16 November 2008

16 November ~ a tribute to my Papa

I always approach this day with trepidation. 16 November is the day my father crossed over, back in 1982. I was 24 years old and he was 56. Now I am 54 with a 20-something and a teenager. Even though I have come a long way and learned an awful lot, there are moments that the emotions of the time can still overtake me.

Papa played football at LSU and always called me his little "Golden Girl". When I was in third grade (8 yrs old) he had a severe heart attack. His mother was so worried about him that she used to tell me all the time that it was my responsibility to keep the other kids quiet (I was the oldest of four) and not let them bother or upset him. Tall order for a little kid. I'm sure she didn't mean to, but after that I always worried that if something bad happened, it would be my fault. And for the rest of my growing-up years I always expected Papa to die unexpectedly and that there would be nothing I could do. And eventually that's what happened.

November 1982. I had injured my knee and required surgery. Mike and I lived in Dallas, but were right in the middle of trying to move to Alabama. Mike came east after the surgery and I went to my aunt's house in Fort Worth for a few days until I could drive to my parents' house in Louisiana.

Papa was not in good health. Besides the heart problem, he had high blood pressure, diabetes, and had his lower leg and some toes amputated. The previous few years he had been in and out of the hospital a number of times. But he was always matter of fact and kept a great attitude. It used to amaze me.

I got to Louisiana and he wasn't feeling so wonderful. Only a couple of days after I arrived he had to go to the hospital. From there things just went downhill. He would sleep a lot, but we did have some special times to talk. We were discussing my move and he reached out and held my hand. Then he told me, "Honey, you know I am never going to get to see you in Alabama." At the time I so didn't want to believe that! But as I have gotten older I've come to believe that often people know when it is their time to leave. Papa knew. He was looking me straight in the eyes and telling me the truth. Not that he wanted it that way. It was just an undeniable fact.

It wasn't long before he was in ICU and we couldn't be with him all the time. Then on the afternoon of the 16th, the code red light went off over the main ICU door. Mama knew it was Papa, but they wouldn't let her in. I always have felt badly about that. And I can still see her standing there, reaching her hand toward the door. Medical people should NOT keep loved ones apart. That is just wrong.

The next week or so was a blur, but a few memories stand out. I remember my niece putting a letter in her Grandpapa's suit pocket. She was 6 years old and they had a very special relationship. And I remember being driven for hours from Louisiana to Alabama in continuously pouring rain. Not a good introduction to my new home. But over the years it has become a good home. And as a person who believes in life beyond this earth, I know I will see my Papa again. Truly my biggest regret is that my Papa never got to meet my girls. They would have been even more special little "Golden Girls" to him.

Papa as a little boy, growing up in the oil fields of west Texas - sometime around 1929.


A fighting Tiger from LSU.


Celebrating his discharge from the military in El Paso.


Papa and Mama on their wedding day


Papa on the far left. I am the baby in my Mama's arms with all my living ancestors.


Papa & Mama in 1979 on my grandparents' 50th anniversary.
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5 comments:

Mary said...

Becky, what a beautiful tribute to your Father. Yours is a family of grace and spirit. Hugs....Mary

Becky said...

Mary, thanks so much. My Papa was such a wonderful man and has always been an inspiration to me. I wish I could honour him more.

Ces said...

Becky what a sweet post about your father. He was a big young man, very handsome and a Texan! I love the picture of him as a little boy. You did have a great responsibility, no wonder you were always the adult at Mediumgreen! :)

Hilary said...

Becky:

Just a beautiful tribute you wrote about your Papa and the photos are so special. I too, love the photo of him as a little boy. What a handsome man he was.

I know his spirit lives forever in your heart.
Hilary

Becky said...

Ces and Hil, thank you so much. That photo of him as a child is one I treasure.

Ces, I never thought about the old responsibility coming out on mediumgreen. Something to ponder for sure.