Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My daddy called me sweetheart

My house is quiet this morning. Too quiet, really. No one is ringing the doorbell to bring by flowers or food. No one is calling to offer their condolences. My sister and her family are back at their home in South Carolina. My children are in school, and my husband's at work. So it's just me, sitting at home, trying to heal my exhausted body and spirit, not to mention a broken heart. But my mind is never too far away from my dear daddy, who died Friday morning after a hard battle with Alzheimer's. Although he struggled in his last days, he died quietly in his own bedroom.
I miss Daddy more than words can describe. I was most certainly a daddy's girl. Actually, I don't want to use past tense for that. Not yet. I AM most certainly a daddy's girl.
I loved everything about my daddy, from the smell of his Speed Stick deodorant to the gentle way he treated my beloved mother, who was showing signs of Alzheimer's seven or eight years before he was.
I grieve for him on so many levels. He was my safety net; he was the constant in my life. He was the person I called for advice. The person I respected and worked hard to emulate. He was, I guess, my idol. My hero. My daddy.
Up until the the day before he died, my daddy called me sweetheart. Every time I walked in his bedroom Thursday and stood by his side at the austere, yet practical, hospital bed that had been moved in earlier in the week, I took his right hand and said, "Hi Daddy." Every time, he mumbled back in a voice I really did understand because I had heard it so many times before: "Hi sweetheart." I will miss that strong, familiar voice, but I will not miss the slurred speech that garbled his words in the week before his death.
I will miss the way my daddy sat down to the family table and enjoyed a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and field peas from the garden he tended at Rock Ridge. He'd compliment my mama on a fine meal and push away from the table saying, "I've had my sufficiency." Mama hated when he said that! But I will not miss the struggles at the dinner table in recent years and the way my daddy criticized the way I cooked for him. I know it was the disease talking, but it still hurt my feelings when he told me the steak was too tough or the chicken was too dry or when he said, "What's this mess?" "Do you really want me to eat this mess?"
I will grieve for the father who took my mama on a drive around the county every day for years. They'd ride down to the Gardners community where Mama grew up and swing by my aunt and uncle's in Saratoga. The next day, they'd take a drive to Rock Ridge, where he grew up. They'd ride by the school and Marsh Swamp Church and then head by the garden before going home. But I will never miss the absolute horror I felt the times they got lost while driving and didn't return for hours after a quick trip. On more than one occasion, I drove on back roads throughout the county looking for the red Taurus he drove, crying and praying that they were safe. I don't want to remember that or when my sister and I had to take away his car keys almost three years ago. He said it would kill him if we did. And you know what, his decline started that very day, I believe.
I will most certainly miss the drives I took my parents on after Daddy was no longer driving. We'd take the same routes he always took. Early on, Daddy would tell me where to turn and would point out where this aunt or that cousin lived. But as the months went by, he stopped doing that. I will not grieve the first day he asked me where we were when we made the familiar turn onto Rock Ridge School Road or the first time I said, "There's Marsh Swamp Church," and he said, "Where? Is that Marsh Swamp Church?"
I will miss my daddy's wonderful expressions from "Daddim" to "Lordy Mercy." But I will not miss the rather colorful language he picked up as Alzheimer's progressed. He cursed every other sentence it seemed and used words for bodily functions that none of us figured he even knew! Sometimes his colorful language provided comic relief, which we all desperately needed. Around Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, when he was growing weaker by the hour, he told me he wanted a damn biscuit. "Get me a damn biscuit!" he repeated a number of times. Well, I didn't have a damn biscuit in the house. I considered driving to Bojangle's but remembered he had called all breads biscuits in the last few years, so I got him a banana nut muffin from the kitchen, and he ate it.
I will miss sitting by my daddy's side when I dropped by at lunch or after work or to take supper. There were days when he was lucid and would tell me stories about growing up on the farm or being in the Army. Some days we would play checkers or sing hymns. I will not miss the days he hallucinated and got scared with the images he saw or reached out for objects that were not there.
One of the things I'll miss most of all is sitting on the porch with both my daddy and mama. We did that often, even before he got sick. My house is just six houses from theirs, so many afternoons or evenings, my husband, children and I would walk down the street and enjoy the nice weather on the porch. The kids would often take down a ball or badminton set and play with their dad while the rest of us watched. When my sister and her family visited, we'd do the same thing. We'd talk about everything and nothing. We'd watch the birds in the yard, wave to the people who passed by and simply enjoy each other's company. I will miss that. Daddy didn't enjoy the porch too much in the last year or so. He was never satisfied out there. He was either too hot or too cold or it was too windy for him. I will not grieve for the times I got upset with him for complaining and would wish he could just cooperate and pretend that we were a normal family again. But he couldn't do that
My Daddy modeled so many things for his children, but the most important thing, perhaps, was his love and devotion to Mama. He loved her and looked after her and protected her as long as he could. He told me one day, years back, that he hoped she died before he did. He'd rather be the one who grieved for her than have it the other way around. He didn't think she would handle it well. He was right. My mother is broken-hearted and lost. She understands just enough to know that L.H. is dead and that she loved him very much and misses him with all her heart. He's no longer beside her when she wakes in the morning and no longer there to hold her hand through the long afternoons. I'm going to need the love and wisdom my daddy taught me to get Mama through the hardest thing in her life.
My husband tells me he's already forgetting the struggles we went through with Daddy and is remembering the good times: the trip we took together to Williamsburg, the Saturday mornings Daddy picked him up to work in the garden, the Saturday night dinners we shared. I'm going to remember Daddy's positive attitude and the love so many people had for him, and I'm going to work very hard to forget the sadness Alzheimer's disease has brought to my family. Thank God my parents gave me the tools and the faith to do that.


  1. Uncle LH is so proud of you. You have showed us cousins grace in the face of hard times. I am sending my love and prayers for you, Susan and Aunt Helen and know that your cousins in Raleigh love you!

  2. Shakespeare quotes Mark Anthony as saying "the evil that men do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones ..." But it's not true. What we remember -- and what you will remember about your father -- is the good, the good guidance, the good attitude, the good love, the good kindness, the good lessons about life. Your faithful dedication to your parents during their long struggle has been very difficult, I know, but it has also been a standard of filial devotion few of us can hope to match. It has been said that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. Your father has lived that axiom. It's also true that the best thing any man (or woman) can do for the world is to raise children to be good, responsible adults. You are proof of your parents' success in life.

    Let your memories be of the good times. Let the good that men do live after them.

  3. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. God will grant you the strength you need. Take comfort in the fact that your beloved Daddy is in a better place, healed and whole.

  4. my friend, jill, sent me the link to your blog. i think she sent my blog to you last year when my precious mother made her trip Home. my prayers are with you as i am a daddy's girl also. you have honored your parents well, you have done them proud...

  5. Lisa, know that your father is happy and clear of mind in the kingdom of the Almighty. We will pray for you and your family to heal in this painful time, but know that your father lives on in you and your family. All the things he taught you and the example he lived his entire life is evident in all you have become and in what you have passed on to your own children.

  6. Lisa, What a fitting tribute to a fine man. Uncle H is now with God and at peace. All of us have fond memories of him. I always saw your Dad as the strong one in the family, and I will remember him that way. God bless you for your devotion to your parents. You will be blessed. Our love to you, Aunt Helen, Susan and your families.
    JAB, Jr.

  7. I underdand the hurt and pain that you are dealing with. I lost my dad in 2006 and my life haven't been the same. I had realize that my dad was tired and it was selfish of me to expect him to live for me knowing that each day he was suffering. I am the only girl out of three brothers. I never left home and was always the one that my parents depended on. Not to mention that I was treated like a spoiled brat. I didn't not how difficult life could be with limited income. Anything that I needed, he would get for me and my 2 kids. I am thankful for the time that I was able to spend with him and loosing him unsuspectingly helped me to not take life for granted, enjoy the time that I have with loved ones, and to learn to love myself. My dad's death gave me strength to let go of a failing marriage. I left my ex husband on the day of my dad's funeral. That was the beginning of my new and improved life. I had to really rely on God to help me to heal from hurt, anger, insomia, and depression. Life for me still isn't easy but it was living through the ruff times that helps me to appreciate life. You hang in there sister. Life is only what you it and is a process. I see that you have found that strength inside of you. It took strength to write that touching article. Be blessed and continue to use your testimonies encourage others.

  8. Your words just remind me of so many great times. How about all those days we had to pick up potatoes in the garden, do you remember the year Uncle Lawrence lost his keys and we couldn't find them? Do you remember finding them the next year after Uncle LH plowed them up? You were blessed with a dad that loved the Lord and I was amazed last Sunday when he could still sing the words to Amazing Grace and When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder. He didn't know me but he knew God. What a testimony for a man who is living his life's reward right this very minute till forever. I'm honored and blessed to have been a part of his life and will always remember the tractor, garden, cokes, Sunday School lessons, pig pickins, his love for Aunt Helen and the entire family, his love for God........
    Uncle LH thank you for being such a positive influence in my life. We will selfishly miss you but in our hearts we know you are happier than you've been in years, say hello to the Lord for me will you. What's it like to hear "Well done good and faitful servant, enter into the kingdom of God"? I will always love you.

  9. Thank you for sharing your dad with all of us. He was such a special person and uncle. When I think of him, I certainly think of his strength. I mostly remember his patience. If I asked him the same question ten times, he would answer every time ... the same patient way and never ever get annoyed. We love you all and will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

  10. My sister sent me your most recent blog. I cant even begin to know what you are and have been feeling. We are in the process of having my dad tested for those things you have spoke of. My mom feels like there are more and more episodes with him and his memory such as you mentioned leaving for short trips only to return later not having a clue where he has been. My dad is everything to me, my life, my best friend and indeed my hero! I am very sorry for your loss and feel honored to have been able to read and share your blogs. I hope you will share your healing process with us also. You are in our thoughts and prayers.


  12. Very sorry for your loss. I lost my father this time of the year, in 1996. I seems like yesterday. I too felt like the ground had been taken out from under me and I was lost. It takes a while to quit crying so much...but that day will come...you never quit grieving, but you learn how to live with your grief. Bless you and your family.

  13. As I read your article tears were flowing. I have no idea who you are and vice versa but pain can certainly bring people together. Continue to pray as I will pray for your family to heal through this rough moment in your life. Remember, GOD will bring you to a storm and bring you through it!!

  14. Lisa, my prayers are with you and your family. I lost my mother three months ago as a result of ESRF and I like you am trying to remember the good times and forget the times of suffering. Though Mother didn't have Alzheimer's disease I could relate to a lot of what you were saying. Thank you and God Bless.

  15. My God Bless you in the loss of your father. Losing your father is one of the hardiest things that can happen. I lost mine in 1992 and still miss him dearly and so will you. It is so hard but one day you will find yourself remembering the good memories more than the bad ones. God will help you. My daddy was what no other person has ever been for me. I could always count on his love and support. All these years later sometimes when I have a problem and just can't find the answer I just take a little memory trip and take some quiet time and think through it and ask myself "What would Daddy tell me to do?" Well a little later I get an answer and through faith in God I get peace in my heart and know that is coming from my heavenly father and my real life father. I just thank God for having him and for all he taught me so that I can now carry on with my life and a lot of the things that he instilled in me that I hope I can share with others. My dad was one of those Rock Ridge, Marsh Swamp boys too.
    Your dad was a great man and I admire the life that he lived and the wonderful family that he has left behind to carry on the good work. My prayers are with you and your family.

  16. Lisa, you're Daddy IS one of the finest people I have ever known. He's had a huge influence on all of us. He's one of those people who every time you're around him, you leave feeling better about life and about yourself. The reunions are moving to Heaven now. Jesus won't let us down. God bless you and your whole family.

  17. Lisa, I do not know your parents but have known you since your school days. Reading your blog tells me why you are the person you are. Your mother and father have moulded you into a caring and loving young lady. You will care for your mother like you have been cared for. Have no doubts about your abilities; your words show the love and empathy that will give you the strength to fulfill this next heavy task before you.
    I lost my wonderful daddy over four years ago and my mother in December. Alzheimers took her away months before her death. Now I am grieving for both parents. May God give us the grace to handle these difficult times. Love to you and all your family,

  18. This is a beautiful story. I found it a complete coincidence, but I'm happy for that :)