I woke early this morning thinking about the arrival of November. It's just next week. I can't believe this year has gone so quickly.
I have very mixed emotions about the months of November and December. On one hand they bring the holidays which are fun and hectic. Pam and Geoff host Thanksgiving Dinner. Christmas Eve is always here at our house. It's a crazy few hours that I totally enjoy.
And, of course, all the work with Adopt-A-Family culminates with Distribution Week in December. It's an exciting, exhausting, satisfying, emotional week which I am so happy to see come and go.
But what I really woke thinking about this morning was that November 14th is the 8th anniversary of my father's death. Who decided to call that an "anniversary?" It's eight years since he died. Eight years since that Wednesday morning when at 9 a.m. as I sat eating my breakfast my mother called screaming unintelligible words, and I knew exactly what had happened. It's not a moment you ever forget.
I had been to the gym that morning so I had to shower and then just threw on some clothes. Somehow I ended up in a bright yellow sweatshirt which I looked at as I sat in the undertaker's office that afternoon wondering What was I thinking? Obviously I wasn't thinking about my wardrobe as I dressed that morning, only of getting to my mother.
As I made the 30 minute drive to what was now my mother's condo, I kept saying This is too far, this is too far. I knew we'd have to move her closer as soon as possible. There was a police officer and a neighbor with her when I arrived. Dad had gone to sleep Tuesday night and never woke. Mom had a restless night so she had gone into the guest room sometime during the night. She woke at 6:30 and peeked in to see him still sleeping. She did again at 7:30 with the same result. At 9:00 when she went in again, she knew.
Paul was hunting in Canada that week with his cousin. We had cell phones back then but there was no service where he was. The hunting camp didn't have a telephone. I called Carolyn, his cousin's wife, to ask for help in reaching them. She called the local police who went to the camp and put a "Call Home" sign on the door. I remember standing in my mother's driveway that afternoon screaming into my phone "I need you! Come home!" They drove straight through and got home late that night.
By then I had already been to the funeral home and made all the decisions, alone. My mother was with me but in body only that day. I had never really discussed with my parents what their wishes were regarding their funerals. The wife of one of Paul's longtime friends is a funeral director so we went to Liz and she was a great help, but the decisions still had to be made and I did it basically alone. During that time I was fine and kept my composure as long as I had my mother to comfort. When I was alone, it was a different story.
My father was only 68. My parents were together for 52 years. Retired for a little more than 3 years, my folks were on their third RV. They traveled for 2-3 months at a time and had visited 45 of the lower 48 states. They had not made it to the West Coast yet. He still had places to go and things to see, but I am so thankful for the time they had.
That morning all that came to an end for my mother, and she entered a new chapter in her life. We had the funeral that weekend. In less than three weeks we were under contract to buy a condo 5 minutes away from us. Thankfully her condo sold quickly, too, and soon she was close. She was still driving and actually adjusted to her new life pretty well. But she was lonely.
In less than three years we sold that place, and she moved into an apartment in a retirement community also nearby. Again she adjusted pretty well. It wasn't quite like her own home but she's resilient, and I'm lucky that she is still somewhat independent.
Early last year she started talking about John, another resident in her complex. They had met through their cardplaying group. One day last summer I answered the door and there stood Mom with John. They were out for a Sunday ride, and she had directed him to my house without telling him where they were going. John stood in my doorway looking like a deer in the headlights. He was that concerned about meeting me. It was cute.
Last fall they moved into a bigger apartment together. They were so happy. He had 4 children also nearby who were very attentive. They had lost their mother a couple years earlier, and they were totally accepting of my mother. Christmas Eve Mom and John were here with us and the rest of our family got to meet him. Christmas Day they had dinner with John's youngest daughter. Sometime in the night the day after Christmas, John woke, sat up, had a heart attack and died.
This time when my mother made the call it wasn't to me but to John's son. She called me in the morning with a simple "I lost my friend last night." For her it was almost as painful as losing my father. They had three short months together and he was gone. It was horrible watching my mother go through this again.
So as I laid there this morning thinking about my father and how much I miss him sometimes, I couldn't help but think of my mother and how hard these next few weeks are going to be for her. Life just isn't fair sometimes.