(This is another post I transferred from my photo site to my blog. It is a tribute to both of my parents, but focuses more on my dad since it was written near the anniversary of his passing. Here is a tribute I wrote in July, 2010 around my dad’s birthday.)
It has been eight years since Dad died and almost seven months since Mom’s passing. I have thought a lot about both the past week. I looked back through some photos. I think this is the last photo taken of Dad, Mom, and me together.
It was taken the day we celebrated Mom’s eightieth birthday. Mom was seven months older than Dad, but her health was considerably better than his health at the time.
When I was in junior high and high school I spoke with my parents about possible future careers. Dad said I had a “restless mind,” which was a concern to him. I was able to focus on and complete projects, but once a project was finished I moved on to a completely different project. He wondered why I did not focus on one or two interests and if I would ever “settle down.”
Looking through these photos reminds me of that restless mind. They are photos of people, but there are things I see in the photo that most others probably would not notice.
The first thing is the calf skin rug in the background. Those were popular in Brazil. Before I returned from Brazil in 1976 my parents asked me to buy a few reminders of the country for their home. This calf skin rug was one of those items I shipped it back several months before I left Brazil. Dad mounted it and had it hanging on the family room wall by the time I got back home.
When Mom did her pre-estate distribution she asked if there was anything from the home that my son wanted. He mentioned this rug since it was a tie to my time in Brazil and a tie to his grandparents. I discovered when I tried to take down the rug that Dad apparently did not intend to have it removed. It took me about two and one-half hours to get it off the wall.
A few months after getting the rug my son called one day, very upset. His Newfoundland mix had chewed part of the rug. He thought I would be mad. I thought it was kind of funny that it survived thirty-two years on the wall with all of my parents’ grandchildren, and just a few months with my grand pup.
The other thing I remember is this sofa. Dad and Mom bought it when I was nine or ten years old for the living room in the home where they lived when I was born. It moved to the living room of the new home in 1967. The sofa would have been almost forty years old by the time of this picture. It had a bit of wear, but I don’t think anything would show it was that old.
I remember thinking that I looked kind of old when I received this picture. Looking at it almost nine years later I have a hard time believing how much I have aged in those years.
This photo of Dad was taken eight years earlier than the previous photo. It was taken Thanksgiving day. My family had moved to North Carolina. This would have been included in one of the weekly letters my parents and I exchanged.
Dad was sitting in a chair covered by an afghan made by Mom. That would have been Mom’s chair in the family room. Dad had a leather chair. None of the children ever sat in Dad’s chair, but the grandchildren could sit in his chair. I am guessing that one or two grandchildren were in his chair and that Mom was taking pictures after a Thanksgiving dinner.
My family had several phases of Thanksgiving traditions. At the time of this photo the tradition was to go to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Salt Lake for Thanksgiving dinner. That was a tradition of great food and no clean up that the family enjoyed for a number of years.
The upper shelves in the bookcase in the background were filled with Dad and Mom’s travel videos. His work books that had occupied these shelved were tossed years earlier.
Dad traveled a lot with his work and he reached a point where he hated to travel. I was around six years old when he received his twenty-year pin at work. I asked what the pin meant. He said it was his “Go to hell” award. I asked why he called it that dirty name.
He said it meant that if someone told him that he had to fly to the Pentagon to give a presentation he could tell them to go to hell and assign someone else to travel in his place. When someone told him to go to Seattle to meet with Boeing he would tell them to go to hell and assign the trip to another one of his employees.
My aunt and uncle traveled a lot in retirement. I think Mom would have enjoyed some travel, but she was not going to push the subject since she knew how Dad felt about travel. I think the videos were a proxy for the travel that Mom would have enjoyed.
One of Mom’s handicrafts pictures is at the bottom of the stairs.
This photo is another one from Mom’s eightieth birthday celebration. Dad is between my brother and me. The three of us are quite different from each other, yet we share some common traits, particularly about work. We have been in different careers, but project management and trouble shooting have been major aspects of our different careers.
Dad looked quite gaunt in these photos. He had a bad health spell a few weeks earlier and had not really recovered. Even though the trip was a celebration of Mom’s birthday it was also a stressful visit.
This photo was taken seven months later. It was Dad’s eightieth birthday. He was on oxygen at the time, but had recently been equipped with a portable tank. It gave him mobility that he did not have earlier. It was a new lease on life and he treasured that freedom.
This photo was taken in the living room. This sofa was the third and final sofa that my parents bought for their living room. It was custom-made from Dinwoody’s Furniture in Salt Lake, I believe in the late 1980s. The quality was superb. It did not show any wear and tear.
The bottom of one of my aunt’s paintings is visible on the left side of the photos. The bottom of one of Mom’s handicraft pictures is on the right side of the photo. The home was sold last month. While we are happy to have it sold, it is still strange to think the place that was home for my parents for so many years is no longer in the family.
My son and I flew from North Carolina for Dad’s eightieth birthday visit. It was one of the most enjoyable trips we had experienced. I was surprised to see how well Dad was doing considering how sick he was during the earlier trip for Mom’s birthday. A few weeks after returning to North Carolina my son and I bought plane tickets so we could spend Christmas in Utah with Dad, Mom, and the family.
A few months later, the Friday before Thanksgiving, I was busy with work and getting ready for the holidays. I conducted an early morning meeting at one of our offices in a nearby town. I returned to my office at the company’s headquarters and was meeting with one of my employees in his office. A co-worker came to the door and told me that my oldest sister was on the phone. I knew something had happened. I went to my office and picked up the phone. Dad was dead.
I sat stunned in my office for a few minutes. A small stream of other co-workers, hearing the news, came by to give their condolences. I finally felt composed enough to safely drive home and make arrangements to fly to Utah.
My first phone call was to my son. He had a semester ending team project that was due the following week. After talking it over and given his strong dislike for funerals we decided it was best for him to stay at college and wait till our Christmas trip the following month.
My next call was to the pet sitter at the vet’s office. With pet reservations confirmed I then searched the internet and finally found a flight out of Raleigh late in the afternoon.
Around seven hours passed between the time I got the call from my sister and when my flight finally lifted off from Raleigh-Durham Airport. I was in a state of numbness that did not end until midnight, Utah time, when I finally arrived at my parents’ home.
Thinking of Dad’s passing brought back the recent memories of Mom’s passing. I called my sister this evening and asked if she remembered that Dad died eight years ago. She did. We both had a sense of relief that each had remembered.
Death is not always bad. It is often good, especially when people have suffered greatly. My sister spoke about the numerous trials that both of our parents faced head on, and that both endured to the end. We miss them – we miss them deeply – and are grateful for the memories.
I believe this is the last photo of me with my father. I have a very hard time looking at this photo, but I am grateful to have this image. I have a lifetime of memories from the past. New memories will be made in the future, but Dad is gone and Mom is gone, so no more new memories will be made with them.
I spoke with my brother a few minutes ago. He and my sister-in-law are in Florida this Thanksgiving. It is the start of new traditions for them, since they have been with Mom at Thanksgiving for many years.
This is a rambling post. It is an acknowledgment of Dad’s assessment of my “restless mind.” I love you, Dad. I love you, Mom. I miss you.