Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This is supposed to be a blog about losing weight and becoming healthier, however, with Thanksgiving nearly here, my mind has been on my father. My friend has a website and she asked for people to share their Thanksgiving memories and recipes. I began to think and all but the last 3 Thanksgiving's have been spent with my Dad. That was his holiday-he shined on that day. So, in a way this is going to be about health. Instead of me running to food for comfort I'm going to share what's on my mind.

Regret, I guess, can be typical when someone dies suddenly. Dad was diagnosed with cancer in September. They found out it was Stage 3b Lung Cancer with a bleak prognosis in early October and I was in South Carolina by the end of the week. I had prepared myself for having 3 months left with him. Not less than 2 weeks.

Last Christmas, I made Michael's favorite meal, chicken and dumplings, from scratch and called my dad to brag. He was very proud of his newly domesticated daughter. Chicken and dumplings just happens to be his ultimate favorite meal and he was looking forward to sampling a big, fat bowl of my dumplings when I next visited. The day after Michael, Liesl and I arrived in SC, dad was admitted in the hospital and a week later discharged. His throat was burned so badly from the radiation that he could barely swallow. I decided to wait until he could swallow without pain to make the dumplings. I wanted him to enjoy it.

I never made the dumplings.

Saturday, October 24, Dad came out of the shower with a handful of hair. Radiation and chemo were finally catching up to him. I told him I'd give him a hair cut if he wanted. He told me that Sunday, after church, he'd let me take the clippers to his hair. His barely greying, slick, ebony hair was falling out so he was ready to be rid of it. I told him I'd knit him a hat, which I was already planning on doing, for him to wear under his baseball caps. It was going to be black and garnet-USC Gamecock colors. He told me he was look forward to wearing it.

I never clipped his hair or knit the hat. The very next day is when the ambulance came to take him away, never to return.

My sister and her husband were planning on coming up for Thanksgiving. Dad was prepared to make 2 turkeys this year: one in the deep fryer and one in the oven with the oh-so delicious, secret family recipe, stuffing. I was excited about waking up before the rooster crowed to shadow daddy while he prepared the "secret" recipe stuffing. I say "secret" because it's not written down. Dad knew exactly what went in the stuffing and he never measured anything. My sister had learned how to make it from him a couple of years past and it was my turn to learn. Funny, though, Dad hated onions with a passion and wouldn't touch the stuffing; mom was the taste tester, and growing up Charlie and I would taste test. Of course, I didn't always "officially" taste test- I usually sneaked a couple of bites. The making of the Thanksgiving turkey and dressing was an all morning and some of the afternoon process.

I never learned to make the stuffing.

I have always loved singing. Dad has always loved hearing me sing. Even when he wasn't going to church, if he knew I was singing and I asked him to go, he would be there. Living 500 miles away takes it's toll on a relationship. When I would visit, the last thing I wanted to do was sing at church and, call me crazy, but it's just weird sitting in a living room singing in front of your family while they listen. I know it's not that weird but it brought me out my comfort zone.

When dad was first diagnosed with cancer mom told me that he didn't want me to sing at his funeral. I've sang at my fair share of funerals but singing at my own fathers' is a bit much to ask; still, I wanted to know why. Dad had told her that if he couldn't hear me sing, he didn't want anyone else to hear me sing at his funeral. Little did I know how soon that would be. Dad was rushed to the E.R. on a Sunday and died on a Wednesday. When I went to see him on Monday I knew that no matter how uncomfortable I felt or embarrassed I was in front of the nurses that he would want me to sing to him. So I sang. Every opportunity I had to see him, I sang. After he was released from life support, his heart rate stayed steady in the 80's. My sister went to see him and sang to him and it dropped to the 40's. A few hours passed until I made it up to the hospital again and mom left me alone with him. I prayed with him and sang to him and his heart rate dropped to the 20's. The family gathered in the room and my sister and I sang all 4 verses of 'Amazing Grace' and then the first verse again while his heart rate bounced from 16 or 17 to 0. I knew I couldn't stop singing so I sang the first verse of 'My Jesus, I Love Thee'. Right after the lyric "If ever I love Thee...", his heart rate reached zero never to come back up.

I finally sang for my daddy.

This Thanksgiving day, I will try my hand at a far less superior stuffing, knit away at Christmas gifts and look forward to making chicken and dumplings for my family on Christmas Day. I wish I could have learned to make the stuffing from dad, knit him a hat and made him my homemade chicken and dumplings, but at least I sang.

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