Around the Corner: Saying goodbye is the hardest part
My dad wasn’t one to brag or boast about his abilities or accomplishments, but heaven gained one heck of a farmer, an amazing person, and the best father a son could ask for a little less than a month ago.
In my last column, I wrote about finding out my dad’s cancer had spread, but my family and I were in denial of how bad it really was.
We had hoped there would be one more Christmas, one more anniversary, and maybe one more birthday.
He was a tough guy; forged in the dusty and unforgiving farm fields of southern Idaho. Growing food to feed his family, the community, and the world for over a half-century.
He said he wanted to fight it and we were right there to fight with him. If anyone could go toe to toe with cancer it was my pop.
I truly believe he never let us know how much pain he was really in, and how long he had been battling this ugly disease.
It is hard not to count the days after losing someone so close, especially when they have been with you right from the start.
Twenty-eight days have gone by since I held his hand for the last time.
I use numbers to help the mourning process, because my dad was one of the smartest men I have ever known; he had no need for a calculator. I could give him the most abstract math problem and within seconds he would solve it.
Unfortunately that trait skipped me, but I was blessed with many others including his patience and ability to see an idea in my head and build it.
I was blessed that for 43 years and 240 days my dad was either within shouting distance, just down the road, or a phone call away.
He was there to watch me learn to walk and ride a bike. He was there to lift me up in praise when I achieved a goal. He was there to pick me up when I fell, quick to tell me to rub some dirt on it and get back in there and try again.
We could talk about anything and everything, but mostly about farming, fast cars and horses, three of his greatest loves in life, besides his wife of 49 years, his four children and all his family and friends.
But the best moments were spent in silence observing the way he worked tirelessly hour after hour, and still had that smile and sparkle in his eyes every time he walked through the door.
Being the youngest of four, he always chose my older siblings to help out around the farm. Maybe it was because they were bigger and stronger than me or maybe it was because he had a plan for me all those years ago, which is what I believe.
He knew my mom would need someone to help her fix things at the house when he was unable to get out of the field or was away for one of his meetings for the many organizations he volunteered for.
Most of all he knew someone would need to look after mom for those days after he was gone.
In the end, we had 26 days as a family to tell stories, reconnect with old friends, and just be together.
My dad was a great storyteller and enjoyed the time he was given to the fullest.
Before he lost the ability to talk he told me about the time he and his friends were driving his 1969 gold Dodge Charger.
The Charger was the first new car he was able to purchase for $3,500 after a summer of hard work after graduating high school.
After making a few modifications and adding some high-performance parts, dad and a few of his friends were cruising, and decided to head out in the country and see what the car could do.
The smile lines under his eyes crinkled as that signature grin lit up his face while he described opening up the throttle on that Charger RT.
With the windows down, he mashed the throttle to the floorboard with his size 12 boot.
He said the lines on the country road began to blur as the 440 cubic inch engine roared to life.
Easily hitting 100 mph he said he kept his foot in it, and at 150 the dotted line in the middle of the road became solid and a silence overcame the interior of the charger as the wind rushed by.
He loved to drive fast, and averaged a speeding ticket every year – he was even issued one early last year.
I know he is somewhere speeding down an old country road in that old Charger, the wind whipping through his hair, that ear to ear grin on his face, and a twinkle in his eyes as he drives into the sunset.
I’m so glad I was able to spend as much time as I did with him, but like everything, I wanted a little more.
But he fought as long as he could, waited for all his friends and family to visit one last time, enjoying lots of laughs, some good food and a few tears.
We got to take one last ride together in a fast ambulance for the ride home.
He held on long enough to watch one last rodeo, have one last night at home and to let each one of us tell him how much we loved him and say our goodbyes.
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