This is the last photo I have of my dad. It was taken on his 80ith birthday. This was his last good year. Between a major hernia, cancer, dementia plus many viruses the last couple of years were a nightmare for him and for us.
I last saw him around Easter 2010 right after they took away his access to the outside. One of his room-mates had tried to run away and had used the window/door he used to feed his birds. I saw the look in his eye, that was the day his spirit died. Though it took his body another 19 months to do the same.
I did get to see his eyes sparkle with laughter one more time when he beat me at cribbage, a game we both enjoyed. I also got to see his eyes go dull and blank, that is the last image I have of him. First the smile, then when he looked at his lunch tray which held pork & beans I saw the light fade and the darkness of his depression take over his face. He never did like pork & beans much. Probably because of his service time when he worked as a cooks helper
He gave me a box of chocolate as I was leaving. I should have suspected that he had given up at that moment. My dad shared but never gave away all of his chocolate, he had a big, big sweet tooth. As I left I said Good-bye dad, I love you and he actually said he loved me too. Again that should have triggered warning bells, my dad seldom shared his emotions with us.
I went home. I felt sad but at that time I didn't know why. It took several months before it made sense, why I had said good-bye instead of see you later like I usually did. I had accepted his decision to stop fighting and let nature take its course.
Yet despite his orders for no extraordinary measures they resuscitated him twice in that 19 months. I imagine each time he woke up his depression was even deeper than before, I know in his shoes mine would have been. Finally on October 17, 2011 at approx ten to twelve pm he finally beat the doctors and got what he has been waiting for, peace and rest at last.
He told me that last day I saw him that he had spent a large part of his life feeling like he was alone in a crowd as if he didn't belong. For those that don't know that is a classic sign of depression. I do not know if I told him I knew what he was talking about, I was reeling from this one glimpse that explained so much about my dad and the life he had lived.
My dad had spent much of his life drunk or working in isolating jobs. In fact all of his jobs that I know of allowed him to only interact with nature and one or two other persons. His fondest dream was to have a house out in the woods far from civilization of any kind.
He had a great love for country music especially trucker songs, he knew every word to Teddy Bear and Proud Mary as well as many others. I remember it took him forever to give up 8-tracks for cassettes and he never did get the hang of CD's. Right up until his last day in his house he had small Ghetto Blaster to play his tapes on.
I remember I asked him about church and why he didn't go, I remember his words to this day. "What do I need a church for when I can just go out in the woods and talk to him?"
The woods and swamps that were near every house we ever lived in were his church, the birds and the bullfrogs were the choir and a old log or a handy stone was his pew. God was in the whisper of the wind through the trees and in the tinkle of even the smallest stream. That was his spiritual belief and I have since made it my own though I usually don't bother with that nature part, where ever I am God is there too.
I'm betting him and mom are in a place of green grass and pretty flowers. She is dancing and he is either fishing or dancing with her. Rest in peace Dad! I Love You!