Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Miss My Father

Dad took Moms death very hard. For months he was only a shell of a man and while he always made an effort to be cheerful when ever he was around us it was obvious that he was miserable. After a few months I began to worry about him but beyond calling him more frequently what could I do? He was lonely and I couldn't solve that problem. One day Dad showed up with a friend. It turned out that he had started dating one of Mom's cousins. He had been to some family event and they hooked up. She was a widow with four grown kids. It was funny watching Dad, he was just like a teenager. It hadn't even been a full year since Mom's death and it took me completely off guard but I'd never seen Dad happier so I just accepted Maurine into my heart. It was obvious to me that she had saved my Dad's life. Dad and Maurine were married on my birthday, August 12, 1990 and they moved into her huge house on a farm outside Cochrane. This was the perfect house for my Dad. He loved living on a farm and he loved carpentry. Maurine's house was beautiful and while it was mostly finished it had just enough work left to be done to keep Dad occupied. We visited them often and before long Maurine and her kids were part of the family.

I think the first time I realized that Dad was sick was at a family reunion in Utah. I had just been called to be a High Priest in our church and I really wanted my Dad to ordain me. We realized that we would both be at this reunion so we made an extra effort to get there. When Dad and Maurine showed up he carried around an oxygen bottle. He told us that he had pulmonary fibrosis and I had no clue what that was. It turns out that years of farming and breathing the dust and chemicals that goes along with that and with even more years of carpentering and inhaling all of the sawdust that goes along with that had started to cause scarring in his lungs. The scarring made the lung tissues hard and stiff and his lungs were unable to flex and take in oxygen. I was concerned when I heard this but I just chose to believe that it would be a problem that he would have to deal with but with proper precautions it wouldn't get any worse. We later learned that one version of pulmonary fibrosis is caused by exposure to asbestos. Dad was hired to tear down the old Leavitt school house which almost certainly was loaded with asbestos. We could probably have sued someone for a lot of money but what would be the point? No one knew back then that asbestos was so bad so they weren't really negligent and suing them wouldn't bring Dad back.

Not long after the reunion I felt a strong urgency to take the family to Canada on a vacation and visit Dad. I think somewhere deep down I knew that we didn't have a lot of time left. When Dad and Maurine learned of our plans they decided to call the family home. On Fathers Day, 1998 all of my brothers and sisters and most of their children converged on my Dads home. He was very sick and this was his chance to say good bye. As is usually the case in these situations they are simultaneously very sad and very happy. What joy it was to see everyone again but how sad it was to see my Dad bed ridden and so weak. All of the kids were banned from the house except to use the bathroom but boy did they have fun.

We ate our meals outside and even when it rained the kids had a blast getting filthy. When Dad was awake and had enough energy we all took turns going in to visit him. He even got permission to have a Sacrament Meeting right there in his house. Dixie came up with the idea that he should give something meaningful to all of the grand kids. Dad had asked her to go to a bank and get a silver dollar for each of the grandkids. He wanted to give them something to remember him by. Dixie conviced him that If he gave them money they would have it spent before they left Canada and would never remember that Grandpa had given them anything. She didn't want it to be something purchased but rather something from his heart. She had him come up with an original quote that was just from him. and then she had them all framed. Since Dad had nearly forty grandchildren this was no small undertaking but I am so grateful to Dixie for coming up with the idea. My kids all have their little quotes in their bedrooms displayed right where they can see them. The quote goes like this,

"Only through Prayer, With Jesus in our lives Can we find true Happiness."

It had been a long time since the family had all been together and it was fun to see how everyone had grown. Dad had put all of his worldly possessions in the basement and all of us kids went down and divided everything up amongst ourselves. Since I was so far away I didn't want to take anything too big. I ended up with half of Dads coin collection, an old swivel wooden chair and all of Dad's tools. I think of him every time I pick up a hammer or pair of pliers. Finally it was time to leave. We were the last to leave and before I left, Dad asked me to give him a final blessing.As I laid my hands on his head I knew that we were saying goodbye. My Dad was being called home. I gave him a beautiful blessing. When we left it was hard saying goodbye, I knew that I would never see my Dad alive again. I am not much for talking over the phone. Anyone who knows me knows that Lisa does all the talking for our family. The next few weeks after we left Dad is the one time that I really wish I had called more. Dad died in the arms of his loving wife in August of 1998. He too had a large and beautiful funeral. I don't remember just what was said but I remember how I felt.

My Dad taught me how to be a man. If I have been a good father it is largely due to him. He taught me how to work and he taught me to love my Father in Heaven. He rarely gave any lectures (like I'm known to do) but he usually taught by example. He did have many little comments that I quote all the time. Some of my favorites are, "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right", "A half a**ed job will always be a half a**ed job", "if it doesn't fit get a bigger hammer", "if we don't do it then who's going to do it for us?". I miss my Dad.

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According to the EPA the United States now has the cleanest air it has ever recorded and probably the cleanest air (in the cities at least) for the last 150 years. The air in the cities is now twenty times cleaner than it was at the beginning of the last century.
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I'm not sure how all the older grandkids line up but the year our oldest, Kira, was born three of my siblings also had children born to them. My mom always used to call them the '82 crop. Left to right: Peter, Kira, Kristen, Meagan.
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Two years later Brandon was born, but this year four of my siblings had children as well. As you may have expected, they came to be known as the '84 crop. Unfortunately Dixie's children weren't able to come down so Eric is missing in the picture. Lindsey is holding his spot with her right arm. Left to right: Eric (the invisible one), Lindsey, Brandon, Melissa and Andrew.
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Once again, two years later when Ben was born, two of my siblings had children. They came to be known as the '86 crop. The crop was a bit smaller than the previous crops but it was a good crop none the less. The sad thing is that Dixie's boy, Waldemer (Wally) tragically died a few years before this picture. If it is tough losing a parent, I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose a child. Left to right: Ben, Phillip, (Wally - not shown).
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Kira getting her plaque and some advice from her grandpa.
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Brandon getting his plaque and some advice from his grandpa.
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Benjamin getting his plaque and some advice from his grandpa.
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Alycia getting her plaque and some advice from her grandpa.
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Alex getting his plaque and some advice from his grandpa.
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Sarah getting her plaque and some advice from her grandpa.
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The whole family with Grandpa and Grandma.
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All six of us kids with Dad. I was quite a few pounds lighter back in those days.
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As a young man, immediately after world war 2 Dad served a mission in New Zealand. Not long after he married Maurine, Dad and Maurine also served a mission in New Zealand as a couple. Several of the people who served with Dad as a young man and with Dad and Maurine as a couple sang a traditional Maori song at his funeral. It was very cool and I would love to get the words to the song sometime.

6 comments:

Lynn said...

Fred, I really really like your family history stories you write.
This post was really hard to get through without needing quite a few tissues.
I think of my own parents getting older, and it's scary. Thanks for your thoughts. We can all learn something from each other. I just did from this post of yours.
Those pictures of the kids getting their plaques and advice from their grandpa is SOoo precious.

Lisa L said...

More tears from me. I will never forget as we drove away and headed for home how quiet it was in the car and looking over to see tears just streaming down your face and there was nothing I could do. I will also never forget flying to the funeral and you saying at one point "I can't believe I'm an orphan before I'm even 40 yrs. old." You also said "Going home will never be the same." Sad, sad, sad.

Trevor and Alycia Crowley said...

Wow, do those pictures bring back memories or what?! I totally remember that picture of Kira, Brandon and all the young adults, they were all heading to the stake dance, and I was SO jealous all I wanted to do was be old enough to go with them, haha.
I also remember that picture, making french toast with Flora :)
And I will never forget what Grandpa said to me when we were all leaving and saying goodbye, I had given him a big kiss and a hug and he said, "Well that was a cold kiss!" haha I just thought that was really funny.
I also love how I have heard you say those quotes too many times in my life! haha

Trevor and Alycia Crowley said...

p.s. Grandpa was so dang handsome!

Trevor and Alycia Crowley said...

p.s.s. I have the prayer framed quote right by my bed, still :) Trevor likes it.

Lisa L said...

So I'm looking at the pictures of the kids again after Serene told me that she couldn't believe how much Sydney looks like Sarah. Why does Sarah have a paper bag over her head while the boys play in the mud puddles? :)