Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

A Tribute To My Dad

There are not many people that I have admired over the years on either a personal or historical level. In fact, I can count them all on less than one hand. But one person that I can say I admire the most of all, is my Father. He was born in the 1940’s, did not finish high school (common back in those days), was married with two children, a boy and a girl, and divorced. He would eventually marry a second time expanding the size of his family by double as far as children, get to experience more than a dozen grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

His riches and wealth in his family were what mattered to him most. To my knowledge, up until the day he retired from his most recent full time job just a few years ago, the best salary he had ever seen was just over a mere $22,000. He had a modest home with his wife and a simple compact car. But to him, he had everything.

Because of the divorce at my young age, I never had the chance to really know or spend time with my father. And I missed a lot. He missed a lot too and he knew this. But early in my 20’s, when he decided to marry my stepmother (a formality because in Pennsylvania, they were already common law), my father reached out to me, to make amends. We both recognized that a lot of time had passed, but also knew that it could not be replaced. But from that moment, we started a new relationship and built on that start every day.

Typically, those on the paternal side of my family do not get to live long lives. The inside joke is if you are over 55 and it is Christmas time, you need to make sure you have your will made. But my father did what many of his siblings and parents could not do, he saw his 70th birthday this year. It was a goal that meant much to him. Unfortunately, cancer would overshadow this milestone. My father actually made a comment in his last days that he was 59. And the truth is, he believed it. Perhaps subliminally, he believed it because perhaps recognizing he was 70, and having cancer, he did not want to face the possibility of his mortality.

But his cancer was not the only challenging time of his life. Really, for someone who led such a simple life, he was faced with so many tragedies and crisis, more than anyone should have to experience in one family. His son (me) diagnosed with cancer. His mother dying from cancer, as well as his father. And perhaps the most challenging events of his life occurred one fateful night in December just before Christmas.

My father and stepmother were having an argument about one issue, while having to do some last minute Christmas shopping. They left their house separately, clearly aggravated. My father had left first, walked across the street to his car, then look out his window to see my stepmother crossing the street herself. It was dusk, and neither she, nor the driver saw each other. My father witnessed the accident and blamed himself for the rest of his life, over two decades.

During these decades that he cared for my stepmother, not once did he ever consider placing her into a nursing home. He took “in sickness and in health” to the extreme by staying by her side, concerned about her care up to his dying days, “promise me Shirley will be taken care of.”

When they time came that his health became too much for him to care for her, let alone himself, a decision had to be made. And after forty something years, it looked like for the first time, they would be separate permanently. Some eleventh hour efforts by some county officials, and we were able to arrange for both of them to be placed into the same nursing home. My father got to see that my stepmother was in great hands and care. Over the next two months, he was able to witness just how well she would thrive in the home after he was gone. However, due to the spreading of the cancer to his brain, he remembered only one thing that mattered, he was the one who took care of her. And up until a few weeks ago, he still tried his best to do so.

In a scene that could have well come from “The Notebook”, Shirley was by my father side, holding his hand, letting him know that she would be fine. A week ago, my father passed away. He was a great and honorable man, someone I will always admire.

I miss you Dad.

Farewell To A Great Man

Rest in peace Dad.
January 19, 1944 – May 20, 2014

Please forgive me as I take a few days away from my blog. As you have seen, I have been dealing with several severe issues all at once and it is important for me to take a few moments to gather my thoughts so that I can continue with focus on Paul’s Heart.

A Long Day…A Long Night…A Long Day…And So On

If you asked me fourteen years ago, where I thought I would be today, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought at this very moment. As I got the phone call this morning, my father’s ill health from lung cancer had taken a noticeable turn worse and family was now being called in to his bedside, I was preparing for another major event in my life just as pressing, a custody battle in court tomorrow morning.

As my ex-wife to be fond of criticizing me for, being unable to balance between the needs of my dying father, and my daughters, instead of being able to deal with the important event at the moment, my father’s last breath, because we have not been able to come to terms with each other in regards to custody, I will leave my father’s bedside in the morning, to deal with this issue in court, something that she openly said she would do.

Everyone was here at the nursing home when I had arrived. Hospice had been called in to verify that everything was being done to keep my father comfortable and to see if anything could be done for family members to help us during our time of grief. For the most part, my father has kept his eyes closed, occasionally murmuring some unintelligible noises.

Today, I had to forget about what I had to deal with in court tomorrow, as important as being able to spend time with my daughters is to me. There is no way to know, how many more moments I will have with my father. My sister and brother are here, and many visitors have decided to come in today upon the news that my father may be on his way home to his father, and brothers and sisters.

I pulled out my cell phone to play a video clip from a few weeks ago. I taped my oldest daughter singing “God Bless America” for my father. She was rehearsing for a school performance at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly for a professional hockey game. But it was a moment that I will never forget because of the hugs smile it gave my father, in the darkest of times. I placed the phone to his ear, and you could see twitches deep below the pale, dry skin. He could hear Madison sing and I knew he liked it.

Then it occurred to me, that in all my years of singing, I realized my father had only heard me sing once, a long time ago and a song had come to mind, one that meant a lot to me, and I had hoped for him as well. The night before I mentioned to him that I was so proud to be his son. That he should be proud of who I am, I am the man I am today because of him. He mumbled that he wished he could have done more. And I assured him that he had done plenty.

So this evening I sang the beautiful song to him about a relationship between a father and his son. My parents divorced when I was very young, so I did not get to have the stereotypical relationship with him, but in spite of that, I turned out a lot like him anyway. I sang “Cats In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin. I got choked up often through the song, and what was only a three minute song, took me seven minutes to get through it. But as my sister and stepmother sat in the background, I could see again, my father’s reactions to my voice.

And again, I told my father, it was okay. It was okay to go see his dad. We would take care of his wife until it was her time to reunite with him. It was okay to go see his brothers and sisters. We would miss him a lot, but we know we would see him again some day.

It is all quiet now in the nursing home. There are no bed alarms going off, and in fact, half of the building is now dimly lit. My stepmother is in the room with my father for the night as she wished.

But now, I am preparing for my custody hearing, that I will now have to leave my father’s bedside to attend. Hopefully it will not go long as I feel I have offered a more than fair offer. But had she agreed to it, we would not have to meet yet tomorrow morning.

Make no mistake, my daughters are the most important thing in my life. And it has been the hardest thing in the world to not have the support of my ex-wife, under these circumstances to be understanding that the time that I have been spending with my father in his dying days has been just as important. I will not have many more days with him.

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