On the morning of May 30 I got one of those calls you never want to get. The nursing facility where my dad was doing physical therapy called me at 6:15 AM and left me a message because I had Do Not Disturbed enabled. I noticed the message shortly after 6:30 when my alarm went off. The message was from the head nurse asking for me to call them as soon as I could. This was a tip off that something was Not Good. While listening to the message, my phone rang again. This time, it was the Director of Nursing. Super. Not. Good. He was calling me to inform me that my father had died about 30 minutes ago. He told me that the funeral home would be coming to get him and he’d be there when I was ready. I hung up the phone and went to tell Maggie.
At this point, I was a weird state. There was some shock, there always is when someone dies. But there was also a little bit of “I was expecting this”. Between February 11th and the day he died, my dad had been home in his apartment a total of 8 days. The rest of the time had been spent switching between the hospital and a couple of different nursing facilities. He had been in poor health for a couple of years. Of course, I didn’t quite think it was Death’s Door levels of poor health, but it wasn’t the best. In the end, it appears he died of cardiac arrest.
The next few days were a blur of taking care of a lot of things. I had a lot of support from so many family and friends. Some of which I can never truly repay.
I’ve taken a long time to write this post because I wanted to give myself some time to get away from the immediacy and shock and to really think about my dad and what I wanted to say about him.
He was my hero growing up. He knew how to take care of everything and make everything better. He had to take this role by himself because my mom died when I was 6. This combined with his work schedule, meant I stayed with either my grandmother (his mom) or my great-aunt and uncle a lot. I saw my dad mostly just before bed and on the weekends. And I remember cherishing every moment.
He gave me my love of soccer (and sports in general). He coached my under-5 soccer team called the Cookie Monsters. We had so much fun even though we lost every game and never scored a goal. He made sure I stuck with it and later I was on some pretty great teams with him cheering us along on the sideline.
He was a member of the Elks Lodge and the Sons of AMVETS. He was elected the Sons of AMVETS National Commander for 1998-1999. I was lucky enough to be there for his election and swearing in ceremony. He broke down and cried during his acceptance speech saying it was the second proudest moment in his life next to my birth. That brought me to tears.
In the last few years, something that brought him great joy was getting to see and talk to my kids. He was their “Pa Jim”. He wasn’t very mobile in the final years of his life, but he really loved having his grandkids running around him and telling them stories.
My dad and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye and we frustrated each other a lot. But looking back, I just know he was trying to point me in what he thought was the best direction. Of course, this is something I’m now experiencing with my kids.
His final months weren’t the best, and some days were downright awful, but I’m glad I got to spend as much time as I could with him. I worked many days at his bedside and we talked sports, daytime TV, and local happenings.
But after nearly 30 years, he joins my mom in the cemetery. I hope they both have found peace. I miss them a lot.
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