Tell your father he's special

By Steve Sell
June 11, 2014

Father’s Day is always special, but for me this year it’s more special than normal.

Nearly a month ago, my 87-year-old father was in a Neodesha Hospital fighting for his life. My sister and I were there and after consulting with the doctors, we really believed this could be the last time we were going to see him.

Hospice was called in. In fact, the doctor determined there was very little more that could be done and Dad was sent back to the nursing home, where we hoped he would be comfortable for his final few days. One of the nurses at the home even thought he probably wouldn’t make it through the night after he was transported back to Independence.

Prayers were asked and received. Dad’s church started a prayer chain and there was strong response. Dad did take a turn for the better and when I went to see him 10 days ago, he was able to converse and even toured the hallway in his wheelchair.

He has had a bit of a relapse this week. Maybe my already-scheduled five-day trip to Independence is perfect timing, as I’m hoping my presence will provide him a spark.

I’ll be honest, Dad has been like a cat with nine lives. We nearly lost him at Christmas a few years ago as he spent a lengthy duration at the hospital. But he bounced back from that and actually was well enough where he could do physical therapy in an attempt to get out of his wheelchair. He had a brief flurry of walking, but now he’s in the chair to stay.

Dad was fortunate that he was healthy most of his life. He was playing nine holes of golf about three days a week clear up until he was about 83. However, he later was involved in an auto accident and really has never been the same.

Dad also has suffered from dementia as his once-brilliant mind has been ravaged by the disease. He still was able to play the piano expertly until a few months ago, but his hands have apparently become so arthritic than he can no longer enjoy the one thing he does best and what probably has kept him going spirtually.

This will be a bittersweet Father’s Day. While I’m overjoyed he is still with us, I also know this isn’t the way he wants to live. He has told me that he’s ready to join Mom in heaven. He spends most of his days sleeping and has very little interaction with others. Anyone familiar with my Dad knows that’s about the furthest from the way he used to be. He’s always been the life of the party, the master of the one-liner, the jokester. He loved to be on stage and drew enjoyment from others who enjoyed his music. He instilled his since of humor in me, because I’ve always thought if you’re not laughing, then you’re crying. And I’m not one who likes to cry.

I will be playing in a golf tournament for three days this weekend, but will spend as much time with Dad for as long as he’s up for it. We don’t say a lot these days, we just kind of look at each other with a bit of sadness. Because of his dementia, I can practically hear the wheels turning in his brain trying to remember all the good times. And there were so many, I can’t even remember.

I’ll report to him about how I played in the tourney, but it won’t be like the old days when I’d call him after a good round. We used to share hole-by-hole as he wanted to know what club I hit on a certain hole. I had a stretch where I was making a hole-in-one about every other month and when I’d call, I’d say, “Guess what I did?” And he would say, “not another hole-0n-one!”

He loved to brag about hole-in-ones, as I have eight and he has three. He even has a trophy of his ace in 1986. He used to tell the story he how made a 1 on the hole, Milton Lowmaster made a 2 and I made a 3. You very seldom see a 1-2-3 from a group on a hole.

A father should be the most important male figure in one’s life. While Dad and I didn’t have a lot of the same interests growing up other than golf, he always made a point of trying to learn more about my world of baseball, basketball and other sports. He was more about hunting and fishing, with the latter something he did well into his 70s before we feared he might have an accident on the water and he gave it up.

I urge everyone who still has a father to spend the day with them, or at least call or contact them. We only have one true father. I can’t imagine life without mine.