left.  I didn't really think he would; that just doesn't seem to be his kind of thing.  But if he would, I'd have to be asleep for him to do it, right?

And that's when it occurred to me.
Dad would come check on me in the middle of the night like he always used to do.  I wouldn't notice; he wouldn't want to wake me up.  I would just have to trust that it was true.
The smile formed on my face before I could even realize how happy the thought had made me.

Army Sister's phone call woke me at 12:30am.  Dad was gone.
That would have been just about the right amount of time for him to have driven home from the auto plant's second shift, gotten a bite to eat, and have checked in on all of us kids.


Dani said...

I'm so sorry Roses. Virtual hugs!

Thumper said...

Oh man. I am so, so sorry.

This part of adulting just sucks so hard :(

Roses said...

Thank you, Dani.

Roses said...

It does, Thumper.
It really does.
Thank you for the note.

Bobby Lee said...

Thanks for posting this beautiful remembrance of your Dad.

Roses said...

Thank *you*, Bobby Lee, for calling it beautiful.