TL;DR: Talking about saying goodbye to my parents. This is train of thought babbling.
(2500 words)

How do you start saying goodbye? I start with who they were and who they are.

Robert was born in 1936. His father was a PhD. During WWII, grandfather was exempted because he was busy inventing new ways to use cotton in the war effort. Grandfather was a farm boy at heart. Because of his interest in cotton and farming, he purchased a “gentleman’s farm” where he raised crops.

As a gentleman’s farm, it was run by an actual farmer while grandfather did his research.

Dad grew up traveling. He spent a summer in agony at that farm. Turns out that dad is highly allergic to poison ivy. He didn’t know it at the time. His first task at arriving was to “fix up” one of the old sharecropper/slave shacks. That required removing all the “English ivy” that was overrunning the shack.

It wasn’t “English Ivy”. It was, indeed, poison ivy. And dad had it bad.

He finished out his summer, went home and on to collage at the University of Wisconsin. There he meet his wife to be, Prue.

He graduated with a degree in engineering as well as a commission in the U.S. Navy, having done ROTC during his four years at collage.

His first trip to sea was upon the U.S.S. Wisconsin, BB-64. We have wonderful copies of the pictures he took during that cruise. He also did a cruise on the USS Boston CAG-1

While stationed out in California, Prue went out to visit him. Grandma Bloom told my mother, “If he asks you to marry him, don’t be a fool.”

Yes, mom still jokes about that statement. Would she be a fool if she said “yes” or was the foolish answer to say “no”?

We don’t know which it was, but they did get married.

Their troubles began when mom became infected with a parasite. The doctors took care of her for the next nine months before she was able to divest herself of the internal parasite, which has continued to exist to this day.

I.e. I was born.

Dad wanted to be a Naval Aviator, he was transferred to Pensacola, Florida. His eyesight wasn’t good enough for pilot, but he started training to be back seat. He was removed from the program for medical reasons.

He became a surface weapons officer. He was transferred to the USS Hanson, DDR-832. He spent time in West Pac. During this time, or shortly after, we were stationed in Norfolk, Va.

This is where my memories start. The gist of those memories was that my childhood was wonderful. My parents were loving, caring and good.

Prue had a teaching degree out of the University of Wisconsin. When public schooling wasn’t working for me, she augmented it with at home instructions.

Today, we know that I am a high function autistic with dyslexia and small motor control issues. Translation: I couldn’t read at grade level until 4th or 5th grade. My handwriting is shit, and my spelling worse.

Mom is the person who got me through those early years, working to help me learn to read. Books were always a part of my childhood.

While we did move every 2 or 3 years, there was a consistent “home”. My mom’s childhood home. Most years we spent Christmas in Wisconsin, at my grandparent’s home.

Years later, I was riding my bike west and took a detour from I-68 to US-40, going through the hills of Western Virginia. I rode that rode to “The Hairpin”. I stopped there and wondered because I could remember this same place from my childhood. My parents driving US-40.

It wasn’t uncommon for us to spend part of our summers in Wisconsin. I was able to shoot a shotgun with my uncle. Mostly, I remember the attitude of “can do” and “go for it.”

My first wife was sexually abused as a child. She did not have that can do attitude. My second wife was also sexually and mentally abused as a child.

Her mother taught her many bad habits. The worse of which was, “if you don’t try, you can’t fail.” There were so many things that she wouldn’t do for fear of failure.

That wasn’t my parents. I cannot recall a single thing that I wanted to try that I wasn’t encouraged to try.

We went down the beach in Rhode Island, we ran out of beach, ocean to one side, steep cliff to the other. I didn’t want to give up. I started climbing the cliff. I was about 1/4 of the way up when a rope came over the top. Dad, mom, and my brother had walked back to the car, dad had gotten the line he kept there, they had walked back along the path at the top of the path.

Once there, dad calmly tossed that rope over the side, had me tie off, trusting me to do it correctly because he had taught me to do it correctly. He then had me on belay for the rest of the climb.

The humorous part of that climb was when I got to the top. Mom was worried that dad wouldn’t be able to hold me. She took the end of the line and tied it to a sturdy fence post. The funny part was that if dad had lost me, I would have hit the beach below, before the “safety” mom had tied would have gone tight.

But that was my parents. Their kid was going to go up the cliff? OK. Let’s make it as safe as possible, after evaluating the situation for overall safety.

My grandpa built the garage, he built parts of the house. When it was time to put in the kitchen counters, he had his wife stand to knead bread. Those counters were precisely the right height for mom’s mom. He taught my brother and me simple carpentry.

That means that when we spent 6 months in my “hometown” while dad was on USS Long Beach, CG-9 keeping the MIGs grounded, we made our own kid sized chairs and tables.

Mom was a substitute science teacher for while dad was on that cruise. We missed dad, but I never felt like I was deprived. We would receive small reel to reel tapes that he recorded while he was aboard ships. We would listen to his voice and know how much he loved us.

My mother imbued a love of reading in me. I don’t read as much fiction as I used too. I still read thousands of pages a month.

Around 3rd grade, I started wearing glasses. That summer, I can remember sitting downstairs on the cool floor reading the Oz books. All of them. Cover to cover. Starting at around 0800 and only stopping for bathroom breaks and food.

Mom was there with more books as I finished each book.

She introduced me to Heinlein. She introduced me to the rest of the masters.

Throughout all of my childhood, my parents were there for me.

When we moved from RI to MD, my world went to shit. We moved about 4 weeks after I started 6th grade.

The public schools had recently finished integrating. Every day, when I got up, I had to wait for the bus and then ride the bus 20 miles to the closest middle school. There were four or five white kids on that bus. By the time we finished picking up the rest of the riders, that bus was packed.

When I got to school, we went into our classrooms. Instead of each individual student going from class to class, as needed for them. We were all assigned a “class” and the class moved as a whole from teacher to teacher.

Class “A” had 29 white kids and one black. Class “F” had 35 black kids, no white. Guess which class was considered collage bound?

Even in the “smart class”, I didn’t learn anything. There wasn’t a single subject that I hadn’t learned in RI in the previous years.

Seems that when they integrated they had a choice, hold every black back two or more years or dumb down the curriculum so that every white was held back two years, but it wasn’t called “holding back”.

Moreover, I was bullied and picked on. It was the only time I remember not wanting to go to school.

Mom and Dad knew how bad it was. They tried everything to get it fixed. Nothing worked.

Instead, they figured out how to send my brother and me to a local Catholic school. Yeah, I spent 2 or 3 years in Catholic school.

Mom and Dad gave up just about all of their fun for those years. My brother and I didn’t notice. We just knew that we were no longer in that cesspool that was public education.

My parents were even able to purchase nice 10 speed bikes for us, so we could ride our bikes to school instead of having to walk the couple of miles.

Back in RI, my mother managed to blowup the engine of the VW Bus. Dad learned how to repair engines and rebuilt that engine. He did that with me hanging over his shoulder as he taught me mechanics as he fixed that engine.

In MD, I was able to purchase a Yamaha MX-80. I learned how to tear it down and repair it. Dad made sure I had the tools needed. It wasn’t until years later, I recognized just how much he invested in tools that I was allowed to use.

I was supported by my parents as I made a business of repairing my friends’ bikes and tuning them. Once a month, we went up to DC to the commissary and for me to see the orthodontist. Mom always made time for me to go to the bike shop to buy parts.

100% support. I never knew that 7th graders don’t have engine repair businesses.

When I killed a duck with my BB gun, my father was there that evening when I broke and started crying my eyes out. I didn’t have the BB gun taken away from me. Dad let me learn to honor all life that night.

We moved to VA. They gave me the 1967 VW Bus with over 500k miles on it as my car when I got my license. I drove that car until 1987, when I traded it in for a TransAm.

When it was time to work on that bus, dad was there as needed, but it was me and my friend who did the work. The safety net was always there. It is easy to risk it all when the net is there.

Years later, my brother and I were pulling the engine from the bus when something went wrong. The jacks fell, and I was holding the engine over my head while bro held the tail pipes. Dad was on the garage steps. He started to say something.

I asked him to shut up. He snapped his mouth shut, stood and went inside to wait for the outcome.

Bro and I said, “It’s going back in. On three.” A short count down and a lift by me, a shove by my brother and that engine slid back into place.

Once we had the engine safely out. I went to talk to dad and apologize for snapping at him. He took it graciously.

Think about the self-control he showed that day. His son is under the car and if that engine he is holding up falls, it could mean the death of his son. You want to help, you want to do something, anything. And what you are told is, “get out of our way.”.

He did. I’ve never been prouder of my father than that day. But it was him. 100% support for his family, but the net was always there.

They helped get me in to University and helped with the costs. I paid about 90%, but that was because I was stubborn and stupid. Not because they weren’t there for me.

They supported me through all the bad women I brought home. And told me that I had it right when I found my wife.

When I had had enough, it was dad I talked to. Mom is the emotional one. But it was Dad I turned to that night. I asked him to join me at the bar. He didn’t do bars as far as I know.

As I dumped my soul on the table, he kept me stable and again gave me the support I needed. Not more, not less, just what I required.

When I separated from my wife, mom and dad were there for me. When I divorced my second wife, they were there for me.

They have always been there. Their love has been unqualified.

Last week, we went home to see them for them.

Mom was waiting up. She didn’t know me but pretended. She made me as welcome as she always had. She was snarky about my poorly maintained beard. She made my wife and children feel at home.

She was addicted to cigarettes from a young age, she gave them up, then went back to smoking. When we arrived, she was sitting at the counter, but not smoking. When she told me she was going to light up, I told her I would have to move to another part of the living room.

This woman, with dementia, made the choice not to smoke around me.

Dad’s hearing was shot from an early age. He is deaf at this point. His hearing aids require outside mics to give him a chance.

Mom and dad interacted in a way that I had always known of them. Mom taking care of him, not hearing. Yet accepting that she had no memory.

There were times during the visit where I went to the bedroom to wipe the tears from my eyes.

Dad spent time talking about some things going on. He ate well while we were there.

We left on Wednesday morning for home. We got home on Thursday morning. I was mostly recovered from the visit and started writing this post.

On Sunday, dad went to wake up mom and couldn’t. He called bro, who is a surgeon, who had him call 911. Mom was dead.

The only bright thing that I’ve heard from there was that Dad went out to dinner with bro and family because he wanted to.

My safety net is breaking. My heart is broken. It is difficult to write because things keep getting blury.

I worry about Dad.

I love my parents. I am so lucky to have had them for as long as I have. I would not give up a single instant of time I spent with them or spent with them in my thoughts.

If you got this far, thank you. For me, give your kids a hug, give your parents a hug.

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By awa

7 thoughts on “The Last Visit”
  1. It’s hard when they go; it’s so hard. Even when they “weren’t themselves”, it’s hard. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.

  2. Although I have no children of my own, I’ve been fortunate enough to foster and surrogate 2 delightful boys. Your dad sounds like the father figure I hope to be for these guys. Thank you for sharing

  3. My condolences, and a hat tip to your parents for really actually BEING PARENTS.

    I had a hard time reading the screen by the time I got to the of your ‘babbling.’

    We no longer have either set of parents with us any more, and it was tough each time one passed, and I miss them all.

    My mom died back in 2011 of a heart attack. We had some warning about a week before that something was up, but she refused to go in. Dad was a doctor, (Veterinarian,) and he saw what was coming, but she adamantly refused to go in.

    I got the call on a Sunday night from Dad. She stood up from her desk, hit the floor, and that was it.

    Notified our kids and we all headed over.

    It was a pretty tough few days.

    Dad passed when he was 95 about three years ago during the scam-demic. He had gone into an assisted living center about five years previously as he’d fallen and broken his leg, and lived alone at the time.

    Mentally, he was still pretty sharp. He usually got 10 to 20 visitors a week pre COVID, and then the lockdown went into full force. I could get him out for doctor appointments, but that was it. We would play hooky before and after the doc shop, and go to a drive through or something for a burger or treat.

    I got a call from the center that he’d started refusing to eat anything, and they were going to put him on hospice, which allowed me to visit him. He said he was tired of living and just didn’t feel like going on anymore since he couldn’t see any of the friends that used to visit. He would drink some water, but that was it.

    They put him in a hospital bed that hospice brought to his ‘apartment’ and he promptly tripped over the end of the bed when he was trying to change the window blinds. I’m 95% sure he broke his hip in the fall. That was a Friday night, and they started giving him morphine for the pain.

    A friend of ours, (more like a brother to me,) threatened to put a ladder up on the outside of the center so he could climb up to the window just so he could see ‘Doc’ one more time. Oookayy. Can’t have that.

    Called hospice and arraigned for another hospital bed to be put in the living room of his house.

    They moved him Saturday afternoon. I called every one I could think of to let them know to come by the house to say good bye.

    COVID be dammed.

    Sunday, at least a hundred plus people showed up, and he knew them all. Couldn’t really talk very well, as the morphine was really kicking in. Monday, maybe 20 people showed up, and he acknowledged that they were there, and that was about it.

    Tuesday evening we were eating dinner where we had a line of sight into the living room, and an RN friend of ours (who along with her husband had came over on Saturday to help,) poked me in the ribs with her elbow and gestured to Dad in bed.

    Got up from the table and went over to the bed. He had started what’s called Cheyne-Stokes breathing, (rapid breathing followed by periods of apnea,) and within about 10 minutes passed peacefully away.

    The hospice nurses had NEVER heard of ANYONE doing what we did. (Which, to me, is really a sad statement of our society today.)

    Dad always wanted to be at home with friends and family when the time came, and I damn sure was going to do what I could to make that happen.

    Damn. Hard to see the screen again…

    Again, sorry for your loss. Make the best of the time you have left with your dad.

  4. Did not read your tale: my mother died in 2021 alone in ICU, because…well, let us call them “visiting policies”. She was in her 101st year. Had been hospitalized from her home, after falling and breaking her hip.

    Still fresh. I’m still…well, let us call it “praying”…for the assholes who were “running” things.

    May The Almighty remember every. single. one. of their transgressions, and reward them accordingly.

    For you, AWA, and your family, I pray that you all get solace, and tranquility, and the “nicest” outcome that you all can get.

  5. “This is train of thought babbling.”
    .
    No such thing when it comes to dealing with the death of a loved one. It is all good.
    Our memories remain. Cherish them.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

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