Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Day for Remembering and Gratitude

Keep Flapping Your Wings
more animals  see share caption
Today is the day each year that I am remembering with gratitude the lives of the two significant men in my life.  It is my husband's birthday into this world and my Dad's birthday into the next.  It was this day in 2005 that my Dad lost his battle with cancer.  And I'm fairly sure that was the last time I was apart from Ed on his birthday.  As I am this year.

The picture above I captioned at cheezeburger.com to send in his Happy Birthday email.  The picture below is from our high school yearbook.  Ed is the player on the left.  This was 1976 around a full year into our friendship.  Friendship morphed into something more when he came home on leave from the Marine Corp in August of 1977.  We married in December of 1978.

Below is, I believe, the last picture ever taken of my Dad.  About 5-7 days before the end.  It was a day or two after this that the events of one of my favorite stories about Dad happened.  The family--Mom, Dad, my sister--were on a conference call with me who was living in Phoenix OR.  My sister was trying to get across to me without being explicit in Dad's hearing that I better come soon if I wanted to see him again before the funeral.  I remember thinking that I wanted to wait until after Ed's birthday which was about five days away.  I can't remember if I said that out loud.

We were wrapping up the conversation.  Dad had already left the table where they were gathered around a speaker phone.  Suddenly Mom was calling his name and then her voice faded into the distance.  My sister and I continued to talk and at that point she did get explicit.  But before I could respond the sound of Mom and Dad's muffled voices were getting closer again.  Mom's sounding plaintive and Dad's growly.  Then my sister abruptly ended the call saying, Gotta go.  Dad's trying to go outside.

Richard Wayne Coon
d. September 24, 2005
The compilation of the photo with the hymn was done by Carri.
It was one of Dad's favorites and we gathered around his bed singing it to him on his last night

Carri shared the rest of the story in an email later that evening.  Dad had got it into his head that he wanted to go see Levi's pumpkin.  That's Carri's son, 11 years old at the time.  Dad had been watching that pumpkin grow all summer and it was an impressive size by then.

Well Levi's pumpkin was in the back yard and to get there you must take two steps down from the kitchen door into the garage and exit onto the an uneven slab of concrete, cross it and take one step down onto the landing of the stairway then ten steps down to the patios which was another uneven slab of concrete to cross before reaching the edge of the grass.  The pumpkin was on the far side of the back yard which meant twenty feet of turf to cross, clumpy with weeds and ankle high grass.  Yard work had not been high on their priority list for several weeks at this time.

Carri told me that when Dad had left the table he had headed into their bedroom and they thought he was going to lay down as being up and about was quite tiring for him by now.  But he came back down the hall with his walker and wearing his hat.  That's when Mom had called his name and left the table to go to him.  But unable to talk him out of it she was helping him out the back door when my sister realized she had better join them as nothing good could come of a nearly blind woman helping a weak man with a walker down stairs and across uneven terrain.

So they slowly and carefully escorted him out to the backyard and got him sat down in a lawn chair a few feet from the pumpkin where he sat had stared at it until the sun had dropped below the roofs of the neighbors' houses and an evening breeze kicked up.  Dad had almost no insulation under his skin by then so he was finally convinced it was time to go in and they all began the long slow trek.

That was Dad's last foray outside.  The memory and the story could bring smiles and even laughter over the next weeks and months as one or the other of us would recount it always emphasizing how determined Dad had been to go outside just to sit and watch the pumpkin grow.

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