I came to my parents’ house on Wednesday -that was the day my self imposed “quarantine” ended. Daddy had been having one bad day after another, and I knew Mama was in need of support. I just wanted to be as safe as I could, so I wanted to observe my self imposed quarantine, before going to my parents’ home. I do not think I came a minute too soon.
Daddy has mostly been in bed since I arrived. To say he is doing poorly, is an understatement. I am so thankful, he is peaceful and rarely shows any sign of distress. When he does wake, we are with him. we can hardly understand anything he says recently . . .but the first day, he told me a story. It was new to me, but Mama confirmed it.
I was telling daddy about Tres, who we all think is so much like my dad-in looks and actions. Of course, regular readers know, that I was bragging about how well Tres was doing in school, how impressed the professors were, how he was helping one of them, with the new remote process of classes-oh, I went on and on. Daddy listened and then said “I was the smartest.” I smiled and said “you are so smart, and always have been.” He said again “I was the smartest.” Mama chimed in and said “He was the “valedictorian”. The story was that Daddy had been sent a letter declaring him this honor. He remembered sitting at the kitchen table with Grandmama reading it-and how happy they both were. When he walked in the school for graduation, and to receive his award, he was approached by- in his words – “a mean old lady that worked at the school”, who promptly informed him, he had missed too many days to be valedictorian, and it would go to another student.
Daddy said he had missed a good thirty days of school, because he had to help with farming. Grandaddy was quite unreliable, while my own dad was growing up and so my Uncle Randy and my dad as young boys had to work tirelessly to “save that farm”. The odds were stacked against daddy ever being a graduate, and especially a valedictorian. I was proud and heartbroken all at once. I was quite angry, too, I still am. In fact . . if I knew that “mean old ladys’ name, I would tell you and the rest of the world, too. I am just that shallow, at times.
Some of the days have been very quiet. Neighbors and friends call, all offering to help in any way they can. Folks have dropped off all sorts of foods, on the porch. Only the immediate family comes in and even then, we take precautions. When daddy awakens, we all take turns visiting with him. I told someone this was one beautiful, holy and sorrowful time.
I have spent a good deal of time, quietly. I relive my childhood memories, trying to tuck every detail of Daddy, deeply, in my heart.
I look across the fields of winter wheat at the woods, where we gathered leaves for the annual leaf collection projects at school. I wondered if children still do that. I look at the big sky . . .and remember those kites. There is a curve, just before my parents’ home, and I could still see him rounding that bend, coming home from work and all of us running wildly to Mama, proclaiming his arrival. It was a wonderful time, in those days when ” a daddy came home.” Groups of playing children would become smaller and smaller, as children ran home at the sight of their daddy coming home.
We used to look at constellations and in those days, you could see the “Milky Way” on clear nights. As a child I imagined running across the sky on that starry path. I never see the milky way over the rabbitpatch, without remembering Daddy calling us out to see that streak of silver across the night sky.
And then there are the birds . . .Country children were well versed in bird and birdsong identification, when I was a child. It was considered as essential to learn as your “ABC’s”. The lessons were not formal and so we cheerfully learned the songs of the woodland birds quite naturally . . .in the evenings, after supper.
The days run on like a soft, melancholy tune. Both of my sisters and a brother in law came and so sometimes “there are shining moments”. How much dimmer the days would be without them.
On Saturday, Brant and Tres came. When they left, the house and yard were clean, and both of them got in a visit with their grand daddy. When they left, daddy fell in to a deep sleep .
That was the last day, that daddy tended to earthly business. The next two days were long and grim. We tucked “miniature prayer shawls” in his hands and waited . . .for God. God was not in a hurry and so the somber hours dragged by.
Easter day was mild and full of shine. Daddy slept, while the dogwoods bloomed. That is about all I have to say about Easter this year.
On Easter Monday, we knew the time was almost nigh. I asked God to show daddy something so beautiful, that daddy would want to leave. I told Daddy, that he didn’t have a thing to worry about, for he had given us all that we needed for our own journeys. I mentioned how grand it was to be left such an inheritance of things that “moth and rust will not corrupt”, as birds, and trees and stars do not fade with time, nor diminish in value but instead remain pure and easily passed on to my own children . . and all those children, yet to come. . . Still, daddy lingered. The evening was a melancholy time. I sat on the porch and remembered that Tres had been listening to Daddys favorite music. Jenny had asked earlier if Daddy had music as he slept. I thought to go sing to daddy. I went to his bedside, to find Delores sitting and singing so quietly to daddy. I asked her to sing with me. Connie came in a few minutes later, and she joined us. Mama came next. None of us planned it, but somehow , we all ended up gathering at his bedside, singing the old hymns. Within about twenty minutes, Daddy true, to his nature, left peacefully. We sang him “all the way home”. It was beautiful, holy and sorrowful.