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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tribute to my Father

Five years ago today, my father passed from this life at the age of 81. Before I tell you about his death, let me share about his life.

I love this picture of my dad and me. I think I was about 6 months old in this picture, and my mother caught Dad napping with me on his chest. He carried this picture in his wallet until the day he died. I was in tears when I found it there.

There are a ton of other pictures of my father, but those are at my brother's house, which had been our parents house. This is a picture that I took in 1976. For those of you who remember our bicentennial, many of the men in this country grew beards, and my father was no exception. This is the picture I took to college with me. Dad is holding my brother's dachsund Woody.

This is a picture of my dad in his later years. Not sure how old he was here, but he was well into his 70s. My mother passed away in 1981, and dad remained single unto his dying day. He had a life of his own though. When he retired at age 64, I truly feared that he would just wither away and die within a couple years, but oh how wrong I was!

He had served my hometown as a village councilman for almost 25 years. In May 1990, the town was up in arms because the mayor at that time had a plan to eliminate the police department from our town! In a town of only 4000, several hundred people showed up to the council meeting that was held in the firehouse that night. Dad was reigning council president. Amidst the news cameras, angry townspeople, and intense discussion, a prominent resident asked the mayor to resign. In one of the most exciting moments of my life, I watched as she handed her gavel to my father. At that moment, I watched his lifelong dream of becoming mayor unfold. He would serve our town proudly for 10 years.

I always feared that when my father was no longer mayor, that he would fall into ill health, and he did. From loss of a big toe, systemic infection, atrial fibrilation that nearly killed him, to a stroke, a heart attack, and some other serious problems, my dad was a fighter and kept on going, showing a strength that amazed me.

The last two years of his life were spent in a wheelchair. Here he is at Thanksgiving 2002, the last time he would be able to visit my home.

This next part is a little hard to share. My dad was one of the most intelligent men I ever knew. He graduated second in his class, and when he went off to college to study nuclear engineering, everyone expected something big. My father had a heart as big as the ocean, and he was compassionate, generous and kind. He was also an alcoholic. I'm not sure when it started, but I believe that he may have started to drink in college as he lasted only a semester there. Every night after work, except when he had a council meeting, he would go straight to the Moose after work. I have memories of calling there asking him to come home from dinner almost every night. Eventually he would. Surprisingly, I never realized the extent of his drinking problem and didn't fully realize it until I was college age. Looking back, I can see that he was depressed for much of his life. We never really questioned why he drank, it was just something he did and we didn't think it unusual.

He always said that if he had known he would live this long, he would have taken better care of himself. The last 2 1/2 years of his life were particularly devastating. Following his heart attack, he threw a blood clot and lost his leg. A year and a half later, due to circulatory problems, he lost his second leg and we had to admit him to a nursing home. This was one of the most heartbreaking decisions my brothers and I ever had to make. Ultimately, the decision was his. I'll never forget the day that we sat down with the doctors, nurses, and social workers. When it became clear that he could no longer live alone, he said "Get mine out of this cage." I'm sure they thought he was nuts, but tears sprang to my eyes. I knew exactly what he meant. When I was 1 1/2, my parents decided to fence in a small portion of the yard that was right next to the window where Mom washed her dishes. She thought it would be great for me to have a safe play area where she could still keep a close eye on me. However, as soon as they put me in the fenced area, I burst into tears and wailed, "Get mine out of this cage!" That was how he felt that day, caged and helpless. My heart was so heavy.

I'm posting a picture of my father without his legs so people can see just what alcoholism can lead to. This may be disturbing to some, but for me, this was my dad, whole or not.

Though it was never written in any medical report that the loss of his legs were caused by alcoholism, let me say that it affects every organ system in the body. My dad did not have diabetes so there were no issues with sugar. He had been a relatively very healthy man for most of his life. Blood flow can certainly be affected by alcohol use and I truly believe this was a big contributor.

The day he died, I was there by his side. My brothers had left the hospital the night before. I knew his wishes that when his time came, he wanted to go peacefully, and he did. I was holding his hand when he took his last breath.

His funeral was talked about for days after. As he had fond memories of serving as a volunteer fireman during the 1960s, we decided to have the funeral there in the firehouse. Both of my brothers and I got up to talk about dad. I was very touched to see a chair holding the empty boots and firemans coat and hat, a tribute to a fallen fireman. A Scotsman in full kilt and bagpipes played Amazing Grace. Several of the village firemen in formal dress fell into formation behind the antique fire truck that held his ashes and they walked behind as the fire chief drove the truck to the cemetary which was just a short walk. I was thrilled to hear them blow the siren. At the entrance, village policemen saluted. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars gave a 21 gun salute, and it was a moving moment when I, as the eldest, received the flag. I cherish it to this day.

Here is dad's favorite fire truck.

There were many, many friends and officials that attended my father's funeral. As I said in my speech that day, they were there not to mourn his death but to pay tribute to a life well lived, and their presence gave testimony to his achievements.

I love you, Dad! I'll miss you always!


Maryjane - The Beehive Cottage said...

Hello Sweet Kady,

What a sweet tribute to your dear Father. How blessed you were to have him as a Father but I am sure you made him proud!!!!


Calamity Jane's Cottage, Bonnie said...

Hi Kady,
That was a great tribute to your Dad, and you had such good memories together to celebrate his life. It is so hard to lose our parents. I've lost both and miss them dearly. Thanks for sharing.

Cindy@Cutepinkstuff said...

Such fond memories of your father you have shared. You sound very proud of him. When my dad died 11 years ago he, too, had a photo of me in his wallet. So touching!

The Scarlett Rose Garden said...

Aw, hugs to you Kady! What a bittersweet story... tho more sweet of course!

Tho he had so many great accomplishments and was intelligent, perhaps he may have suffered from anxiety? I guess one never really knows anothers sorrows and it's so hard when we can't help them.

The photo of you on his chest is precious.

How strange that someone would not want a police dept. in a town of 4,000! My home town was 2,000 while I was growing up. They've always had a force, thank goodness!

That firetruck is beautiful. Glad they sounded the horn for your Dad.

Picket said...

Oh girl..I am so sorry for your loss...that was a beautiful tribute to your dad...One never knows what goes on behind closed doors sometimes or what torments a person's mind that causes them to drink...I had uncles that had that problem and I have seen the heartbreak and destruction it has on one's life and family. I am so glad you have such beautiful memories of him also to keep with you forever..that was beautiful girl!

onlymehere said...

What a beautiful tribute to your dad. He has to be so proud of you looking down from the heavens!

Beverly said...

The important thing is that he was your daddy, and that you loved each other very much.

I believe alcoholism and the addiction is a disease. It doesn't make someone less of a good person, it just means they are a person with a problems. I know that it has devastating health effects.

Thank you for sharing your daddy and your love for him with us.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

What an honest, lovely tribute. I know he must have been so proud of the person you are!

Deb said...

Great tribute Kady, I love the picture of you and your dad sleeping. Deb

Justine said...

Kady, what a beautiful, heartfelt post this was to read. Your father was obviously an amazing man, even though he had his weakness with alcohol. He obviously loved you and your brothers very much, and I can see just how much you adored him too.

This was a beautiful way to remember him today, and to share him with all of us.

Justine :o )

Shelia said...

Oh, Kady, that was a very sweet tribute to your father! I love the picture of him asleep holding his little baby girl. How precious! I know how you feel. My dad passed away about 10 years ago. I don't have any brothers or sisters and even in olden age - I was always Daddy's little girl!
Be a sweetie,
Shelia :)

Terrie's Lil' Piece of Serenity said...

Kady, What a beautiful tribute. I love the picture of you on your daddy's chest. I understand your loss. It just never goes away. I lost my dad 4 years ago at 68 years old. At times I still break down and cry. Yes, I am a daddy's girl. Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Terrie

Dawn said...

I am glad I took a peek at your blog today. What a wonderful tribute you gave your dad. It was very moving to read. It is obvious that you loved him very much. My father died almost thirteen years ago and I still cry and miss him very much.

My thoughts are with you!

take care,

bj said...

Sweet Kady, thank you for this beautiful post honoring your daddy.
I, too, know drinking can cause a lot of health problems and it probably did play a big role in his losing his legs. However, there are lots of reasons this happens, I think. I, myself, have a lot of problems with circulation and blood clotting, which is why I have had so many surgeries the last couple of years. We are fighting, at this minute, to keep my left leg...the surgeons have done all they can to patch and repair and make bypasses for the blood flow. My blood clots so quickly and it causes build-up in my arteries. I am on high-powered blood thinners now, hoping to keep the flow going. Perhaps your dad had problems like this, too?
I am happy you have such good memories of him...I can see you loved him oh so much.
Love, bj

Raxx - A day in the life said...

Kady this was a wonderful post, you were lucky to have such a great dad, I lost my dad five years ago too.

I love this tribute because you showed the greatness of him and his weakness, he really did accomplish a lot. I see you are proud.


Cottage said...

Kady, what a tribute to your dad. What an accomplished man! I know you hold each cherished moment in your heart and that love lives on, it truly does.

I've sub'd your blog and enjoyed your Pink dish, it is so very Vintage with the 3D roses, I love them!

You live with such vitality, and that is how it should be done!


My Arts Desire said...

Kady, God bless you for such a transparent and beautifully-written-from-the-heart tribute to your father. It was very moving to read. It is filled with lots of nuggets of wisdom to savor.

I actually was out finishing up rounds on the Pink Saturday post and as I was peeking around, came across this post. Having lost my father a year ago at age 87 it caught my eye.

Very special post...

Diana Lyn said...


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Debbie Phillips said...

oh, Kay, I am so happy you wrote this. Beautiful and touching!
I knew your Dad on "council nights" ... never any clue whatsoever of alcoholism. He was the role model for a great public servant for my career as a reporter and to this day. He was such a fine man.