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My Dad

Yes, that’s me in the photo, probably around 1967-1968. I’m guessing, because my dad was tying my shoes. I feel like surely I learned how to tie my own shoes by age 5, which would’ve been 1969. My dad and I had what I would call a very good relationship. Both stubborn to a fault, we would often butt heads, but underneath there was also strong love, mutual admiration, and respect. I feel like I spent an inordinate amount of time growing up assisting my dad on projects. I was the honorary flashlight holder, screwdriver passer, and listener to all the random curses he uttered in his frustration. When I graduated from nursing school my dad told me that they would figure out how to send me to medical school if I wanted to, but I’d have to live at home because they couldn’t afford to pay for my room and board too. I was so ready to be out on my own that I of course made the snap decision that I was going to be a nurse and go off and live my life. The fact that my father (both parents, but my mama is another story) believed in me enough that he was willing to find a way to put me through medical school was a very profound moment in my life that has never left me. When I married David and moved to Memphis, TN, we traveled home to visit my family after quite a long span of time had passed. When we got to my parents’ home, my dad was lying on his back, head stuck under the kitchen sink, fixing a leak. When he realized we had arrived, he struggled mightily to get up, and David ended up having to help him. I literally had to leave the room, because tears had popped up in my eyes. My father had gotten old while I wasn’t looking, and that was so very hard for me to see and accept. But he was still Dad. He no longer could wrangle the cattle he worked with for years on the cattle ranch I grew up on, had lower back pain, horrible arthritis in his poor hands, moved slow, had had to give up golf, and seemed to be shrinking. But he was still Dad. He could still convince you that whatever he had just told you was the God’s Honest Truth, still never knew a stranger, could still make a mean pot of shrimp Alfredo pasta, and was the Master of Fish Fries. He’d still call you super early on your birthday because he needed to be the first person to say Happy Birthday to you.

My dad had a stroke on January 4th, 2016. I will always wonder if he’d not resisted participating in PT and OT if he would have recovered enough to have a pretty darn good, if lessened, life. But he’d lost all the things he loved the most. He couldn’t talk, and Lord knows he needed to tell his stories. He couldn’t pass the swallow study, so couldn’t eat and that was a love of his. He couldn’t drive, and couldn’t go visit my mama. So I get it, Dad. Not much of the life you loved was left.

He left us March 9, 2016. I still miss him every single day. But I have zero regrets. I encourage everyone to “get your houses in order”. Call your parents, family. Tell them you love them. Go for visits. Give the hugs. Mend the fences. Live a regret-free life. You can’t go back and get a do-over once they’re gone. I know this is probably obvious, but time goes by and your next day isn’t guaranteed. Don’t wait.

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