Today's post for Farley's April CURRENTLY linky party does not contain any ideas for classroom lessons or school-related musings.....
Instead, it is a tribute to one of the best teachers I have been blessed to learn from.....my father.
As I sit wrapped in my favorite quilt on this cold and wet April evening, sipping hot apple cinnamon tea and nursing a cold that has now lingered for two weeks, I am thinking of my my dear Dad. A bag of Luden's Wild Cherry Cough Drops is next to me, and reminds me of the boxes he used to bring home from the the five-and-dime store near his office when I was a little girl. They are still my "go-to" comfort when I am sick. I know that they are not the most "medicinal" ones out there, but in the words of Junie B. Jones, the other kinds are just plain "yucky!"
I have spent a great deal of time this week being overcome by nostalgia and remembering the simple, selfless moments of my life with him. Last Wednesday, he was diagnosed to be in the final stages of congestive heart failure and moved to a hospice care facility in Florida. After yet another pacemaker episode, his heart continues to weaken and he will pass on soon. My two older sisters and brother are with him now, and my two younger siblings and I (along with a huge gaggle of grandchildren and great-grandchildren) send strength and prayers from afar. I continue to receive texts and and e-mail updates saying that while his body is failing and he sleeps most of the time, his attitude is one of calm acceptance and readiness.
Last weekend he had all dietary restrictions lifted and most of his meds discontinued, and was allowed to enjoy foods that he had not been able to eat for many years! Salt has always been his nemesis, but last Friday night he indulged in tomato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, and potato chips! On Saturday morning he ate scrambled eggs, sausage, and grapefruit with honey. On Sunday evening, he relished a few bites of yellow cake with chocolate frosting--his favorite. After being on a severely restricted diet for so long, his new meal motto was "May salt and sugar be damned!" These are the simple things that have made these closing days of his life more special.
The priceless and pleasant moments I have shared with my father far outweigh the painful ones. He has always been a patient mentor and wise guide, despite the fact that I was not always an easy child. A strong will and creative spirit often made me prone to stubborn behavior and crying jags. I made a million mistakes and many poor choices before finding my way to a profession and place in life that I was well-suited for.
My father never judged or criticized, he just quietly watched and waited, and was always there to rescue me if needed. During my sophomore year of college, I was struggling with health issues and roommate troubles, and would often call and ask him to "please come bring me home for the weekend." The trip to my campus was a four-hour drive one-way, but he would always just get in the car and come south to pick me up.
He has always been a straight-shooter, never mincing words and believing that "honesty is always the best policy." As I was muddling through my mid-twenties I had dated a few "wrong" men, and he succinctly said one day while we were sitting out on his patio,
"You know, Jen. Those boys you bring around
are just spending your money and drinking your beer!"
"You know, Jen--
sometimes even just walking out
to the mailbox makes you tired
when you're 89..."
"Papa is a celebrity around here!"
Here is a picture of our gentle, curmudgeonly patriarch looking very dapper at my niece's wedding about five years ago. I keep it on my fridge. It makes me smile while I wait for my morning coffee to brew, and reminds me that I come from strong, good-humored stock. It is next to a quote that he included in a birthday message that says.....
"Always and never are two
words you should always remember
never to use."
To reference my favorite picture book, he is to me what Mr. Falker was to Patricia Polacco.....
...my mentor, my role model, my advocate, my advisor, and my biggest fan. He was also the best grandfather my children could have asked for. We were lucky to live only fifteen minutes away from his house before he retired and moved to Naples full-time. "Hayley-Bailey" and "Eamonn-Bamon" spent many Sunday afternoons following Papa around his yard, making a mess in his basement, raiding the bread bin (where he kept the Hershey chocolates), and disrupting his dinner hour. It is that time that I am most grateful for.
As I close this post, I must express how thankful I am for his amazing grace, loyalty, and fortitude. One of my fondest memories is of him sitting in the second pew on the left side of church while I played in the folk group at Saturday evening Mass. This song was a favorite meditation that I used to sing and play lead guitar on. May the lyrics travel softly across the miles on a wing and a prayer, and may he hear them and find peace as he leaves us.....
how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost,
but now am found.
but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieve.
How precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed.
When we've been there
ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days
to sing His praise
than when we first begun.