Dad and Charlie Time
This photo is not from December, but it captures my bittersweet feelings about this past month. I'm so grateful I was able to spend time with the oldest and youngest members of my family...
December began with focus on Dad. My sister and I spent the first week of the month, at Dad's bedside. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming, sad and touching... so many emotions. When things felt extra tough, I reminded myself that I would be seeing my granddaughter over the holidays. Charlie is the happiest distraction ever. I'm so grateful that Dad was able to have fun with her, 3 months ago.
This is the Happy Blog, so I won't talk about the darkest moments of our time with Dad. The good parts are shown below.
Jennifer and I were nervous as we headed from the airport to the hospital, but we found Dad alert and with a sense of humor. We laughed and said no to a 6-pack of beer. Dad chuckled over some phone videos and smiled to see photos of his kids from the 1960's.
After one night in a hotel, we returned to the hospital early and "moved in". Staff brought another couch and extra food. (Jennifer's sling came a couple days later) Dad mostly slept that first full day, but we got our brothers on the phone when he rallied. When we sisters were worn and ready for bed, Dad suddenly woke and surprised us with a stronger voice. He had much to say, as he shared stories for nearly an hour. Jennifer pulled out her iPad wth an album of Dad's childhood photos. The images triggered more memories. He talked about his brothers and his pretty mother and funny memories of Halloween stunts from his youth. He spoke warmly about his childhood dogs, Skippy and Shep.
Dad's doctor didn't know how many days he had left. 2-20 is a big span. Dad basically "slept" for the next few days. Jennifer and I slipped away to his assisted living apartment. Staff greeted us warmly. We found "Welcome Back" notes on Dad's door. It was tough breaking the news (especially to his biggest fan, Annie) that he wouldn't be returning.
It wasn't easy (physically or emotionally) rushing to clean out Dad's apartment, while he "rested" a few miles away. But we had good moments, when we found old photos and curious books. Annie was excited when we shared his "Obama Box". She reminded us how thrilled she was when she spotted him wearing an "End Racism" hat.
The hurried job got even tougher, when Jennifer slipped off a stool. After getting a temporary cast at Dad's hospital, we were back at the apartment the next day, quickly finishing up.
Good Bye Dad
On December 8th, Jennifer and I got a hotel room for the night. A nurse called before 4 am the next morning, to say our father had died. I guess Dad just needed some peace and quiet, from his slumber party daughters...
We headed to the hospital to say good-bye. There's nothing Happy about that. But the smiling moon and decorations tried to cheer us. And the chilly air seemed to slap me with a shot of courage. I was relieved to step into empty elevators and quiet halls. I was so very glad to have my sister with me, to face the moment we knew was coming. Kisses, hugs, tears...
Grateful for This One
Jennifer and I tied up loose ends before we headed to the airport. We drove by our grandmother's house and stopped for a quick selfie, near the stone post we used to climb. Daw's house was our anchor, when our family moved frequently. We stayed in her cozy home, whenever we visited our Springfield relatives. So many memories.
In recent years, Jennifer and I have met up in Springfield numerous times to visit and care for Dad. On December 9, we stood on our favorite corner in Springfield and wondered when we'd ever be together in this town again. I don't like thinking about that. But, I'm glad we snapped the photo. It's a reminder of just how lucky I am to have this sister of mine, who laughed and cried with me for a week... and broke her arm and kept going. Love you Sis!
Happy Dad Days
I've shared some heavy stuff for a Happy Blog. So here's a slideshow, with happy pictures of Dad.
There are a couple photos from when Dad was a boy and others from when he was a young dad. There are photos with grandkids and his 2 great- grandkids. The most recent photos are from his 95th birthday in September. When I feel the saddest, I remember how we all celebrated, so recently! I'm so happy to have those memories.
December Part 2
There was a foggy week between my farewell to Dad and my much needed hello to Charlie. Knowing the the house would be full of energy and happy noise, got me through!
I brought a grumpy/sad mood and nagging cold home from Springfield, but there was no time to pamper myself. I still had unpacking to do from Europe and I hadn't started shopping or decorating. My lack of patience was evident, when I found myself ranting over ripped wrapping paper or glaring at long Post Office lines. The way I yanked at the vacuum cord as I raced to clean, showed I was not in the holiday spirit. But suddenly it was the 19th and Charlie and her parents changed everything!
Zoo Light Adventure!
We got into the holiday spirit quickly, with an early Christmas gift from Charlie's Uncle Scott and Aunt Cha! Tickets to Houston's Zoo Lights!
It was just what we needed! It was a colorful night, with illuminated creatures and a few real animal sightings! The carousel might have been Charlie's favorite!
We had 9 days together, so we were able to fit in a few restaurant outings.
Dumplings and lollipops were a hit, at Mori Sushi!
Schnitzel and live music at Rudi Lechner's! (click to enlarge)
Don was in heaven with his boot-of-beer!
Charlie loved the music! Alpenhorn and accordion! She tipped well.
There were no Christmas cookies in the house until Heidi arrived.
The house was filled with wonderful smells every day!
We ate well!!
Ready For Christmas
On Christmas Eve the stockings were hung. We were missing Scott and Chali's stockings this year. But happy to know they were with family, in Thailand.
The Christmas Crab was also hanging and ready to be worn! You never know who might get crabby and need to wear the plastic crab necklace!
Charlie was up and ready at 7. We all wore jammies, all day long. Some of us added hats, when the sun poured through the windows and made us squint through gift opening.
I'm so grateful that we had so many days together. I needed some festive distraction.
There was time for the park and the piano. Lots of time for play. I needed that.
I loved the happy distraction, but I also loved the precious reminders of Dad, throughout the holidays. Charlie for some reason wanted me to read the "Skippy" book to her, numerous times a day. After a couple of days, Charlie was "reading" it to me.
This is the book that my dad made for his grandkids in 1989. (My brother did the illustrations) It's the story of a boy, whose dog is missing. Every time I read the story, I remembered Dad when he last spoke in the hospital and talked about his dog Skippy. I never grew tired of reading this story over the holidays.
The month began with Dad... and my sister. A good portion of December was spent with Charlie and her wonderful parents.
The last day of the month and year, was spent with just Don. It was peaceful and lovely. We sat near the fire pit with champagne. I feel very lucky to have had his never-ending support, this month... and always.