Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Last Farewell with my Dad

According to usembassy.gov, “The United States is one of the few countries in the world that has an official day on which fathers are honored by their children. On the third Sunday in June, fathers all across the United States are given presents, treated to dinner or otherwise made to feel special.”

Fittingly, June 17th will be a special day – we get to celebrate (and if possible, “spoil”) our fathers. For me and my brother, however, we will probably do what we have done for the past sixteen years – amid good-hearted laughter and reverence, celebrate our Dad in our own spiritual way.

In my latest pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom... You Gotta Love 'Em, I share with the reader my last farewells with both of my now-deceased parents. If you go to the book’s website, you can read 10 Sample Chapters of the book. Nonetheless, in honor of my Dad, William G. Emener (1920-1990), I herewith want to share that “Last Farewell” with my Dad with you.

* * * * * * * * * *

My Dad—May 1990

On a Friday morning, just before the sun peeked over the horizon, the phone rang. As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew. “The hospital just called,” George choked. “He died in his sleep.”

A few hours later, I sank down in my seat on the 747 bound to Newark from Tampa. First, I thought about the impending funeral and everything associated with it, such as how I wanted to be the rock for my mom, brother, and rest of the family. My thoughts soon floated, however, to the last time I had seen my dad.

Four months prior to that day in May, I flew up to New Jersey to spend a long weekend with my parents. Knowing that my father had been in bad health and was getting worse, phone calls and visits had become more frequent. From the moment I arrived that Thursday evening until I left that Sunday afternoon, I spent as much time as I could talking with my father. As everyone was well aware, Dad summarily refused to see a doctor or even discuss his medical problems. He was the poster-child for a generation that didn’t believe in doctors.

Shortly after lunch on Sunday, my suitcase was placed in Mom’s car, where she and my brother sat, warming up the engine. I deliberately lagged behind to have a moment alone with my dad.

As I stood looking down at my father sitting in “his” chair, I could tell that he didn’t want to get up. His back and legs must be hurting him again, I thought. I bent down to give him a hug, but he quickly took my hand instead and held me at bay. Finally, I just looked deep into his eyes and said, “I love you, Dad.”

After briefly yet lovingly peering back at me with his tired, sunken eyes, Dad glanced out the window and said, “You know that damned snow’s still coming down. You’d better get going before it gets any worse.”

With a sheepish “Okay, Pop,” I backed through the living room door, closed it, and got in the car next to my brother. Mom was in the back. I then looked up and saw my father standing at the window, waving delicately to me.

Just as my brother was about to put the car in gear, I shouted, “Hold it!” and got out of the car. I vaulted up the porch steps, zipped through the door, and stood there, four feet away from my father.

“What’d ya’ forget?” he asked.

Ignoring his question, I looked at my father’s feeble body, skinnier than I had ever seen it, and said, “I want a hug, Dad.”

He stood silently, half hunched over, probably hoping I was joking.

“I’m serious, Pop. I want a hug.”

“You’re gonna miss your plane!”

“Dad, I know you’ve always loved me. But I don’t remember you ever giving me a hug. I want one. Now.”

“If you miss that plane…”

“I’m not leaving until you give me a hug.”

He knew I was serious. He inched toward me, and when he looked up at me, I could tell he didn’t know where to put his arms around my six-foot-two frame. Trying to be helpful, I put my arms around his shoulders. As uncomfortable as I knew it was for him, he finally gave in and put his arms around my waist. When I again murmured, “I love you, Dad,” I could feel his gentle hug in return.

I backed away slowly, and when I got to the door, my dad looked at me through welling eyes. “Me too,” he said.

As I closed the car door and put on my seatbelt, my brother asked, “Forget something?”

“Nope,” I said. “Not this time.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Question: Up to now, or what was, your “most memorable moment” with your Dad?

Bill

12 comments:

Andie said...

My most memorable moments with my Dad were when I was teenager. My Dad was a physician, so we didn't get much quality time. And when he was home it was rare that he was awake and up to hanging out. I was thrilled when my Dad started working on drag cars. He let me tag along when he went to the shop and races. I loved every minute. I learned alot about racing and just as much about my Dad.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Andie,
Thanks for visiting and sharing your experiences with your Dad. Interestingly, in one my self-help books, “Adult Loving Relationships,” I talk about “time” – we’re constantly running out of it, we can’t replace it, and we never know when we’ll not have any anymore. And while in that book I am talking about significant-other relationships, I believe it also is true for children – the most meaningful thing you can give to your children is your time.” (And you know that in spades!) I hasten to say, moreover, that that is also true for children (especially adult children) – the most meaningful thing you can give to your parents is your time.
Thanks again, Andie… you surfaced an excellent pearl of wisdom,
Bill

Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

My favorite memories of my dad were (are still) our holidays. My dad is pretty fun to travel with (not so much fun to live with!!). Our last holiday we went on was two summers ago and 13 of us drive to Maine and stayed in cabins. We wanted to make sure we got in a trip with all of us as adults, just in case something happened- we didn't want to regret not doing it. Maine will always remind me of my father. We did a road trip to Florida as well when we were little and that is such a great memory for me :)

I even planned my summer holidays this year to go to Maine at the same time as him so we can pop over and visit him or maybe get a day at the beach together!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello MHT,
Thank you for sharing your wonderfully memorable moments with your Dad. There are so many “wonderful” things about it – for example: you appreciate the memories, you embrace them with your Dad, and you continue to simultaneously enrich your memories and add to them with new ones. Needless to say, I’m happy with and for you!
With all best wishes and regards to you and your Dad,
Bill

DH said...

My dad died when I was seven years old. What I remember most is being about 4 years old and him referring to a TV show, he casually mentioned..."well, everyone dies someday". I cried, and cried, and cried. He had to go to work,and I stayed in the chair in the living room crying, despite my mom trying to console me. Eventually I went to bed. He came home at 11pm and sat on the side of my bed, asking if I was afraid that I would die. I said "no". He asked if I was afraid that mommy and daddy would die? I started crying all over again. He did the best he could telling me..."mommy and daddy are not going to die for a very long time. You will be all grown up taking care of yourself then". I felt better. He then died a few years later. I didn't understand the value of this lesson until much later in life. He taught me that parents are people, doing the best they can to comfort and care for their children. It is not necessarily about the action of love, but the love behind the act.
To all the Dad's out there: Have a
Happy Father's Day. DH

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello DH,
Thank you for sharing that powerful experience you had with your Dad. It also reminds me of a story I tell in my book about the time when I had waxed my car the day before and was readying to go out on a date. When I came out of the shower, my Dad was washing my car. I got angry, "I just waxed it yesterday, and now look what he's doing!" I said. "I'm going to tell him..."
My Mom softly interrupted me and said, "Bill, your Dad's trying to be helpful. And sometimes the intent is more important than the deed."
It sounds like what you felt from your Dad -- his love ad intent -- was more meaningful to you than what he actually may have said. Cool!
Isn't is amazing how much we realize, as we get older, the extent to which our parents' fingerprints are all over us.
Thanks again, DH,
Bill

Cole said...

Ok this time I KNEW there were going to be tears... :) I know no relationship is without trials and issues, but it sounds like you were able to have pretty good ones with your parents... even if this meant you had to work at it. It is awesome to read this and note it. Thank you very much for sharing.

Cole

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Cole,
Thank you... it's always nice to hear that others appreciate what I have experienced and share.
Yes, my parents were wonderful people. As you point out, nonetheless, I did have to occasionally help them to be the wonderful parents they were. Children don't come with an instruction book. And I vividly remember as my children were growing up, I once had an awakening when my older daughter said to me, "Dad, you have been a wonderful Daddy -- I feel blessed. But now that I'm getting older, I don't need a Daddy... I need a father." Yep, back to square one. And since that time I occasionally have said to my children, "I want to be the best father for you that I can be... but I need your help. What would you like me to do... even if that is nothing?"
Wow, this could go on and on...
Thanks Cole,
Bill

Ava Rose Johnson said...

I think mine's gotta be when my Dad taught me to drive. It was a nightmare but at the end we were pretty damn proud of ourselves. It was great!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Ava,
Thank you for stopping by and sharing your memorable time with your Dad. In addition to teaching you something, he gave you something very valuable in life -- his time. It's also so neat that it still resonates in your memory.
I'll look for you again,
Bill

Nienke said...

Okay, tears in my eyes. This is one of my greatest fears, losing my parents. Your story is very moving, Bill. Thx for sharing and reminding me how special my parents are. (I do hug and kiss them often and tell them I love them on a daily basis... albeit on the chat lines!)
I'm a lucky one because all parties work hard at the relationship!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Nienke,
Thanks for sharing your experience with your parents. You are very fortunate – you have them AND appreciate the preciousness of the time you can have with them. And as a parent of three adult children, I can tell you with confidence: your going out of your way to stay connected with them means so much to them!
Enjoy the ride and enjoy sharing it with your Mom and Dad!
Thanks Nienke( also appreciate your kind words regarding my story),
Bill