would’ve been 80

Dad would have been 80 years old this December 2nd. 

In November i was thinking a lot about this, and especially about the circumstances leading up to me being at the right place at the right time.

When i left for Japan in 1989, dad was quite sad, and not entirely in favor of it.  He said that i would probably marry a Japanese, and never come back.  No need to worry dad! (- 0)  He always had a hard time with goodbyes, and being so happy to finally get all his children back in Tennessee just a short while before, he was not so pleased with losing one, especially to some far-off country.

He and mom and a niece came to visit me in Japan around the time of the Osaka Flower Exhibition in 1990, and i remember mostly that he didn’t appreciate bicyclists on the sidewalks, and the wonder and amazement that he was standing in the exact spot where an atomic bomb had obliterated a city 45 years earlier.

But i went back to America almost every year, and he always enjoyed seeing me.  I knew he liked to drive, and wondered just a bit why he never wanted to take me to the airport, and when i asked mom around the 3rd time that happened she said: “He’s been torn up about you leaving since last nite”. 

When i went to see them in January 1996, it looked like mom might be breathing her last.  She was buried in May of that year, the first family member close to me to die, and only the second person of major importance in my life to do so.  Yes, i know, God protected me from those emotions until i was 35 years old.  Thank you Lord.  I don’t know how those who lose a loved family member in their teens or younger can cope.

Dad lived alone in the farmhouse, repainting everything a brighter, white color.  He kept working part-time and loved to see his grandkids and play golf with my brother.  He lived alone, and seemed to enjoy it that way, but it was probably quite lonely for him.

Country Life Restaurant that i was working 2 days a week at in Osaka, closed down in December 1996.  So a large reason of why i was in Japan had disappeared, and even tho i still loved Japan, the duty to honor my parents, and to take care of them loomed larger and larger in my mind.  Finally, in June 1997, i moved back to the old homestead in Tennessee to be with my father until the end.  That seemed to make him super happy, but he thot it a bit strange that i wanted to stay home one time and make a lemon pie rather than going to play golf.  He did say it tasted good tho 🙂

Thinking about the probabilities, i know that the average 70 year old American man has an average of around 10 – 12 more years to live.  Dad’s brothers mostly died of heart attacks, and with dad having a bit too much flab around the middle, i thot in the back of my mind that i would be living there with him until he was around 80, and then he would probably die.  Little did i know that those 10 expected years would be over in 2 months!

Many of my Japanese friends came to visit me that summer, and especially dad enjoyed having 2 of my older English students (50s) stay at his place.  I had a nice, 2 -week-long trip with an American friend i had met in Japan to go see a mutual Japanese friend who was in Boston.  I arrived back home around 7pm or so, and dad looked alright, except that he said he had been to the doctor for pain that was going up his shoulder and down his arm.  We went to bed in separate rooms as usual.

I awoke deep in the nite having heard a deep “thud”.  It was scary, and my first thots were that it might be someone trying to break into the house thru the front door.  But the exhaustion from the long drive and the knowledge that dad was there, together with no more sounds, made me turn on my side.  Then, i don’t know what it was, but the sudden, huge urge to run towards the bathroom came over me.  No, not the urge to run TO the bathroom, but TOWARDS the bathroom.  It was very strange, a feeling i have not had before or since.

There he was, down on the floor with his head in the hallway, and his feet still in the bathroom.  The floor is carpeted, so i knew the likelihood of him slipping and falling was extremely small.  I set him into a sitting position, and still remember now that one of my first thots was “the flesh without the spirit is meat”.  I tried to clear his throat, and he made one big gasping sound, ejecting the grape gatorade he had drunk before going to bed.  I tried maybe 15 seconds of CPR, and then called 911 for an ambulance.  After arriving, they used the standard electrical shock equipment etc., but there was no response – just the way dad would have wanted it – no goodbyes.

Hope to meet again in that great white cloud!

NOTE: Post written December 21, 2006

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