I was raised as a full on daddy's tomboy like girl. Pops was a handy man, it did not matter what it was, he could fix it. From rebuilding cars to creating pieces of art with his woodworking talents, he could do it all. This man was the MOST important person in my entire world, next to my Momma.
Last Friday my Momma called me from Tennessee, where they were vacationing, and shared Dad had been rushed to the hospital by EMS and was extremely sick. He is a much older Dad than what a typical 30 year old would have. He was 78 years young and had many health issues that have scared us shitless in the past.
I asked her if she wanted me to come to her so that I could be her support and drive them home when dad got better. I had a plane voucher sitting in my Delta account. She asked me to wait until the doctors have more of an idea of what's going on. She is where I learned to be the brave face baby girl of the family. She never wants to inconvenience anyone. I stressed so deeply that she could never be an inconvenience in my life, that I would go to the end of the earth for her. That I wish so bad I could trade places with my dad and take all his pain away.
I talked to her everyday, multiple times a day to make sure she was doing ok. This man has been her husband, partner, person, and so much more for 45 years. They adore each other as if they just met and started dating. You know, that lovey dovey kind of love that inspires movies to be made. Someone call the people who film all of the Nicolas Sparks movies, because their story would sell millions. (However, I possibly may be biased)
She finally accepted my proposal to fly down and drive them home. She wanted to wait 48 hours because the doctor said those were the most important. Those 48 hours would dictate how long he could be there for. I waited the rest of Friday and Saturday. Sunday morning Momma called with news that would bring me to my knees.
Dad was doing much worse.
I booked my flight for Monday night to fly into Tennessee from Michigan immediately. I was set to fly into Knoxville at 10:30 pm with a 45 min ride to the hospital.
Monday morning's call did more than bring me to my knees, it shattered my entire world.
Dad was expected to pass within 24 hours.
I frantically packed a bag and impatiently waited until 7 when I was set to go to the airport. I prayed harder than I ever have before that he would just make it until I could come give him one last hug and kiss.
I was walking to board my plane when I got the call. I fell on the airport floor and started sobbing, while wearing a mask. I got back up and walked to my gate, I was the last one on the plane. I felt like the air had been sucked right out of my body. I was greeted by a flight attendant, Laurie.
Laurie was sent to me from God himself. There is a reason she was one of the flight attendants on this flight. She saw my face and immediately asked what was wrong. I said my Daddy just died and I was on my way to see him. She embraced me in a tight mom like hug. She took me to my seat and loaded me with kleenex. I just sat there and sobbed. I felt so bad for the others on my flight to have to hear me. Laurie came back once they were allowed to walk around the cabin. She hugged me again and asked if I needed anything from her. I asked for a drink, I needed something to calm me. She brought me a drink and constantly checked in on me during this short 1.5 hour flight. She let me talk about my dad and show her his pictures. When we landed in Knoxville she hugged me so tight as I walked off of the plane. I will never forget the kindness this complete stranger showed me.
I walked to baggage claim lost and confused. I honestly do not know how I even found it. These moments were so blurry to me. As I was waiting for my bag to come down an older gentleman approached me. He wanted to extend his condolences. He asked where I was headed, I said to Laconte Medical Center In Sevierville. He asked how I was to get there, I said I don't really know yet maybe an Uber. This selfless man said “No, no way you're just going to take an Uber. I am going to take you to Sevierville.” I felt like my Dad was sending this man to me when I needed a stranger's love.
This angel's name was Tom. Tom let me talk about my Daddy the entire 45 min drive to Sevierville. We arrived at the hospital and Momma was standing outside with some friends who were on this trip as well. Bless their hearts for staying with her until I could get to her. Tom unloaded my luggage and immediately hugged my Momma. He hugged me goodbye and slipped a hundred dollar bill with his business card in my hand. I told him I could not accept this. He insisted and would not take it back. I made sure to get his phone number so I could properly thank him later when I had a more put together brain.
I hugged my Momma like I've never hugged her before. I felt the pain I saw in her eyes, but can never fully understand how she was feeling. I lost my Daddy but she lost her soulmate of 45+ years. I took her back to the hotel where my Dad's things were all over. I couldn't help but to put his suspenders and hat on. I didn't take that hat off literally for 3 days. I put Momma to bed and went outside to have a moment.
We woke up early, she just wanted to get home. We had at least a 9 hour drive ahead of us. We went to breakfast at this little dinner my Dad wanted to eat at every morning. It was retro, they only played oldies and they dressed like the 50's. We had our breakfast and when Momma went to pay the check of maybe 20 dollars, she handed the waitress a hundred dollar bill. She said keep the change, my husband passed away yesterday and he would want me to give you this. She immediately teared up, you could tell she needed this gesture. Then we hit the road to home.
I stopped at the Kentucky/Tennessee boarder because the funeral home in Michigan was returning my call. They told me I needed to arrange transportation and that they didn't handle that. For the next hour I figured out the best thing was to have him cremated in Tennessee and then come back to pick up his ashes.
We continued on the road, telling our favorite stories of Dad. We stopped for food along the way at a waffle house cause he always stopped at Waffle house when in Ohio. It took us 12 hours all together to get home. She asked if I wanted to stop and sleep on the way and I told her absolutely not. She wanted to get home, I was going to get her home. No questions asked. I would go to the end of this earth for this woman.
The next few days were so hectic. I was on the phone for hours calling insurance polices, the VA, Social Security, and so much more. I do not want my Momma needing to be concerned with anything but signing a few documents. Thankfully everything was pretty simple and I was able to start all the claims and such with her just needing to sign things.
Daddy didn't want a service of any kind, not even a military one. But it's only right my Momma receives a flag in his honor. He fought in the Bay of Pigs during the Vietnam War. He was a true Hero. I reached out to two friends of mine who were servicemen. One served in the Army and the other the Navy, the branch Dad served in. I asked if they would come fold and present a flag to my mom in honor of my Dad. Without hesitation they agreed. Mom wanted to be presented with the flag with just her and their kids present. Then take all of us including the servicemen to dinner at Lucky's Steakhouse. Lucky's was my Dad's favorite restaurant. I joked that we need to remember to bring his teeth because he never remembered them haha.
She wanted us to pack up his clothes and such and just donate them. I told her I would pack anything she asked me to. But in secret I will not donate his things yet. I want to make her a T-Shirt quilt. I barely know how to use a sewing machine, but I will learn. My dear friend in Alaska will be zoom meeting with me to teach me. I'm not ready to just give his things away. Even his clothes hold so many memories for me, he wore everything even after it was holey. He hated spending money on new clothes for himself.
There's so many boring details of phone calls and such I won't bore you with.
I got the phone call on 10/1 that the funeral home in Sevierville had his ashes. I immediately took Momma home and drove to my boyfriend's house. He was taking me down to go get Daddy.
He was a blessing that was sent to me at the right time. We've only been dating for about 3 months. He dropped everything to bring me down to Tennessee. My Dad would be so happy I have a man that treats me so well. I haven't always had that, I've been through some hard relationships I'm sure I'll tell you about later. He has been the biggest support during this entire thing, I can not thank God enough for putting him into my life. I am so sad that they will never meet. He would of loved Mr. Charcuterie (for the sake of anonymity, that's what we will call him).
I picked up Daddy's urn from the funeral home in Michigan. I almost lost my shit for the first time. I haven't truly comprehended that he's not coming home as a person but as ashes. As I was pulling out of the Cemetery that day, the song I danced with my dad to at my previous marriage came on. I think he was telling me he was there with me, making sure I had the strength to be the brave face for everyone else especially my Momma.
Bring us to now, I am heading to Tennessee to pick up Daddy. I am going to absolutely loose it Sunday morning when I have Daddy in my hands. I didn't want family to come because they need to see me strong. I have the person who will hug me so tightly and make sure his girl is going to be ok with me. I literally could not be more grateful to have this man. This man will be in my life forever. I just know he will give me a love like my parents had. Daddy would be so so happy to know that this man is taking the utmost care of his baby girl.
This was long, I apologize. If you stayed this long, thank you for hearing my story. I don't know how to comprehend loosing the most favorite person in my entire life. I would do anything in this world to give him just one more hug and kiss. To just hear him say “I love you”. I only have photos, videos, and some voicemails left. I guess that's not true...I also have the memory of a father who adored me and NEVER left me stranded. I know many don't get the kind of Daddy I had. I am eternally grateful God chose him for me. He was the best man in whole universe.