I'm sitting here drinking an ugly, trying to cool off a bit. It's getting HOT around here! Very hot! Just got back from a visit with Amy, Kari and Baby D. Baby was kinda cranky today, but is getting more, and more adorable. Hard to believe she's already 2 months old.
The view from Rita's deck.
Spent some time with my step-Mom, R-r-r-r-rita last night. It was just the two of us, sitting outside on her deck, drinking whiskey & coke, relaxing and talking. I usually avoid talking about Dad because Rita has got on with her life and has a new beau, which pleases me very much because she deserves to be happy. But she always says, "....he's not your Dad." I know. No one will ever be Dad. He was one of kind.
And so it was that we both found ourselves remincing about him for the first time in years. Rita reminded me of the time Dad came home a little bit tipsy from a night on the town. It was summer...and it was hot. Dad didn't like to run the air conditioning at night, and it was so hot he couldn't sleep. Now, I've been told my father liked to sleep totally in the buff, and on this particular night he decided he wanted to sit out on the deck for a bit in the cool night air before going back to bed. So, he padded outside, buck naked, with his trusty miniture Schauzer, Waldo at his side. He parked his butt on a deck chair, got comfortable and closed his eyes for a minute.
It was a very long minute.
Dad's deck was on the south side of his house. Five feet away from his deck was the neighbors kitchen window. The neighb's were a retired couple, but the wife always got up at 5 in the morning to make coffee and breakfast.
Dad said it was the light of the morning sun that woke him up. Said it took him a bit before he realized where he was...and how he was. He checked his watch. 5:45 a.m. Immediately, he turned his head toward the kitchen window and yes, the light was on! Dad saw Waldo lying at his feet, reached down, scooped Waldo up and placed him over his lap, then rose from his deck chair and backed himself into the house.
My father was a modest man.
When asked whether the neighbor's wife saw him, my father said that from that day on, the once warm and friendly couple suddenly become distant and quiet. Shortly after that, Dad sold the house and moved.
After we shared a few more laughs, the topic got more serious. Rita believes in many of the same things I do. We both believe people are placed in our life for a reason, and sometimes things happen for a reason. Like me, she believes we all have a purpose in life.
Last night, for the first time ever, Rita shared something with me. She believes she and Dad were brought together for a reason, to unify his family. Rita is one of the kindest, gentlest people I know; she has a heart the size of Texas, and it's made of solid gold. In fact, I knew her when I was a high school teenager, when she worked as a clerk at a small grocery store near my home. Once, on a dare, I walked into the store to purchase a Playgirl magazine. I was 16 at the time. Rita waited on me, and with a smile rang up the magazine, bagged it, took my money and sent me on my way. Who knew back then someday this woman would be my step-Mom.
But, I've gone off topic.
With all her love and warmth, Rita helped my father reach out to his family and bring them all together. We were somewhat fragmented when those two met; I didn't know my half-sisters very well, and we never did anything together. But in less than a year we were all whole again. Sharing love and laughs, good times and memories...moments I will carry in my heart for the rest of my days. Rita helped Dad do what he could not do alone. She always encouraged him to try. They had ten years together; their time was short, but they filled those years with a lifetime of quality moments. Sleepovers with the grandkids outside in a tent, Sunday nights I spent watching America's Funniest Home Videos with them, birthday parties, Christmas parties, Easter egg hunts, bar-be-ques, table tennis, Halloween, camping, snow mobiling...I have over 20 VHS tapes filled with the memories Dad and Rita created together.
It takes a strong woman to hold the hand of the man she loves and at the same time say good-bye as he slowly slips away. Rita stood across the bed from me the day we said good-bye to Dad and many times that morning I found myself looking to her for strength. It was in her eyes, her simple understanding smile, her touch, and her words. In the darkness of that day, Rita was a guiding light.
Last night I asked her how she did it. She confessed it wasn't easy, but deep down inside she knew she had to be strong and let go. She knew his purpose in this life had been served. Before he died, he was supposed to bring everyone back together, all of us, including my half-brother, whom I had never formally met. When chemo and radiation treatments no longer worked, we knew it was only a matter of time before Dad was gone. Rita picked up the phone and called my brother to let him know. My brother and his family showed up at the house the next weekend. It had been 25 years since my father and brother had last seen each other. That was late October 1997, one month later Dad was gone.
Two months later, after enduring a month of nagging from me and my sisters, my brother went to his doctor and was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the same cancer our father died from. But luck was on our side, as the cancer was caught in time, before it spread through his body, like it had with our father. That was seven years ago and my brother is alive and well today. The cancer is in complete remission.
Sometimes nagging is a good thing.
The ripple effect of that simple telephone call Rita made so long ago can still be felt...all these years later. One telephone call changed everything...for my brother, my sister-in-law, my nieces, my Dad, my self, and my sisters. That telephone call became a life line.