Sunday, September 21, 2008


I've been thinking for a while about what I would post today because it has been one year since my dad died.

I have experienced some mild anxiety in anticipation, or should I say dread, of this day. I suppose it was both anticipation and dread actually. But now that the day has arrived the anxiety has departed.

How am I after the passing of these 365 days? The word that comes to mind most readily is unfinished. Or maybe incomplete. Or maybe better still is in between.

Dad's death set in motion an entire fleet of new life transactions and hardly any of those vessels have yet made port. The sea has been both tranquil and rough. I am on board them all as passenger, captain, and crew. Sometimes I awake to find myself on some new one I hadn't even realized set sail.

And just as all these things are unfinished, I find myself similarly in transition.

I look back towards where I started and I can easily see that I have come a very long ways. But when I turn to face the front I see some closer land more clearly but there is more in the distance that remains shrouded by both distance and future. And I have little idea of the name of my destination and even less of what it is like.

My new house is one of the closer things. It is taking shape before my eyes. Yet I wonder what it will be like to awaken there each morning. And then I think that only one year ago I was awakening in another room in another house.

I have learned a lot about being a full time husband and companion. I've benefited from a patient and loving and understanding partner. My role in my work life remains more unknown and that may be as much from an age transition as from being caregiver. And I am adjusting to relating to a larger group of people than my previously smaller circle.

In some ways I am like the child who repeatedly asks "are we there yet?" Yet I also know that the trip itself is just as important or more so than the destination.

It is easy to let the uncertainties and the accompanying fear crowd out those things that have been done. One thing for sure though is that I would just as soon not relive the events of this same day one year ago. And I am so grateful that I was able to finish my caregiving. I remember often wondering, especially near the end, if I would or even could make it.

When I really look at the things for which I am grateful I see entire mountain ranges. I like that imagery because often in my experience the land around the mountain is more like desert. So you kind of have to get past the desert to get to the mountain. I relate to that.

It is faith isn't it that overwhelms the uncertainties of life? I have thought about this a great deal over the last year. Caregiving caused me to focus on the very near because there were so many uncertainties just there. Now my horizon is broader but there are no fewer uncertainties. And yet it is faith that makes me face them with peace and calmness.

It is hope still that keeps me going each day. That seems trivial doesn't it? But it isn't. It is deceptively simple and all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. It is maddeningly difficult. That's what I did as a caregiver. I still do it now. I am finding new routines and making new habits. But the hope is constant.

But surely it is love that makes it all worthwhile. Even when there seems to be so much hate in the air, that serves only to emphasize the extraordinary nature of love. Not necessarily just hate but also opposition and challenge and tiredness to the limits of endurance and the uncertainties and the behavior issues and all those things of caregiving are also present in ordinary life. It is just that they appear in different forms.

You know it is love that I think of when my mind's memory turns to my dad and mom. It is not the difficulties of the caregiving years. Oh I remember the difficulties. It is just that those times seem so insignificant by comparison. They are so easily pushed aside by the good memories and those are so numerous and diverse.

And which is greater of those memories? The answer is so clear at least for the last ten years. It is the porch where we all three so often sat. Sometimes we sat there and visited my brother's family or my son's or my daughter's. Sometimes we ate lunch or supper out there. And before that where so many family gatherings were celebrated. And even before that when the porch was only a dream in mom's and dad's minds.

So on Friday I made some time to sit on the porch. It is a pleasant place for me although it is a mess right now. I sat in my favorite chair. It is a very old metal lawn chair that someone painted white long ago. I do not know its source. It is part of a pair. I will take them with me to my new home when I can. I like them because they spring and I can sit and rock.

Something I enjoyed so much about the porch over the last few years was that I could see all sorts of people coming and going. It was like a window onto the world. And often I felt that I was not part of that world anymore and it was passing me by. So sitting there on the porch gave me a way to watch the real world. When I first arrived I could only see a portion of the road. Later I could see part of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Later still we watched a tire shop being built and later sitll it was joined by a car wash and even later a grocery store. Then I could see the people coming and going to those places. Sometimes I would pick up the binoculars and pretend I was Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. Except I never did see even a hint of a crime.

Many years before that the porch overlooked a meadow with a pond and before the pond there was a huge Cottonwood tree in the middle of the meadow. One year we had 10 calves out there on that meadow and that was one of the best years I remember. The chores weren't too hard but still just enough to fit in before breakfast and school. Now the trees are all gone and the creek that was there has been reduced to a channel and the land is becoming a site for a Chick-Fil-A.

Soon the land there will be transformed and no one but me will remember the meadow or the pond or the cattle. The porch itself will disappear within this next year.

On Saturday I went to exercise at the new house and also put in a couple of loads of laundry. I am getting pretty good using the new washer and dryer. I like them a lot and I do like the idea that the washer uses so much less water and that the dryer uses much less power.

Then I went to the store to buy some flowers for Dad's and Mom's grave. Amazingly (to me) there was a "cemetery special" at the little flower place inside the grocery store. It was $12.99. It was silk flowers and it had this little green cone deal that made it versatile for either inserting in the bronze holder on the memorial or putting in the ground. I asked the lady if it would work and she said she thought it would but to bring it back if not and she would make me a different one.

On the way to the cemetery I pulled over for a really large funeral procession going the other way. I thought to myself that it was odd that I was driving east to the cemetery and here this procession was heading in the opposite direction. About then a police car with lights and sirens went speeding past the procession. In my mirror I watched as the cruiser took up a position blocking the entire 4 lane road and one by one the cars of the funeral procession began turning around. Apparently the first driver had made a wrong turn and should have been going to my same cemetery. I really felt sorry for everyone. There must have been 200 cars in that procession.

I decided that it was not the best time to go to the cemetery so I made my way over to the farm and Starbucks first. There I decided to use the drive through and when I got to the window the lady saw the flowers and asked me who they were for. I told her I was taking them to the cemetery. She said that was nice and asked if it was something I did regularly. I told her that Sunday would be one year since my dad died. She seemed not to know what else to say and so we both just said goodbye and have a nice day.

Then I went over and sat on the porch again for a while. I noticed that my daughter had uncovered some of my old high school annuals that she was getting ready to pack. I picked them up and began to read what some people thought about me at that time in my life. I think that will be an interesting blog subject.

After I finished my coffee I drove over to the cemetery. I walked over to Dad's grave and put my new flowers into the holder. Perfect fit, just snug enough to resist the wind. Good idea of someone in that store.

I looked around though and the graves near me all had a lot more impressive arrangements on them. I wondered to myself if I should go buy something bigger and more elaborate. But I decided that would not be in keeping with my parents' frugality.

I sat there on the ground and watched some insects land on the silk flowers. I guess they look pretty real if they attract insects. I chose the arrangement that had a big sunflower in the middle. It isn't very fall like but I think Mom would like the big sunflower. Her favorite flowers were irises but I didn't see any of those. I do not recall Dad favoring any particular flower.

It was nice sitting there in the warmth of the Sun. I remembered all the times that Dad and I came out to visit Mom after she died. We came twice a day for a long time. We would take our clippers and trim the grass around Mom's memorial and all our other family markers. Then we'd walk around and look at other markers and read the names and the dates. We found quite a few we knew.

I noticed there were a lot of people out there in the cemetery doing more or less what I was doing. And what was I doing I thought to myself? And I didn't have much of an answer. But I was just sitting there and it seemed natural as anything.

I noticed the grass had now grown over the soil to nearly hide any signs of the trauma that had happened to it last year. A few scars remain but soon they, too, will be gone.

The warmth of the sun reminded me of last year when I went to Starbucks and sat in the sun on the patio. It was hotter that day but I needed to feel and the heat helped me. Judy drove over to sit with me on the patio. I hadn't expected her but she knew I needed her so she came anyway. I felt so alone last year.

So I sat there on the ground and thought all these things and remembered. I am not lonely this year. That's another thing for which I am so grateful.

Then I drove home.

We had to have some plumbing work done down at the horse trough on Friday and the plumber had to turn the water off at the well. When he got it back on everything was fine except we had no water at our kitchen sink. I knew the problem and how to fix it except I had no tools. So I was going to pick up some of my tools from Dad's house. But the drawer where they were kept had a little sticker on the outside that read "empty." I couldn't get in the garage. So I went by the new house and "borrowed" what I could find laying here and there which wasn't much.

Amazingly though I found enough so I was able to get the water flowing again without creating a greater disaster.

Now we're going down to see the horses and feed them and check their water trough. I'm sure they will be there to help us as they are exceedingly curious creatures. And they love their oats.

Tomorrow I plan on going to church. I am not sure what else I will do.

I won't be on again until Monday. I am having the Internet equivalent of a moment of silence I guess.

Thanks to all my friends for your prayers and best wishes. I love you all.


Lori1955 said...

You were the first thing on my mind when I awoke today. What a beautiful post. I hope today goes well for you and I am so glad you have Judy to share it with. I was happy to hear that you spent some time on the porch this weekend. I was just so fitting.

Annie said...

I'm thinking of you this day, Terry.

~Betsy said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours on this special anniversary.

¸.•*´)ღ¸.•*´Chris said...

We love you too Terry.

Another wonderful, moving post. Thank you for sharing your porch with us this past year. I have enjoyed your insight and most of all your friendship. You have a unique way of looking at things which I admire deeply. Take care, my friend.

rilera said...

Thinking of you Terry. Take care.

Lori1955 said...

OK, this is two days without a post. You are upsetting my morning routine. :) Hope everything is OK.