And That's the Day Everything Changed

Dad August 1990 Door County, WIEverybody has days in their lives that remain so firmly in mind that it’s like rewinding a movie or video every time you think about it. For me, this particular day is that day; the day everything changed.

It started out like any other day. I went to work about 9:00, bringing my son along because he was having asthma problems and we had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. This was easy to do because my husband and I owned a furniture store and we could make whatever child care arrangements we needed on any particular day – one of the perks of entrepreneurship.

About 10:30, my sister called and asked if I had heard from Mom that our Dad was in the hospital with some type of heart problem. I had not. I don’t remember the total progression of things from there, but I remember speaking to my mother and asking if I should come to Florida where they lived. She said no, wait til Dad is feeling better. Then he will enjoy your visit.

Shortly after lunch, I decided to go to the new travel agent in our little town, and see if she could get me a ticket to Florida. This was over twenty years ago, so there was no internet to search. Also by that point, I was worried, and needed to have someone take care of this for me. This amazing woman, who had just opened her office, and left about a year later, argued with the airlines, got me an emergency fare, and I went back to work with a ticket for 4:00 pm. (Always feel like this was a case of an angel being there for me just when I needed one.)

I then tried to find my mother at the hospital to let her know what I was doing. I couldn’t locate her in the waiting areas and couldn’t get much information about her or my dad or their whereabouts. I finally remembered the name of the hospital administrator that Mom and Dad knew and asked for his extension. Mom was in his office and that’s when she told me he was gone.

I remember crying out and throwing the phone at the wall. My son and husband rushed into my office to see what was happening…and they knew.

A couple of hours later, I was sitting on a plane, watching all the “old” people getting on the flight to Florida, some in wheelchairs, with canes and oxygen tanks, looking haggard and unkempt.  I was absolutely furious that my father, who was seemingly healthy, only 64, and who looked so much better than the old men getting on the plane, was dead and these walking corpses were not.

Some friends of my parents met my plane and took me to Mom’s house. My sister had come earlier and had gone to the hospital thinking our dad was alive, only to be told he was not. My brother and other sister arrived a day or so later. Other family came, husbands, kids, cousins, aunt and uncle, good friends. What a blessing to have other people around who loved Dad and were as heartbroken as we were.

The years since then have been up and down as years always are. My children have married and I have a grandchild. My Mom now has 9 grandchildren, 2 more than when my dad died. There are 4 great-grandchildren. Our business was successful for twenty years, in large part because of the lessons in finance and business that we learned from Dad.  When we chose to retire, we continued the type of planning and organizing he encouraged and are navigating our retirement gracefully.

But rarely does a day go by, even after 24 years, that I don’t wonder what Dad would think about something, remember the ways he thought certain things should be done, and remember, mainly, what a good, kind and caring man he was. He loved all of us unreservedly and encouraged us to always reach for the stars and be the best we could be. He loved spending time up north and gave us the great gift of a summer cabin that we all enjoyed throughout my childhood, and that we still enjoy to this day. I remember his great religious faith and the example he set for us to be faithful to God and to our family before anything else.

And I just miss his big belly laugh, his big smile, and his joy in living. The last glimpse I had of him, a week before he died, was as he drove away from our store and he waved out the window of his blue van as he headed south.

Life has never been the same since.


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