Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sharing My Heart from a Daughter's Perspective

After getting married, soon to be 21 years ago, the longest I had ever gone without seeing my father was about a year. I was pregnant with our first child and my husband was stationed in New York. The drive was long, and after 2 previous miscarriages the Dr. suggested that I fly to Kentucky. Money was so short and we just didn't have enough to fly both myself and my husband home for Christmas. I flew, and he and our cocker spaniel drove the long 18 hour trek to enjoy time with our family.

I will never forget the moment I stepped off the plane. I looked around feeling a little alone without my husband by my side. To this day, I remember the maternity outfit that I was wearing, and I remember the feeling of excitement that was growing inside of me to know that I was just a few minutes from seeing my parents again. I glanced up and I saw him. My dad was standing there with eyes of blue that always melted my heart. He was smiling waiting on me. When I finally got to his arms, he gave me the biggest hug ever and that is when I saw it. I looked down and I saw something that startled me to the very core. My dad's hands looked...old. They looked just like my grandfather's hands. My mind was racing. When did this occur? How long have I been gone? As I quickly brushed a tear from my eyes, I looked into his face and I saw the man I had always known. My heart was relieved because his face looked the same as it always had. There was the soft blue eyes that always beamed at me whenever we were together. There was the large grin that usually adorned his face. My heart instantly calmed down, and it felt good to be with him again.

We had a wonderful visit that Christmas. All too soon it was time to leave once again. The years have washed away the memories of the trip back home. I don't even remember if I flew back or if I rode back with my husband. Strange isn't it how some memories etch themselves into our brain while others seem to fly quickly from our minds.

For many years, I always cried when it was time for my husband and I to leave my parent's and return to our own home. I promised myself I wasn't going to cry because it always made tears come to my dad's eyes as well. No matter how hard I tried, my chin would start quivering and instantly tears would pour from my own soft blue eyes. Upon one of those occasion, my dad leaned over to his treasured rose bush. He gently cut me a rose and handed it to me while I was sitting in our car. He smiled and mouthed a quiet "i love you". And I knew he did. I would hold that rose in my hands and smell it time and time again as we drove down the road. I would finger the soft petals and know the love of a father. I also knew the love of a husband, and he would wrap his free arm around me while kissing the top of my head as we drove down the road.

My dad had started a tradition, one that I carried out until the end. One that I still carry out every time I leave his home in the summertime. He always cut me a rose and handed it to me through the car window while speaking a soft "i love you".

The last few years of my dad's life I saw him many times. He purchased a large red truck and a travel home to park at our farm. He and my mom would drive down often to visit. I always heard the truck before I actually saw it, and my children would start running and screaming, "They're here!" Hugs and kisses would be doled out to all present. I saw my parents often and I soon learned that tears weren't needed at their departure because it wouldn't be long and we would see them again.

Then came the sickness, and the tears flowed freely from my eyes once again. I remember the last time my dad drove the big red truck to our home. When he climbed out of the truck, it was all I could do to keep from running back into the house away from this man that I loved so much. He looked so very old and so very thin. He looked just like my grandfather did. I made myself walk out to him. I made myself smile at him, but on the inside I was sobbing. I had already prayed about this moment. I didn't want to break down when he first drove into the driveway. I had asked the Lord to give me the strength that I needed to come face to face with that moment and not to cry. As I felt his arms embrace me, I was shaking but I did not cry. I smiled and softly said "i love you". The only part of him that looked familiar to me were his soft blue eyes.

I went back home for the last 6 weeks of my dad's life and I stayed to help take care of him. It was summer time. My dad was just as gracious in his death as he was in his life. The last few weeks of his life my dad wasn't able to go outside anymore. One morning I carefully took the rose pruners out to his rose bushes. I gently held the flowers and cut the dead ones off just like he had showed me many years before. Count the leaves...clip here...that will promote more blooms. I remembered my lessons well. As I clipped the dead flowers, I cried. I knew there wouldn't be much time left. After I was finished, I chose the most beautiful roses of all, and I cut them. I put them in a vase and took them to his bedroom. He was asleep. I sat down in his chair and waited for him. When his eyes opened, he saw the roses. He glanced at me in his chair and smiled. I whispered a soft "i love you", and he returned the sentiment with his usual smile.

The day I went to bury my father I cut off one of his roses. I laid it with him in his grave while whispering a soft "i love you". Whenever I visit the cemetery in the summertime, I always take a rose. It is just a token of a love that is still very much a part of me.

Tomorrow my husband will be bringing my dad's big red truck back home to our farm. My brother has been the owner of the truck for the last 2 and a half years. Tomorrow it will become ours. I am not ready for that in many ways. Just the thought of it all brings back tears that haven't been felt on my cheeks for quite some time. To hear the rumble of that truck sitting in our driveway and know that my dad won't be behind the wheel overwhelms me. When my husband made the deal with my brother, he looked at me and smiled. The truck will make an awesome farm truck. "Your dad would be happy knowing that we would be using the truck on our farm. After all, the only time he ever "wrecked" it was when he backed into a pole at the feed store purchasing hog feed for us." A smile crossed my lips. I do remember that day just like it was yesterday. I am sure that tomorrow will be bitter sweet for me. And somehow I know, that with it will be a memory etched into the fiber of my heart.

grace and peace,


VoiceInTheWilderness said...

You just had to go and make me cry. My dad had an old white pick-up truck. He has soft-blue eyes. He once scribbled "I love you" on a scrap of paper and stuck it into one of my moving boxes when I was moving out of my parents' house. I miss him terribly.
Your dad sounds like a wonderful man.

Marci said...

Oh Julie, I am sitting here sobbing. I am so glad you have such precious memories. I lost my Mom 2 1/2 years ago. She went to bed healthy (we thought) and woke up in heaven. I too have some precious memories. I too still have tears and miss her like crazy. Thanks for sharing your heart. It touched mine today.

Amy said...

Tears are streaming down my face.......I pictured my own blue eyed grandfather driving his red truck as I read this.
What a beautiful story and testimony of the love between a father and his daughter.
I will think of this story every time I see a rose from now on.
Thank you for sharing your sweet memories with us today.
God Bless,

TnFullQuiver said...

Voice In the Wilderness,
Sorry I made you cry, but if it makes you feel any better I cried too. Thanks for commenting! Sounds like you have a pretty special Dad too.

I am glad I touched your heart today. Sounds like we lost our parents about the same time.

You are always such an encouragement to me. Thank you.
grace and peace,
julie said...

Julie (I'm Amy's Mom) -
She just told me about your post and said it was the most precious one she had ever read. She only knew my Dad until she was 11 and never knew my Angel Mother who died before I had her. It still hurts to this very day to my INSIDES! I miss both of them so very much. Amy has special memories of riding in the back of Daddy's RED TRUCK with her cousins and he had given them all a cup of M&M's.. Your website is beautiful and I have added you to my favorites as well. Thanks for a beautiful story. Sandra (Amy's Mom)

TnFullQuiver said...

Thank you so much for your kind words. I never understood the hurt over losing a parent until it happened to me. I just thought that my parents would be around well for a very long time. I never dreamed that I would lose my dad when I was only in my 30's. You are so right when you say it hurts in your insides. I am just thankful to have wonderful memories and no regrets where my dad was concerned. I have also tried to remember to live every day to its fullest. We never know what tomorrow might bring. Thanks for sharing your memories of Amy's grandfather. I can just see a whole truck bed full of kids holding onto little cups of M&M's with the wind blowing through their hair! That's what memories are made of!!!
grace and peace,

Mountain Mama said...

OK Julie! Just like the other ladies - I am bawling my eyes out. This is the sweetest most precious story about a father/daughter relationship. Oh how good the Lord is! I hope the greatest memories come pouring out when you hear the rumble of that red truck. Enjoy it!!