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Sunday, February 26, 2012

One Year

Once upon a time, my mom was a young college student who fell in love with a funny and sweet man.

Life being the way it is, things happened that separated them, and they went different directions in life.

More than 30 years later, my mom received an email** that would change her life. This sweet man from all those years ago had gone looking for her and had found her through their college alumni association. They emailed back and forth for years, visited from time to time, and just generally became best friends.

**Edited to add a correction from my mom. That first contact was a phone call, not an email. She didn't sign up for an email account until after that first phone call - so they could email each other after that.

As time passed, they realized that the love they used to have for each other was still there and was growing day by day.

Then, in 2000, 38* years after they first fell in love, they decided to get married, despite the fact that his work kept him in Washington (state) and hers kept her in Montana.

*I think that's the right number. You may need to correct me on that part, Mom.

They spent the majority of the first two years of their marriage living apart. One of them would travel to be with the other during Christmas and summers, and any other time they could. They racked up a LOT of frequent flyer miles in those days!

Eventually, Mom retired and moved to Washington, and they were able to really start their life together.

As time went along, he gradually changed from "My Step-Dad" or "My Mother's Husband" to being "My Dad".

After a few years, they bought a house together, and were inspired to buy one that was all on one level in case something were to happen to one of them.

In the fall of 2005, that Something did happen. Dad's heart basically decided it didn't want to be in one piece anymore. It was touch-and-go for a long time whether or not he would even be able to live through it. The survival statistics of his heart issue and follow-up surgery were scary. He lived, but, in the time it took to rush him to the hospital and get into surgery to repair the damage, he lost enough blood flow to the lower half of his body that he would never be able to walk again.

Doors were widened and ramps were added in their otherwise, wheelchair friendly home, and Dad was able to go home. Dad stayed cheerful and optimistic as he learned how to do the things he loved even though he didn't have use of his legs. He eventually even found a place where he could continue his beloved salmon fishing while remaining in his wheelchair!

So much in my parents' lives were a challenge, but they got through it together with love and humor and a very touching close friendship. My mother, the retired teacher, started her new "career" as a home nurse, taking care of Dad's needs. Mom became a master in wound treatment as they dealt with the things that would come up from Dad's physical challenges, and was even able to teach a few nurses a thing or two about how it was done!

After a while, the continuous strain on Dad's heart got to be too much for his body. The lack of blood flow through his body affected his lungs and his brain. Oxygen tanks provided some relief for his troubles for a while, but eventually, he just couldn't take anymore.

One year ago today, February 26, 2011, Dad went Home to his Father in Heaven.

My parents didn't have an easy married life. In the 10 1/2 years they had together, over half of it was spent dealing with his health issues. But those more than 5 years were a gift. Statistically, Dad should have died in 2005. Instead, they were able to spend those last few years together, strengthening each other with their love and respect.

I feel privileged to have known him and greatly blessed to know that he loved me as if I were his own flesh and blood.

I love you, Dad. And I miss you so very much. You truly were our family's patriarch and leader. You loved us, took care of us, gave wonderful advice when needed and provided humor through all of it. Thank you for loving my mother.


Joan said...

38 years is correct, but his first contact with me 35 years after we first met was not by email because I didn't have it yet. He called me and that's how our romance began again. But because he had internet that motivated me to get it and set up an email account so we could stay in touch more often.

MTGrace said...

I missed that part of the story! Thanks for the correction, Mom. :)