Posts Tagged ‘Dad’

A Memory of Dad

August 22, 2021

I was poking through old diaries again and I came across this entry about a visit to my parents in Florida. My dad had a stroke in 1996 and missed his granddaughter’s college graduation, a moment he was eagerly anticipating. Fine one minute, he stepped out of the car into a different future. In one cruel sweep of fate, my dad, the perpetual student, the avid reader, the social activist, the civil rights demonstrator, was gone. He lived 6 years more and just missed knowing about 9-11, which would have destroyed his spirit.

Me? I didn’t meet Death as expected, but have lived on now for another 25 years.
Here is the entry, with minor editing. Remember that a diary is all “first draft.”

November 1996
I want to live 1997 as though it will be the last year of my life, the last chance I will ever have for anything. The older I grow the clearer it is that life is short. Death becomes more certain. I count on nothing. G. K. Chesterton said: “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”

One of the recurring themes of this visit to the sunny isle of Florida is facing old age and death. Saw the mobile home park where my parents lived when they arrived 16 years ago in 1980. I remember it when it was new and they were surrounded by friends. Death is the “disease” which has taken their friends off until there are only a few left.
Saw Orin and Jeanette—he close to death when an appendix burst . Saw Charlie, who lost Jule, and is now lost himself. Charlie, trying to clean out the mobile home and warning “watch out or your possessions will possess you.” Without Jule what is left of his life? And Orin says “I am living for today and I will tell it like it is no matter what anyone thinks about me.” Wisdom from those facing death a bit closer than I am.

November 18 Life is short. It does not seem possible that I am near the end already. You really have life about twenty years – age 20-40, with your 30s being the best years of all. Oh sure, I saw a white-haired old woman today at ECHO, who was the “wise woman” teaching herbs to the youngsters. Could it be that they didn’t know what she was teaching them? Could it be that I knew what she knew? Do I need to become this wise woman?

Life is short and this visit has been short. We have done nothing. I have mostly, simply, been with my parents. Tomorrow I leave. Where have the days gone? I came to say good-by to my father. I cannot say it. We sit across the table in silence. He fades in and out of mental acuity. Sometimes he is totally confused by the schedule of the day. The rhythmic events of the day seem to be his anchor: breakfast, shaving, lunch, dinner, news. Tonight he seemed clear when he was reading his old letters written to Mother when they were married less than a year. They had built my first home, 19457 Freeland in Detroit in 1941, and then he had gone off to war. Dad was also mentally “in gear” later on as we sat side by side on the sofa in his office and read books together. He made comments on his book and asked me to pronounce words for him. But then he said “I wonder how this good book turned up in our house?,” and I told him I brought it for him on this trip. He didn’t remember that.

With panic, I realize tomorrow is my last day with him.


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