My father passed away in November of 2007. His presence gave such strength to my life. When I think about him not being here, I wonder if the family will fall apart? Will we be civil to each other? I must believe so, for the things he taught us were good. Time will tell the true affect he had on our lives.
My Father had another name. All six of his children called him Pa. He was even called Pa by his fellow factory workers. It must have been easy for the factory workers to call him that because my second oldest brother also worked at that factory and called him Pa all the time. It stuck.
Pa had a lot of life experiences growing up that made him extra special. His experiences made for good story telling. I would sit and listen to his stories of farming and factory life and how much things cost when he was young. He would talk about working with his team of draft horses. As a young boy he would get home from school and hitch up Don and Fanny. He was smart for a young boy. He rigged up a pulley to haul the heavy harnesses up and unto the wide work horse backs. He drove the team out to the fields to plow, or pick stones, corn, or fork up the hay unto the wagons. Pa did most of the work himself because his much older brothers had already married and left the farm and Pa's Dad was always busy with the work as township supervisor. The stories Pa told made one laugh, or cry, or be angry...a lot of times it made me ponder and deal with my own perceptions in life.
Pa also drove the Amish families around to different states. He would come home telling of Amish life with 14 kids, or sitting around their table and hear only German prayers. Many times he would take the Amish men to a livestock auction. He would come home with a calf or two in the back of his 14 passenger van.
Pa wasn't ordinary:
-He seemed to always have the nail in his pocket to fix the board that had broke loose from the freedom-loving pigs.
-He took time to help the neighbor who was building up his flock of sheep. He would take time at the livestock auctions to pick out the best ram for the betterment of the neighbor's farm.
-He took the chain saw and tractor and wagon and his boys and went out to the woods and spent a few hours filling that wagon with wood so our house was warm.
-He went around the countryside in a 75 mile radius to neighbors farms and sheared their sheep. Most of his boys were there to help. Pa had about 5 shearing machines going at a farmer's barn. Pa could do a lot of things. Pa was a jack-of-all-trades. I guess that's what most people become when living a long time on this earth and trying to make a living.
-He was also a salesman for Mooreman feeds when I was young. Knowing this made me understand later later in life why he knew everyone in the countryside.
-He always had the time to take his kids out to icecream.
Pa said he did everything but go to jail.
Thinking about Pa and his passing was very hard. It's a normal thing to start mentally preparing for the end when you see your parents having health issues. Gradually, as Pa got older, his traveling adventures ceased. He couldn't safely drive for the Amish anymore. He couldn't drive the tractor anymore because of his high blood pressure. His knees bothered him so he couldn't walk very well. He was also diagnosed with diabetes, so his struggle with food increased. Pa's face was partially paralyzed from a stroke. That was the time I saw Pa start to give up on life.
Pa still told stories, but they were the same ones over and over. He must have realized his repetiveness because he stopped his storytelling. He wasn't the same Pa I used to know. It was a struggle for me to reverse roles and start telling him my stories. It was hard making conversation because I was so used of him doing the talking. Did he see the reversed roles we were playing? I started praying for the right words to say when I visited Pa, or when I talked to him on the phone.
As time went on he had acquired the use of a walker. Ma patiently walked beside him where ever he went. As I observed, I saw the commitment and love in Ma. I was glad for Pa that he had her. When he couldn't clean the food off his face when he ate his meals, Ma was there to help. Those were hard times for me. My strong Pa was not strong anymore.
Giving up how life was, and accepting what life is became a time of growth for our family. Of all the things that Pa gave...a love for people, animals, outdoors...Pa taught his family about God. He was always faithful going to Church. He talked about God like He was his best friend. It made things much easier after Pa was passed on. I could think of Pa being in heaven...where the Bible says he is. In my mind I can see Pa all vibrant and happy. I'm sure he is even better at storytelling. These thoughts and faith I cling to.
So now I must tell you the end of Pa's life. The phone call came that Pa had another stroke. He was in the hospital. My oldest brother asked all the questions to the doctor and related it back to the family members. The stroke was severe. Pa's left side was totally paralyzed. He couldn't swallow so a feeding tube was put in place. Ma realized that Pa would never come home. She couldn't care for him anymore. She stood by his bed for hours holding his hand. Pa developed pneumonia and had to be put on a respirator. A great family decision had come.
That night, at my older brother's house, we gathered. Talking was subdued. Mom wasn't there. She was sleeping, exhausted. She was 80 years old and so was Pa. We made the heart rending decision to take Pa off the respirator...after his pneumonia was cleared up. We wanted to do our best for him, our precious Pa.
I remember the Sunday when our family was at the hospital all crammed in the waiting room. Only two could go in the critical care unit at a time...except for Ma. (There must be special concessions for these type of situations.) Sometime we could get a response from Pa, but he would talk like there was a huge wad of cotton was in his mouth. He wanted his boys to take him home. He didn't want to go to a nursing home.
Pa spent a week in the hospital. He was moved to a regular hospital room. He only stayed there for two days. Pa got his wish. He didn't go to the nursing home. He slipped away quietly as Ma and Cindi sang hymms.
The funeral was special...lots of people came and told of how Pa helped them. The sheep owners, the Amish, the church members, the factory workers, and the old farmers that were still around came to pay their last respects. I learned even more things about Pa just standing there in that funeral home listening to all of those people. I learned about things that happened years before I was born. I smiled and thought of Pa -and him not telling me that story.
Now Pa's body is in a cemetery just down the road from the church. We drive by there sometimes when we come up to visit the family. Things haven't gotten out of hand with the family. Pa taught us well. Memories of him will forever be in my heart.
Hope you like this excert from several pages I've written about Pa. I will continue writing his biography. Hopefully, someday, I will have enough pages for a book. I want to call it, "Pa's Heart".