Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Slow Waltz & Giveaway Reminder

Don't for get to enter my $80 CSNStores.com Gift Certificate GIVEAWAY. Leave a comment on this post. And, Click HERE for more chances to win! (Psst-- You have until June 25th to enter.)


It was a slow waltz, one that started before any of us were ready to face the music. Barely a hint of the melody could be heard in the distance but it inched closer, ever so slowly, pulling us towards the dance that would change the dynamics of our family and wrap us closer together.

I remember it clearly. My Dad and I sat in a small San Francisco seafood restaurant enjoying a bucket full of fresh crab legs the night before his flight back to Ohio the following morning. Visiting me was his first real vacation in decades and he marveled, as he cracked crab shells, at how kind the airline pilot had been to let him look in the cockpit on his flight out from Cleveland.

Dad's health was not great and hadn't been for a long while, partly because of bad luck, and partly because he was not able to discipline himself to follow doctor's orders. After a nasty fall that complicated things further, and to some degree sealed his fate, he was on disability and unable to work even though he was only in his early 50s at the time.

He walked with crutches, in a painful kind of way. The crutches were to steady himself but did little to ease his deteriorating bones and joints. Our time together demonstrated just how difficult his mobility was and that he was putting on a good face so as not to worry me. But I could see for myself, things were far worse then he let on.

The father of five children, Dad was the head of the house-- the "go to" guy of our very large immediate and extended family. He ruled the roost, so to speak with a huge heart and a kind smile, but even though we were all adults, some with families of our own, he was still our Dad and we were still his "kids". We all lived very comfortably and happy with our "chain of command" and never gave it a second thought.

As we finished our crab dinner on a happy note and contemplated dessert options, I tip-toed into uncharted water as the first chords of our waltz began to play. Asking about his true health condition, and his medical and insurance options brought a screeching halt to the conversation. We sat motionless for a long moment.

Dad saw no options and had no back-up plan. His health "was what it was", in his opinion, and other then government assistance there was no medical insurance. He needed help and the music played louder in my head.

The first slow steps of our waltz started during a difficult and sad conversation about life not ending up quiet the way Dad had hoped. Ailing and living alone, he knew his home was becoming too much for him to handle, especially with his bedroom on the second floor. He knew too, that his employment options had evaporated with his health issues, and his bank account was nearly empty. Tears welled in his eyes as I tried to protect his dignity and pride knowing this was difficult father-daughter exchange.

Growing up in our family, we were raised with the "pass the hat" and "circle the wagons" mentality. If a loved one needed financial help, we passed the proverbial hat around and collected as much money for them as necessary. If someone was down and out, we'd bring the family together and circle those in need with love and support. Through it all, Dad especially watched out for his kids, no matter what our age.

But the hat had never been passed or the wagon circled for our Dad like this before and that was a painful pill for him to sallow. We talked and danced around his need for help, but that night at dinner, without a doubt, our roles had changed and the waltz had begun. I think Dad noticed the dance too, but his grace through the conversation was heart-warming with no words spoken on the subject.

By the time his plane landed in Ohio the following evening, I had talked to my siblings to hatch a caregiving and support plan. The wagons were circled and all five of us engaged-- each in our own way, but each committed to his well-being.

With any dance, someone leads, someone follows, and you always hope not to step on the other's toes. As the transition from children to the adult caregivers started, my siblings and I all had our eye on dear Dad's toes.

Over the next seven years, life became increasingly difficult for him as his health furthered deteriorated and cancer introduced itself to the dance. It was not pretty and at times it took a major toll on Dad and his spirit. But we all continued our delicate dance, protecting his rightful Head of the Family status and cheering on his every step.

Eventually, Dad was no longer able to care for himself or watch out for us-- his five adult "kids", like he used to. He accepted our circle of love graciously and when the time came for him to move in with Baby Sister and her family, there was an audible sigh and look of relief on his face.

Two years later, Dad was blessed to see the birth of his seventh grandchild. Despite being so incredibly sick, he was joyful and began looking forward to more little ones. But that was not to be. Three weeks later, Dad died, in his own bed in Baby Sister's family home, surrounded by my siblings and their spouses.

The dance-- the one that started between a Father and daughter in a San Francisco restaurant ended with the Father as the one cared for and the grateful daughter happy to know her Dad's quality of life had been full of love, secure and safe.

I visited often and called daily but my three sisters and brother, along with their spouses, really carried the family flag and the enormous weight of his actual care through Dad's last few years, literally taking turns towards the end, around the clock, to help Dad and assist the nursing staff we eventually needed to hired to meet his medical needs.

When he was gone, the music we'd all heard playing for so long, stopped, and it was deafening-- Dad was no long there to watch out for his kids. The waltz was over.

The following days passed in a blur of heart-ache, grief and sadness. So many times I'd reach for the phone to tell Dad about something that had just happened. Each time I stopped myself, mid-dial, hanging-up in a puddle of tears.

Then on a warm September afternoon my phone ring. Carol, Dad's night nurse was calling with a message.

On many a sleepless night, Dad and Carol had talked to help him through the non-stop pain. Apparently I was occasionally a topic of conversation because Carol knew all about our San Francisco trip, the plane's cockpit, the crab dinner and ever other detail of our time together.

She told me Dad, knowing I wasn't the tough cookie I pretended to be, had specifically asked her to call a few weeks after he passed away. Dad wanted her to make sure I was alright because he wasn't around to watch out for me anymore.

This wonderful gift-- that last watch over me from Dad-- left me speechless. It was then I knew he was once again leading our waltz-- A waltz that is forever in my heart.

Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Kundra - Fotolia.com
Don't forget to enter my $80 CSNStores.com Gift Certificate GIVEAWAY. Leave a comment on this post. And, Click HERE for more chances to win!

60 comments:

  1. Wow.

    What a poignant and beautiful story. It will stay with me.

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  2. Oh Joanna - this was a bittersweet and touching story. Your dad came to life and I loved the analogy of the dance.

    My mom needs to be moved to assisted living and my sisters and I are doing the dance. A different sort than yours in many ways, but still... it touched me.

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  3. Beautiful and touching. You conveyed so eloquently the reality of old age and the fact that the roles of parents and children are reversed at one point.
    I am not in that situation yet, but I know it is coming. I watched it happened to someone I love and it has effected him deeply and he was never the same again.
    Lovey post, brought tears to my eyes... If only for the fact that even though dealing with pain and death, life shines through every word. In a form of a dance.
    xo

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  4. Even though they are no longer with us in the flesh they will be forever in our hearts. I don't know if it ever gets easier being without your parents, I think you just learn to live with it. Lovely the way you told the story and also wonderful the way a story told on a blog in California can help a person (me) living across the pond by sharing about the love and loss of a father.

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  5. love it jj...dad sounds like a special guy an dlove that last little look in on you...beautiful stuff...

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  6. Joanna, this was beautiful, I liked how he checked in on you, one last time. I am sure they still watch oveer us. Your Dad seemed very special indeed. take care. hugs.

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  7. How beautiful Joanna! Such a loving tribute to your dad. How wonderful that your siblings all stepped up to the plate. That makes everything so much easier.
    It was amazing that he had Carol call you just to check on you two weeks after his passing.
    Loved this all described as a waltz! It truly is when it is working right.
    Hugging you
    SueAnn

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  8. Thank you so much Joanna for shareing your beautiful story about your Dad. It bought tears to my eyes. I believe the waltz will continue for the rest of your life and when it pops in you can be sure your dad is with you.

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  9. oh, Joanna.
    that is all.
    just oh.

    (and I'd hug you if you were here)

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  10. Your dancing analogy is perfect. I took care of my mom the last few months of her life and I know how hard it is taking over the caregiver role. Surprisingly, it was an experience full of cherished memories I will never forget. Mom had a major stroke and was not able to do anything for herself, but then she'd use her one good hand to stroke my hair or caress my cheek and I was the child again, being comforted by my mom through a difficult time.

    Your perception at knowing when your father needed you and your siblings shows just what a good upbringing you had. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  11. The circle of life is both sad and wonderful. This is a beautiful story of how your dad completed it in such a poignant way.

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  12. gosh Joanna, you've moved me to tears so early in the morning...most of us will have to go through this at some point, may he rest in peace

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  13. That was so beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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  14. thank you for this, sugar. especially today. xoxoxo

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  15. What a great dad! That was a kindness indeed asking the nurse to call you a few weeks after he passed away. You wrote this post with such soft taps of your keyboard that come through as we read the words and inhale the love. When you write about your family, it is so touching it makes me sigh a big sigh of happiness for you.

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  16. Beautiful post. I was so touched. What a loving family you have and a wonderful outpouring of love demonstrated from each of you. I wish I had brothers and sisters to help me with my mother and her Parkinson's. You are very blessed. Thank you for sharing in such an eloquent way.

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  17. I love that your dad gave you that one finally earthly gift.

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  18. What a heartbreaking, yet amazing story.

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  19. What a truly beautiful and touching story Joanna. Thank you for sharing something so special.

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  20. Well, now I'm a wreck. Your dad must have been such an amazing person to think to have his nurse call you after his death. I'm about to start the waltz with my parents. I don't worry about my dad, mom will be there to help him. My mom on the other hand has a lot of pride. I hope I can handle it as well as you did, so that she, too, will feel she has the lead right up to the end.

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  21. I don't need to tell you this, because I am certain that you already know, but I'm going to do it anyway.

    Dear Snarky Sister:
    This is stunningly, breath-takingly beautiful. I kept nodding my head at various times because it is so similar to my experience.

    Yet, your setting the change to music and dance? YES! I couldn't have come up with a more heartwarming/breaking analogy. YES! This is exactly how it is.
    YES!

    I love you,
    SSEC

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  22. wow that extra caring act after he was gone is so touching.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

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  23. Joanna, thank you for that story, it brought me to tears. You have a real gift. I am just starting to hear the waltz music, myself, and this has inspired me to make the most of it. Thank you so much.

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  24. What a touching post, Joanna. I, too, have a post about my dad today, but yours is so much more beautifully written.

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  25. what a lovely way of putting a very touching story. a waltz indeed. beautifully written.

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  26. God, that was a wonderful and chilling post! I have goose bumps still and I finished reading it a few minutes ago. Your Dad sounds like he was a strong man even with his hardships!

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  27. Good for you all that you pulled together and did what you needed to do. The things our parents did and gave up for us! Phew! you must be proud of the family he raised!

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  28. What a touching story. You were very lucky to have this father in your life. And he taught all of you well.

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  29. oh, and please enter me in the contest!

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  30. what a beautiful story....what an amazing tribute to your dad and all that he was and all that he taught....

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  31. Oh my gosh, I think I just fell in love with your father. What a wonderful man.

    Stop by when you get a chance. I moved to Wordpress and I am not at all sure that I reconfigured the feeds correctly.

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  32. A very touching story, Joanna. Your father had a very large presence if he could set up after care for you. As a caretaker to my mother in her last years, I completely understand the waltz.

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  33. WONDERFUL FATHER; cara Joanna.....and a special daughter!

    How much love and care in your life...just WONDERFUL.

    Un abbraccio elvira

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  34. Oh Joanna, What a beautiful post! Brought me to tears!

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  35. This made me cry...for you and your siblings and for me and mine.

    I know this waltz by heart. I'm dancing it every day right now with my mom.

    What a beautifully written, heart wrenching post!

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  36. Hi, hope its OK to contact you here. would love to include your blog on our giveaway blog network: Giveaway Scout (http://www.giveawayscout.com). Have a look and if interested drop us a line on our contact form (http://www.giveawayscout.com/contact/). thanks, Josh"

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  37. Wow, that was wonderful and it truly was a gift that Carol called you. You're lucky to have all the siblings. I have five others too and it makes a huge difference when someone is in need.

    When you said the days after his passing moved by in a blur, I so remember that from my own dad's death. You brought up a lot of feelings with this one.

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  38. What a GORGEOUS story!!! So many themes and memories we all share in one way or another. This needs to be published in an anthology!

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  39. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it.

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  40. Beautiful, Johanna...just beautiful.

    And what a great blog you have !! Why did it take me so long to get here?? Must be the menopausal distractedness...lol It's all I can do to dress myself some days.


    xoxox

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  41. Your dad knew you well. What a touching story. The beauty of it is that it was family that loved him until his last breath and supported him through those tough times...all because of that dinner spent with your dad. You are a wonderful person, JJ.

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  42. It is very rare for someone's post to make me cry... this one did. Thanks for such a lovely post JJ.

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  43. Holy Crap!!! It would be great if all families reacted that way. It rarely happens like that....I know.

    So happy for you!

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  44. Sometimes it's the small things we think to do that mean the most, yeah?

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  45. You made me cry.

    This was a beautiful tribute to your dad.

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  46. So beautiful and helpful to all who have had the same kind of loss.
    ~Nancy

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  47. joanna,
    this is bittersweet and i love it. this will remain in my heart.
    xo

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  48. You were so lucky to have a Dad who was loving and cared for you and your sibs. He sounded like a sweet man who did not deserve the bad luck or health he endured. But he created such a loving family and was there for each of you no matter what. He was a good example of a real dad. Bless all of you. I am sure he is still watching over all of you. xoxoxo

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  49. Care giving is a difficult job and you and your siblings handled it with grace and honor, leaving your beloved Daddy his self respect.

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  50. What a wonderful tender story. A fantastic dad indeed!

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  51. Such a lovely piece, Joanne. I so envy your relationship with your father. Mine was not part of my life, so thank you for sharing such a beautiful memory of yours.

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  52. Thank you so much for sharing this! (where's the tissues?!)

    My family has just recently gone through a similar situation with my grandmother, who passed a bit over a week ago. I appreciate the tone of your post.

    tsue1136 at yahoo dot com

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  53. THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

    Unknown Mami WON!

    Thanks for entering,
    jj

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  54. Fantastic. Loved the metaphor. Loved the ending. Thanks for touching my heart this morning.

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  55. Glad I stumbled upon your blog. How wonderful for you and for your dad that your family came together to care for him.
    What a gift to him. I can also say, as someone who's found herself as a caregiver, you were also given the gift — that of being able to share so much love with him.

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