Joining Amy this week for Five-On-Friday at Love Made My Home.
In the supermarkets this week the Valentine's Day candy is out and on full display. For the first time in 23 years, I didn't cry when I got my first glimpse of the red-foiled chocolate candy. That's what my five is about this week.
One: The Hospital On January 18, 1994, my father called to tell me he was in the hospital. I was at work in the same town as the hospital, so I left quickly to go see him and stopped at a market to buy a deck of cards on the way there. They were putting up a big Valentine's Day display in the store, so I bought a large bag of red-foil-wrapped chocolate pieces for him to share with the people who stopped by to see him.
Two: How To Win At the hospital, his two older sisters had just left and my father and I were alone. We both loved playing Black Jack, so we started a game. Since we didn't have many coins on us, we decided to use the Valentine's Day candy as betting "chips". We finally ended the game that night when he had all the candy pieces. It was late, so I headed home...and that became our ritual.
Every afternoon after work I (an over-worked, 40-something divorced mother) went to the hospital after other family members left and played Black Jack with my dad until he (usually) won all the chocolate pieces, then I drove the 30 miles home to the town where I lived and got up the next day and did it all over again. I hope, when I was with him, that I didn't show all the pressure I was feeling.
One night, when he had won my share of the red-foiled "chips" yet again, I said:
"Dad, sometimes people let their kids win a game or two!"And he replied:
"Well...you know...they're showing their kids how to lose. I always tried to show you how to win."
Three: Diagnosis After almost a week of nightly Black Jack, my father had exploratory surgery. I was by myself in the waiting room when the doctor came to say there was nothing they could do. Later, I sat in his room staring at the red-foil-wrapped chocolates while he slept.
Four: 6 Months Dad went home with hospice soon after the diagnosis. A friend drove him to his doctor's office visit on Friday, February 4th. Dad walked into the doctor's office perfectly fine by himself. Dad called me that evening and we had a long, clear conversation. He told me the doctor said he had 6 months to live. We agreed I'd be over the next morning with my daughters and we would make plans.
The next morning at 9, my girls and I arrived at his house (about 45 miles from where we lived) while the hospice nurse was there. We found that my father had no idea who we were, could not walk without us supporting him, and would eat only if his granddaughters fed him...and then only pudding and mashed potatoes. Dad died in the hospital the next day, Sunday Feb 6th, probably the shortest 6 months on record. I believe he willed himself to die. He won.
Five: A Sweet Memory Since I wasn't much of a match for his card playing skills, I wondered at the time if he was bored while playing cards with me in those last days of his life. After his death, at his memorial service, I mentioned this to his two sisters. My aunts looked at each other and smiled, then told me when he was in the hospital he asked them not to eat the red-foiled chocolates because he wanted as many "chips" as possible to make our games last longer.
I'm sharing this with you as Valentine's Day approaches because I hope when you see those red-foiled candy pieces this year, it will remind you to slow down and love someone a little bit harder, a little bit longer, a little bit better. That lifetime you see ahead could easily turn into just 6 months or maybe even just 2 little days.
Thanks for dropping by