My dad passed away three days ago, on September 2, 2021. He was fine the night before, and gone in the morning. He had a heart device that must have gone off and sent a signal to the local Veteran’s hospital, because the sheriff and an ambulance showed up before anyone realized there was a problem. Little AoA had gone in his room to say good morning, and noticed that he was really cold…..
My dad was born on March 23, 1943, in Virginia. There were many, many chapters in his life…..but my favorite is the chapter that started 13 years ago.
He and my mom made the decision to move from Florida to Tennessee, to live near me, as I was about to give birth (at the age of 42), to their 6th grandchild, who I affectionately refer to as “Little AoA”. I begged a little, but it didn’t take a lot.
Once Little AoA was born, I dutifully returned to work when she was 6 weeks old. My parents took on a co-parenting role with me. Every morning, I would bundle up the baby, and take her to my parents house. My dad spent a lot of time holding a sleeping baby. He participated in early intervention therapy for years with Little AoA, joining my mom in taking her to various therapies and pre-school.
When Little AoA was just three, my dad took me and my two youngest kids into his home, as we made an escape from our abusive home. He became our protector, our refuge, and our rock. When it was time to meet the ex-husband at court as he attempted to lie and bully to take our kids, my dad was there beside me. I felt so loved and supported…..after years of being told how worthless, dumb, and disposable I was.
For the next several years, my dad battled medical issues that sent him in and out of the hospital. He had received a quad bypass many years earlier, so we all knew that medical issues were serious for him. During one of his emergency room trips, his heart stopped, and he was revived by a team of healthcare workers. This was our second chance at life with my dad. The rehab wasn’t easy, and took a long time. Finally, he arrived at a place of stability. The things that hurt were going to hurt, but were manageable.
He took on a passive lifestyle, and did little things that brought him joy. He restored and built guitars, of which we now have many. He restored old amplifiers, of which we now have many….he liked buying broken laptop computers and making them work again.
My dad instilled a love of music to not only my sister and me, but to all of his grandkids. His hope was always to have at least one who would make music with him…..he finally got that….in Little AoA. Around the age of 10, Little AoA fell completely in love with old country music. She especially loved Dolly Parton, and the mountain instruments. Dad and her ordered and played with many different stringed instruments. No one knew how she came to connect so deeply with the music of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, and so many others from that era….but we all embraced it. For the last three years of my dad’s life, he spent a lot of time making music with Little AoA. Homeschooling started at that time, so once again, Little AoA spent a lot of time with him. She loved her Papa so, so much. She gave him love and hugs all the time.
We took time to appreciate the little moments more in his last years on earth. After his last health emergency, there were home health nurses for a while. As they phased out, I took on the roll of doing the monthly pill sort. At first, dad stayed with me to make sure I did it correctly. As months went on, this became our monthly time to catch up with each other. We used this precious time to talk about our thoughts and concerns for our family members and the state of the world. There was always a plan by the end of the pill sorting….a peaceful path forward.
As we all make a path forward in our lives, there is an emptiness. We will carry dad in our hearts and minds always….he will always be part of our lives.