Being a Dad…the best role I've ever had.

Posts tagged ‘death’

Life goes on

1988.  I was working two jobs, one at a company that made the front end gear for pocket paging systems and a part time job at a local video store (remember them?) I was content, for a change.  I was making a little money, had an automobile and … not much else.  Later in the summer, I was laid off from my full time job (who buys paging equipment anyway?) and went full time at the video store. In management.  Which, for me, was kind of funny.

My first assignment was at a store in Colonial Heights. It was a very busy store and a challenging position. Second Assistant Manager.  Oh boy. I was a MANAGER! I was there for a few months and was transferred to a store in Richmond’s west end. This store, as I was told, was a mess.  I was to help straighten it out.  I was promoted to ASSISTANT MANAGER too.  A plus, since it meant a raise.

Well, my first day at the store was uneventful except for my introduction to one of the staff.  A perky and young person, she was very friendly and seemed to get along with everyone.  I was smitten.  Toward the end of her shift, she asks if she can leave a little early. Jokingly, I look at my watch and said ‘yeah, I suppose so!’.  She gave me an odd look, thanked me and left.

After a few months, I was completely taken with this person and gathered up enough courage to ask her out. She turned me down. Not once, but several times.  One day, though, she said sure.  Now, today, I probably would have gotten into trouble for asking a subordinate out, but it was a different time then. 

That first date? Well, it was terrible. We saw the movie ‘Ghost’ and both had had bad days.  We did agree, however, to try it again.  That second date was way better, though I could not tell you what we did or where we went.  I’m sure it was dinner and something, but I forget.  That first date, though? I still remember it.  Unfortunately, nothing remains today of that date.  The restaurant is history. The movie theater is now a Kroger. The cars we had? Both are gone. 

We went on to more dates and I eventually married her.  We bought a house, which is now someone else’s home.  We had a child, who is now graduating high school and is no longer my ‘little’ buddy. 

June 7, 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of Jo Ellen’s passing.  And, while I do miss her, I know that she is no longer in the bad spot that trapped her  for the last two years of her life.  That life is gone, but the happier memories remain.  As I go through boxes that have lay dormant for four years now, I find pictures, yearbooks and other mementos from that part of my life. I am happy to find them and I realize that life, my life, has gone on.

And, so too is my desire to write about it. This will, likely, be the last time I write about that part of my life. I have another wonderful wife, two more wonderful kids and look forward to making more memories with them. 

Jo Ellen’s death was devastating for me, my family and our friends.  It was unexpected and seemingly out of nowhere.  One day she is in the hospital for muscular problems and, then…the ICU and she’s gone.  I will never forget the lifeless stare or having to tell my then 12 years old son he has lost his mother.  It is seared in my memory forever.  The decisions I had to make that day will haunt me as well.  But, there is a bright side.  She is no longer in pain. She is no longer suffering the deep depression she had fallen into and she is at peace. 

After five years, my life is completely different. While I do miss her, I have gone forward with life.  I have married another wonderful woman who has accepted my son as hers and given me another biological son and a really cool step-son.  Jo Ellen would approve, she always told me I needed to remarry if something ever happened to her because Chase needed a Mom and I needed someone who could tell me where my socks were and what day it was.  She was right.

Oh, and the comment I made to her that first day and the odd look? Well, I found out, years later, that she thought I was an ogre! She did not realize I was just having some fun. I’m glad she, eventually, realized that.


The most difficult thing I had to tell my son

Being a Dad is something I cherish. It encompasses many, many terrific moments and some not so terrific moments.  We don’t like having to discipline our children or watch them fail, but that is part of being a parent and part of the growing process. Perhaps, however, there is one thing that a parent does not ever want to do…that a child should never have to go through, yet many will.

And so, three years ago, I had to do just that.

My wife had been in the hospital for nearly a month for some kind of muscular problem that was causing her to lose mobility.  For a short time, things looked better. She was undergoing therapy and was receiving treatment.  Everyday, I would take Chase to school and go to the hospital to stay with my wife.  Some days, I would go into the office before heading to the hospital. Eventually, I took a leave from work and just went to the hospital.  Chase would come to see his mother, most days, after school.  However, as the time wore on, he stopped wanting to spend time at the hospital and I don’t blame him. By that point, she was heavily medicated and not always lucid. Even so, we all remained optimistic, including the one doctor who was really digging in and searching for her problem.

One day, I went into the office for a few hours. While there, I got one of those feelings that told me I had to leave. I told my supervisor that I needed to leave and then I went to the hospital. Upon arriving there, I went to her room and she was gone—no sign that she was in the room, ever.  Panicked, I went to find a nurse, who, very tersely, informed me that she was in ICU. She had aspirated in her sleep and developed pneumonia.  Her immune system was already ripped to shreds, so this did not help.

A couple of days later, I took Chase to see his mom.  It was a good visit, but a short one. He could not handle seeing her with tubes in her and nearly unintelligible. So, I took him home and went back for a few hours. 

That Monday, I was feeling pretty good about her prognosis and was thinking the worst was behind us. I took Chase to school and proceeded to the hospital. On the way, however, the doctor called me and said that she had taken a turn for the worse and that I should go to the waiting area first. He would meet me there.  Well, he didn’t but another doctor did. He was not sure about what was going on, and walked with me to her ICU room. She had experienced something like a stroke and it blew out her pupils. I knew at that point, this was very serious. While waiting for the other doctor, a friend dropped by.  It was that point the doctor came in and told us that my wife would not likely make it into the evening.

Needless to say, this was quite a shock. The first think I though of was Chase. How in the world am I going to tell my twelve year old son that he is about to lose his mother?  The drive from the hospital to the school was one of the longest drives in my entire life and one I never want to make under those circumstances ever again.

Arriving at the school, I goto the attendance office and tell the lady what was going on. She sent someone to get him.  As soon as he saw me, I could tell his heart just sank.  I walked him, quietly, out of the building. Once outside, I knelt down and just told him. Told him that his mother would not likely make it through the day.

The drive to the hospital was quiet, with an occasional ‘are you ok?’ coming from one of us.  Friends and family had gathered at the hospital by the time we got there.

Chase did not want to go into her room, which I quite understood.  I stayed with him for a bit and then went back to her room.

At some point, I had to make the decision to not continue any attempt to prolong her life. Doing so would, likely, cause more harm than good and that she would have no quality of life. I could not bear that. She lasted several hours after they stopped the drugs. 

“What am I going to do with Chase? How am I going to handle him?” were the first things that came to me when the doctor pronounced her dead.  I, yet again, had to go tell my son that something bad has happened to his mother.

He knew, as soon as walked into the waiting room. He was so brave, more so than I was.  We hugged for what probably seemed like an eternity to him. I took him back to say his goodbye to her once they had cleaned her up and removed the tubes.  We all cleared the room for him.  He spent a few minutes with her and then wanted to leave.

His school had advised me that his grades were high enough that he would not have to come back (there was only a couple of weeks left) but he may want to come the last day to say bye to his school mates and partake in the picnic.  He actually wanted to go back after only a few days.

We palled around those first few days after her death. I realized just how much about my son I did not know. That really bothered me and still does.  He was way more stronger than I was…he was my rock.

Perhaps the worst part of her death was the timing…Chase’s birthday was two weeks after she died.  What in the world would I do to at least make his birthday somewhat normal? Well, I followed through with plans that we were making prior to her hospitalization. I took him and his cousin to a Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg. It would be the first of many things I wanted to do to keep him busy.  

Right or wrong, I did everything I could to keep both us from thinking too much about the that May and June.  We took a few short trips to amusement parks in Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina. Those weekend trips were a lot of fun and the time we would spend together in the evenings, when I would get home from work were awesome. 

I worried that he had not grieved very much but was assured that he would, in time. He has, but I still question whether I did the right things or not. There is rule book for something like and people handle death in many different ways. Chase has so many people who care and love him and the outpouring of support that we both got was overwhelming. Most of that support was for him, as it should be. I cannot thank enough, all of the people who stepped up to keep him busy while I worked during that summer.

It has been three years now since I had to tell my son that he lost his mother.  In that time, we grew close and then seem to drift apart a bit. I think that is normal in father-son relationships, once the son is a teenager.

Chase may or may not realize it, but I love him very much and having to deliver two pieces of news like that were the most difficult things I ever had to do. Something I hope I never have to repeat.


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