(Dear Women Writers and All, I’ve decided to share a personal correspondence with you today. Perhaps it will give you a window into where I am this week, where I come from, and how very grateful I am for my family connections. Peace and love, Glenda)
July 3, 2017
Has it really been a year since I made the trip from here to Dearborn County Hospital on a Sunday morning to find Daddy in Intensive Care, and you and a dozen other members of the family either waiting your turn to go in and visit for a while, or standing by Dad’s bedside, keeping him company? Sometimes it seems like it was just last month—it’s so present, right there in the forefront of my memory—Daddy trying to keep things light by joking with the nurses or teasing the grandkids; you looking worried, clutching one of your hankies, praying.
Other times it seems like it’s been way longer than a year ago, that week he spent in the hospital, and a couple of weeks before when Reta and I were at your house on Father’s Day weekend. That was the last Rook tournament that we played with the two of you. Daddy often bid more than you thought he should, even though he usually made his bid—much to Reta’s and my chagrin! You two were formidable partners to pair off against! I remember that last tourney well—you beat us like a borrowed mule (as Daddy would say)—or maybe two borrowed mules! And it’s not that we were greenhorns at the game, or incompetent; we’re both pretty savvy when it comes to playing cards. Guess you were sitting in the lucky chairs, or maybe we didn’t whine enough. I think the tally was ten games to four!
We were so glad when they moved Dad into a private room—not only because it meant (supposedly) that he was improving, but also because we could be more relaxed about hanging out with him. It was more visitor friendly than the Intensive Care Unit. And Daddy seemed more chipper, at least for a couple of days. Then his appetite went downhill, and he became less and less talkative— seemed apparent that he wasn’t feeling well. It surprised us when his doctor told us on Thursday that he’d be ready to go to Vevay for rehab either Friday or Saturday. We rearranged the Saturday family reunion we’d had on our calendars for a few months; instead of a picnic at Markland Dam’s shelter house, we’d congregate—eat, drink, and be merry—at the Vevay Rehab Center. Everyone was looking forward to Dad’s release from the hospital and our summer Baker get-together.
You and I have talked several times about that last Thursday afternoon we were with him before we headed back to your house. How we kissed him good bye, told him we loved him, that we’d see him on Friday. Hindsight has made so many things clear that weren’t clear at the time. We would’ve made different decisions if we had known that Daddy wasn’t going to live through the night. I would’ve been more forceful, probably downright contentious, when talking to the doctors and nurses. Maybe I could’ve bullied them into paying attention to our concerns about his belly, his appetite, his mood. I do realize that even if I had convinced them to check him out further, the result may have been the same. His body was shutting down, and even the experts may have been helpless to change the outcome. Still…I wonder.
And I know you wouldn’t have left the hospital that evening if you’d had an inkling of what was to come. No matter how exhausted you were, no matter how much you trusted the doctors (or God, for that matter), you would’ve pulled your chair closer to Daddy’s bed, held his hand, traveled with him as far as you could through that last difficult night. And I would’ve been there with you—through the good, the bad, and the ugly of it—if we hadn’t been assured that he would be leaving the hospital by Saturday. Hindsight. Yes, we would’ve been there every minute with Daddy if we had only known what was coming—you and all of us kids would’ve been there. And I believe that he knew that, too. Somewhere in his heart and mind that held all his best memories, his biggest love, his strongest family ties, he knew.
We miss him so much, Mom—all forty-some of us that called him George, Daddy, Pop, Dad, Grandpa, Papaw. We know he wasn’t perfect—he never claimed to be (as far as I knowJ)—but he was perfect enough. You two were so fortunate to have loved and liked each other for nearly three quarters of a century, and the rest of us were lucky to have been under that umbrella of family love with you; still are lucky to be under that umbrella with you.
This year hasn’t been an easy one for you, and yet here you are, still being Mom and Granny and Polly, still welcoming us into your kitchen, still being plainspoken about your beliefs and opinions, still being the woman that Daddy loved. You’ve proven yourself to be a strong woman, Mom, even when you weren’t sure you could find the strength you’d need to carry on without Daddy.
Now if we can just whip them into shape at the cemetery! I called them again, by the way. Left a message on the answering machine that it’d been nearly a year since Daddy had been buried there, and that I was disappointed that the gravesite still hasn’t been leveled and seeded with grass. Seems like there’s been enough dry weather and plenty of time since I called a couple months ago, asking them to check it out, to spiff it up, to make it look more presentable so that the next time you dropped by for a visit, you wouldn’t have to face a double whammy—Daddy’s tombstone and the unkempt look of it. I think you and Ronnie (and everyone else who’s been part of the mowing brigade) have done an excellent job tending to your yard at home almost as zealously as Daddy would’ve if he were here, but I’m afraid he’s going to come back and haunt us, or at least haunt the cemetery caretakers, if his gravesite continues to look neglected. He so loved a well-kept lawn. His name on the tombstone and the lumpy, patchy ground in front don’t match up. We’ll be vigilant though, and if the workers there aren’t up to the task, we’ll give it a facelift ourselves. (Picture Daddy peeking out from behind a nearby tombstone, nodding his head, grinning that cock-eyed grin of his.)
I’m grateful for all the time I’ve spent with you this past year, and intend to continue to block off a few days every two or three weeks to point my Subaru your direction. Believe me, my visits are as good for me as they are for you. I slow down when I’m at your house—it’s a welcome respite for my body, heart, and mind. Okay, enough of my rambling—you know how I am!J See you soon.