54. Dad, smiling

March 10, 2012.

one year ago, Dad, Granddad, Pops, Sam died at the long old age of 90.

there are bad memories of that time between when his body no longer worked and when his journey here ended.

they are fading with time.

and today i’m choosing to remember him smiling.

Dad in his plane

His plane wrecked in training. Unconscious for many hours, he was never allowed to fly and given a desk job during the war. Not until I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand did I realize what a common occurence it was; pilot trainees died in crashes all the time.

Dad rowing

Yes, he was known to mug for the camera, especially if the photographer was someone he loved. Mom is in the boat with him snapping the photos; there are several of these “rowing the boat” pictures. They must have had fun on Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos where they went for their honeymoon.

Dad and Mom on New Year's Eve

It was the early sixties and they went out on the town, color co-ordinated on New Year’s Eve.

Dad and his new golf club

Golf always made him smile. He had trophies. He taught his wife and his daughters how to play (or tried to…) and shot his age when he was 82, and 84, and 85 and… He played once the summer he was 89, but could only manage 3 holes. He said he didn’t want to live if he couldn’t play golf.

Dad at Christmas

Years have gone by, daughters raised up, and grandchildren made him smile (probably more than his daughters ever did). That’s the way of grandchildren…

Dad getting his hair done

Donna did everyone’s hair for Nancy and Ron’s wedding, including Dad’s. It had been a crazy, emotional weekend with Pa dying just the day before. Everyone was missing Mom as well, though Aunt Ruth stood in for her with grace and class. We were all ready to laugh and cry.

Yes, everyone is smiling here; especially Daniel in the background. And this picture still does the trick — makes me smile every time.

Dad and RonDad and his newest son-in-law enjoy the ferry to Ocracoke Island. He was always a traveler, and he could remember the name and route number of every road he’d ever traveled.

Dad, Aunt Ruth, and Uncle B

Sister Ruth could always make him smile. What a wonderful time we all had this weekend as the family gathered to celebrate life in the house where we all grew up. Grandchildren came for miles and we all took our favorite treasures before the house was sold. The last of many summer picnics on R.D.#5.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yep, grandchildren always made him smile. Well…almost always. As long as they were using their dinner utensils correctly. The girls always knew how to use their forks and spoons; Casey and Daniel, not so much…

Carol and dad

…and he finally got to have his oldest daughter married in a church wedding.

Dad's 89th

Lots of us showed up for his 89th birthday party and had the weekend on the town in Pittsburgh — the Ducky tour, the Crab Shack, the inclines, Mt. Washington, Oakmont Bakery, and carrot cake.

Dad surrounded The whole clan surrounded Dad as we had a ninetieth birthday party for him over Labor Day weekend here at Apple Hill. Friends and relatives came long distances to celebrate his life.

Dad smiling

We picked this picture for his obituary, and one of his friends wrote us a note-to-make-us-cry saying how glad she was that we picked that photo. “You know,” she wrote, “he just had a wonderful smile, and I’ll always remember him smiling.”

and that’s what i’m remembering today… See ya later, alligator.

the regular Apple Hill Cottage posts will be back next week. This one just had to be written today…

169 thoughts on “54. Dad, smiling

  1. Thank you Carol for being close by and sacrificing to be his caregiver those last few months. I’m glad too that the horror is fading, and that his smiles are clearer in our memories. Even times of his last month are precious; seeing him smile at the news of a new great-grandchild, a fire in the fireplace, a Valentine’s Day card, the anticipation of seeing his mother, his saying thank-you to our feeble attempts at making him comfortable. God is good.

    Like

  2. If you could never meet a person and could only judge them on how they looked in pictures, I’d judge that this man would be somebody I’d love to have known. i see fun, loving, family man…all sorts of good things in these pics. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  3. Heartfelt comments for certain––thanks for sharing. Your comments also cause just a bit of dreadful foresight in knowing that I have those emotions in my not-so-distant future… damn.

    Like

    • Do what you can for them now, and you won’t have any regrets. Yes, it was hard, but there were many Aha moments, sweet moments, that none of us would trade. And I didn’t mention it in the post, but we couldn’t have done it without Hospice.

      Like

  4. such a beautful post…just beautful..Dad is indeed smiling at makng the WP headlne news..They only feature the best you know 🙂

    Like

  5. Classic photos and a loving tribute. I remember when decades ago you told me you wrote a letter to your father about why you loved/appreciated him so I decided I would do that for Father’s Day and mom got hold of it and said condescendingly: Do you think he is going to die or what? And I don’t think DAD ever made any comment so I felt embarrassed. I see a resemblance to your mother in the Christmas photo.

    Like

    • Well, I found that letter I wrote to him in his dresser drawer as I was cleaning out his last stuff from the apartment. And if I’m remembering right, when he received the letter he didn’t comment much either. Just nodded in thanks. It’s never a bad thing to tell people you love them–no embarrassment allowed!

      Like

  6. Reminded me of my dad who died three years ago. His journey was a hard one, but like you, I find myself focussing more on the positives. I must admit to a couple of tears rolling down my cheeks as I read your lovely post.

    Like

    • Thank you. And I must admit to the process of writing this being therapeutic. It was great to focus on finding pictures of him smiling, instead of the other, last ones that were in my brain.

      Like

  7. Thanks for posting this Carol. Such wonderful pictures! I especially remember Granddad’s smile on Christmas mornings as little kids, and when I’d be at home from college and he would “ask” me to split an afternoon Smirnoff! Ha!

    Like

  8. Thanks for a beautiful post. I lost my father-in-law a few months ago and am grateful for the reminder to remember the smiles. Your dad had a wonderful smile!

    Like

  9. First, congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Second, this is a wonderful tribute. I feel like your dad is someone I would have liked to know. I understand that the role of caretaker is a hard one, but be glad that you had the time to ease into the inevitable. The love in your family really comes through in this!

    Like

    • Thank you so much. I’m amazed and awed that this post was chosen. I think I’ve written better ones, but perhaps none are so emotional as the loss of someone loved. And we all go through it — several times even. And you are absolutely right about easing into it — so much harder, I think, to lose someone suddenly.

      Like

  10. Great post! Wonderful tribute. I wrote a poem on the morning my grandmother dies back in ’91. I’ll be going up on my creative writing blog in about a week (got so much other schedule to post…boy I wrote a lot in the 90s). Trying not ot think of my aging parents….hopefully will get another 20-30 years from them still. (Geeze, that sounded like a car commercial….)

    Like

  11. Wonderful photos.
    My father died at the young age of thirty-nine. My paternal grandfather died when my mother was twelve, and my grandmothers both died before I turned thirty, so we don’t have many pix of anyone in our family who became elderly before passing.
    This was a lovely way to remember someone special.

    Like

  12. I lost my dad two years ago. It’s hard, I know the role of the caregiver. Everyday I wish I could pick up the phone and hear his voice. Your post made me remember my dad’s smile – thank you.

    Like

  13. Thank you for documenting all these wonderful pictures and thoughts. I have been thinking lately of the common sense everyday life skills he passed on to us like balancing a checkbook, learning how to drive and using table manners. And you missed out on our family dinners when he frequently taught our girls how to use a fork and steak knife! I love the smiles of the two of you at your church wedding. You carried the brunt of the final months. I will always be grateful and thankful for that. Here’s to smiling … no more tears or pain.

    Like

    • Hmm…Did I get the ‘balance your checkbook’ lesson? Definitely the driving lessons though. 🙂 No smiling photos from those sessions!
      And you guys were so great about coming to spend the week(s) and just being the support and sounding board. Did you see the comment above about the love in our family really showing through? Love you.

      Like

  14. Great story. I am coming up on the 11th anniversary of my father’s death and it doesn’t matter what anyone says, it is something you never get over. You just try to find a new normal. I choose to remember the great things about my Dad. After all, that is how they live on through us. Through our memories. Thanks for the great post and congrats on freshly pressed!

    Like

    • You don’t ever get over it, do you? Mom died in 1988 and I’ve never stopped missing her. And yes, everyone has those bad memories, so we can choose to ignore them and focus on what we did love and what was good and wonderful. Come to think of it, it’s like that in life too, isn’t it?
      Thanks for the good comment.

      Like

  15. oh , post fully of memories , its really hard to loss someone you loved . thank you for the beautiful post

    Like

  16. That’s such a beautiful memory page of your dad. Thank you for sharing him and his smile with all of us.
    I feel really blessed to have read your page

    Like

  17. A fantastic and moving post! The picture of him in the boat and the family surrounding him at his birthday say it all…. you just know he is looking down and smiling right now at all of this attention you’ve brought him! 🙂

    Like

    • Alzheimer’s is a different deal altogether, isn’t it? My mom was terrified of it, but she died young. I, myself, joke about it to my husband, but that is just to cover up the fear. I’m glad you could always see your dad through it. Best wishes on your project. Thanks.

      Like

  18. Reblogged this on Midwest Texan and commented:
    My aunt-in-law Carol has joined the Freshly Pressed club! Her blog is so thoughtful and wise. The post is about my wife’s dear grandfather who passed away a year ago, whose smile I still see every day in my wife’s face (we’re the couple furthest to the left in the family photo). I was honored to have known him.

    Like

  19. You know he is smiling right now! My father passed away in January and I haven’t quiet gotten to the point that you have. I was his only caregiver for the last six years of his life. Even sleeping int he same room with him for the last three. He had a wonderful life and being with him for his last breath he had a glorious passing. If you get the time visit my blog and read One Last Time. Be well. 🙂

    Like

    • I just did. It’s a lovely tribute and those words of John Gray’s were beautiful. I know that so many people have it so much harder than we did. I’m not sure I could have done it for three years. Bless you (and your mom). And now you not only have a loss, but it’s what you did for all that time as well. Keep up Date Night! And though it never ever goes away, the memories change. Give yourself time — it’s only been three months. As someone said above, you just find the new normal. Blessings to you.

      Like

  20. Just found this/you due to being freshly pressed – what a beautiful post. You’ve given me a picture of such a lovely man and family..nice to have gotten to know him this little bit, this way.

    Like

  21. Yes, it’s best to remember them smiling. The final days and months are such a tiny portion of a 90-year-life. Best to dwell on the way they lived and the times you spent with them — those are the memories to keep. My mother died June 8 at age 90, and I, too, am remembering all the smiles and fun times. Thanks for a lovely post.

    Like

    • The only trouble is that the tiny portion comes at the end, so that’s where the mind gets stuck. Time does indeed heal. And in the meantime, we have to choose what we will dwell on. Thank you for the great comment.

      Like

  22. **Fabulous write! This is exactly how I want to be remembered also..for the smiles shared, the laughter multiplied by more laughter, and love spread to everyone I come in contact with. 2 thumbs UP

    Like

    • “love spread to everyone I come in contact with…”
      It’s such a worthy goal, and so hard to live up to in the details and hassles of daily life. May we all remember that line.
      Thanks for such a good comment!

      Like

  23. what jaidith said: / [ \ .
    i’ve tried a similar experiment. there’s a relative who i can’t stand, so, for therapy, i wrote an essay describing only the positive, upbeat, memories.
    i’ll bet this worked for you, tho’. and it seems there’s so MUCH family to continue the wave, current, as it were.

    Like

    • What a grand idea to do for those people in our lives that are hard to love! Hard to like even. Write down their good points, the good in them. Then whip it out every time we need reminding. 🙂

      Like

  24. Very nice. Made me well up with tears. I read Unbroken recently, too. Interesting how many planes crashed in training. One of my great uncles’ planes went down over the Pacific after the war was over and he was never found. Probably just a malfunction with the plane – at least that’s what I figured after reading that book. Sad. Thanks for sharing all these photos. There ARE nice people out there. Sometimes the horrors of the world make us forget, don’t they?

    Like

    • I’ve been taking a break from watching/listening to the news for that very reason. After I read that chapter in Unbroken about the inconsistency of those early planes, I just had a thankful moment that his life didn’t end then, like so many others’ did. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

  25. I started reading this post as it was FP’d and really liked it. Then I looked in on your blog and have spent an entire quiet, at home Sunday afternoon engrossed in your home re-build/renovation. Thank you. It’s been great spending the day with you and now I will follow your blog awaiting further posts with anticipation.I am a city girl who has a quite longing to be in the country at sometime down the track. In the meantime I’ll keep reading and dreaming.:)

    Like

    • I am so grateful for your comment. The Freshly Pressed thing has been amazing, and I have lots of new followers, but then I think, but this isn’t what I USUALLY write about…So to have found someone who was thoughtfully looking at the other stuff and enjoying it —
      Thank you!!!

      Like

  26. My dads sick right now I’m loosing my own personal superman I’m not ready I’m not strong enough but I suppose I don’t have a choice thanks for sharing this it gives me hope I won’t feel as shattered after as I do before letting him go, I gotta tell you right now I’m a wreck I feel like a zombie trying to do the every day things that now seem so trivial and mundane.

    Like

    • I know. I’ve been there. And I can’t give you advice, because we all have to figure it out for ourselves. Once I went into the back yard and screamed. (I took a towel, because I didn’t want my concerned neighbors showing up — or the police!) And all that stuff we do every day suddenly does become trivial and mundane. What? You want me to keep a DENTIST APPOINTMENT? I have to go to WORK now? Here are the things that did help me: My family. I leaned on them unmercifully, and they all came through; Hospice. I couldn’t have done it without that beautiful, calm hospice nurse coming twice a week and telling me what to do, how to do it, and just being calm for me; Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It is an amazing devotional for every day of the year and it cut through all those fears to what was important each day; my faith — everything I couldn’t do, God gave me the strength to do. And now I can look back and say thank you to Him, because he truly gives us trials to make us grow. And the last thing was that Dad was so sick, we all wanted him out of his pain — even if that meant giving him up. When it goes on for long enough, truthfully, death is a release.
      And now I said I wasn’t going to give advice, but I did anyway. You’ll face it the best way you can. Just tell him how much you love him, and hold his hand.
      Blessings to you and your family.

      Like

      • Thank you!! I’m going to get a copy of that devotional God is my rock because daddy always used to be, not crying is the hardest thing holding his hand and not weeping makes you feel like your chest is going to explode but then he looks at me and says I won’t go yet, he can’t breath any more and all that’s left is meds it’s so hard, and the scream and towel trick I’m going to do that too!!! Thanks again

        Like

Comments are closed.