Full of Complex Carbohydrates and MicroNutrients

I am a novelty to many (and I'm fine with that).
I have a very silly sense of humor usually riddled with malapropisms (and I'm fine with that, too).
I ask too many questions of Life and I expect all the answers.
I trust people too easily when I shouldn't; however, I respect everyone regardless…unless they do something to make me think twice.
I don't cheat. I am tactful yet will give the truth up front (and never mean to hurt anyone's feelings with it).
I like to help the people who have helped me, and even those who have not.
I never forget... but sometimes I misplace things.
I never lose hope.
I am awesomely blessed for the people who have come into my life, and I am blessed for the people who have left because I realize I didn't need them anyway.
I honestly feel that laughter is the best medicine you can have.
I believe in being strong when everything else seems to be going wrong.
I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles. In other words, I'm human, and definitely not perfect.
But tomorrow is another day, and there's so much cheese to be had...
(thank you to Ranae S. for this bit of inspiration!)

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Everyone, get up and dance now!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9-9-09: In Honor of You, Daddy

Yes, it's been a full month since I've posted. I've honestly been busy with other things - such as the overall repairs and decorations of the house we bought a year ago, and therefore have been unable to do my regular blogging or artwork.

I am taking today to post about my dear Daddy. Today marks the fourth anniversary of his passing, and I wanted to share a bit about the awesome man he was.

He was a World War II veteran, serving in North Africa (chasing Rommel, no less) and Italy... He was a devoted, loving husband who lost his wife and best friend in 1983, and never even so much as considered dating another woman... He was a father of two who showed worlds of patience and unconditional love when raising the rebellious daughter who, later in her life, realized what priceless and precious gifts her father's lessons truly were.

Everyone who met him walked away deeply liking him, exclaiming "Wow, what a character he is!" because of his quick East Coast wit and overall charm. Maybe it was the thick Brooklyn accent riddled with grammatical gems like "Dese" and "Dose" and "Toity-Toid street in Noo Yawk."

Or perhaps it was his strong physical resemblance to fellow Brooklynite, "Grandpa" Al Lewis of "The Munsters" fame, as everybody who met him remarked such, and dubbed him Grandpa ever after.

Either way, Hy (as he was called) was a walking, talking Martin Scorsese "Fuggedaboutit" sort of character come to life who should have done film work but surely missed his calling because he was too busy busting his back as a TV/electronics repair tech and raising a family.

For me, it was simply the fact that he was my dear Daddy: a gruff-sounding but genuinely kind, humble, sincere and compassionate man, who was my best friend and confidante for the 45 years I had him. He was my hero, having rescued me from a bad marriage in the 1980's, from the brink of despair, and from my own Self, so many times, I've lost count. He was like that - you could always count on him, no matter what. He was generous to a fault, the type of guy who'd give you the shirt off his back, and not ask for anything in return. Daddy taught me the true meaning of loving unconditionally and how to be forgiving, even when people are outright assholes and don't deserve your time. Funny how that took me so long to realize, until he was at the end of his life.

He adopted me when I was 3 days old and raised me as best he and Mom could - no small feat, I tell you, as I was a rotten, rebel-rousing teenager and gave them both too many grey hairs - yet in spite of that, I think I turned out okay, though if you could ask him today, he'd roll his eyes dramatically and let go with a zinger of a wise-crack. Oh yeah, Daddy was great at cracking wise. When Mark nervously asked him for my hand in marriage, Daddy cut him off in mid-sentence by saying "Yeah, g'head, ya got my blessing" with a casual wave of his hand. We both love that memory so much, and along with so many other great memories of Daddy, I keep that particular one close in mind and heart today.

I can't believe it's been four years since he's passed on, leaving behind the 86-year old body that was ravaged with age and illness. For as difficult and painful as it was, I'd have to say that the last 10 years of his life - which he spent in various nursing homes as his health declined - were probably the best ones of my life, because I had the honor of helping to take care of him. Had I to do it over, I'd not hesitate in doing it again. And again. I never had children of my own, so I guess in many ways, taking care of him was akin to caring for a child.

Oh but it was no picnic in the least: The bouts of dementia were awful, when he had delusions and forgetful lapses, with fits of anger that were directed right at me. That just tore my heart out. Many times I went home and just cried myself to sleep. To be honest, it was really hard not taking it personally, trying to rationalize that it was the disease talking, and not the man.

The heart disease and diabetes were far worse, wreaking utter havoc all throughout his body. He nearly lost both feet from the huge diabetic ulcers that ate down to the bone, and was confined to a wheelchair which he insisted he didn't need, trying to prove it by jumping up to walk on several occasions and falling down and breaking a hip in the process. Watching someone you dearly love rapidly deteriorate is hard enough, but knowing that one day very soon they will die... well, it's beyond any sort of description. Yes, we know we're all going to die one day, but when you're caring for a loved one who is at the very threshold of death's door, you think that any moment, you'll get "The Call" and each time the phone rang... well, that's what came to my mind and made my heart skip a beat.

A long-standing infection deep in his leg bones (a dreadful reminder from the ulcers on his feet) was resistant to antibiotics. A doctor who was caring for him called to tell me that it was only a matter of time, and that the time would be drawing closer. Even though I'm very philosophical about life and death, that phone call made me sob like a baby (and I was at work at the time).

A few weeks later, at around 11:11 on Friday morning, September 9th, I got "The Call." Strangely, I felt calm... almost serene, like I was floating. I knew he was gone... finally free of pain, and with the one woman he loved. And strangely, no tears. Gotta tell you, I was slightly miffed that he didn't keep his promise to say 'good bye' when he left, like Mom did when she died, but that was alright. I asked him to please give me a 'sign' and let me know he was okay.

Soon after, I had a very, very vivid dream where I was being either driven or flown, in some shiny gold and crystal vehicle of sorts, to a beautiful area that was also shiny with crystal and gold, just absolutely sparkling and astonishing beyond belief. The person who was bringing me there was a sort of chauffeur, in the front seat. They turned around to tell me that I wasn't allowed to get out of the vehicle, but if I looked over to the right, I'd see what I was there for. I turned to look and saw Daddy and Mom, sitting at a table, looking out the window right at me. They smiled radiantly and waved at me and they both looked SO HAPPY.

I woke instantly feeling a rush of conflicting emotions (love, happiness, sadness, confusion) and burst into tears. But I derived an incredible sense of relief from this dream, because after someone dies, no matter how realistic and philosophical you claim to be about life and death, you have so many questions, right? Yet I felt that this sort of answered alot of them. I can almost hear Bill Engval's voice saying, "There's your sign!" and I really, truly believe in 'signs' if you're receptive to them.

And Daddy sent me lots of signs - like that song, "Dust in the Wind" which I heard instantly after asking him to send me one. Mark and I were in the car, on our way to the airport to get to Los Angeles to arrange for Daddy's cremation. That song was suddenly being heard on the radio a whole bunch of times around the time he passed and was being cremated. Funny how I don't recall hearing that very much at all prior, but that could just be me in denial.

We went to LA, and I got to see Daddy one last time and leave him with hugs and kisses and a letter and cards and some family photos tucked under his arm near his heart. It's really odd when you hug and kiss someone whose body is cold and hard in death. You don't feel any life force there, and you know it's no longer THEM in there... it's just their empty shell. We flew back home to Nashville and I waited for the funeral home to ship Daddy's ashes (I was very upset I could not bring them home with me on the plane, but had to let it go or else lose it all together).

Then there was the one big huge sign that could have been billboard-sized with neon flashing all around it that he sent me. We were back in Nashville at our apartment watching "Million Dollar Baby." It was the scene where Clint Eastwood compassionately helps Hillary Swank to die, and as she does, he finally, lovingly, tells her what the Gaelic saying "Mo chuisle" means:

"My dear, my darling."

That's what Daddy used to call me. And at that PRECISE moment in the movie, as I sat on the couch hearing this and getting choked up as I thought of him, there was a knock at the front door. Mark answered it, and it was the postal carrier, bearing the package for me that contained MY FATHER'S ASHES.

I absolutely lost it then... oh boy, did the tears flow. Finally.

Say what you will about the timing and mere coincidence, but to me, there was no greater sign to be had, and I do not and will never believe in 'coincidence.'

Well anyway. I could go on and on. Today I honor my Daddy. Feel free to drop in anytime and crack wise, Daddy. I'll be waiting for you.

Born: 2-2-1919
Died: 9-9-2005