Warning: For this post you might want to read the disclaimer on the “About Page” first….I’m feeling long-winded today and I’ve got some so many thoughts that I need to express. My father is the subject of so many of my thoughts. In fact, every single morning, reality slaps me in the face with the fact that my Dad is dead and when I lie in bed at night, I am filled with thoughts about my Dad. Good thoughts. Thoughts filled with love, but also painful ones as my grief is still so very raw. So here it goes…it is sooo long..
But you don’t have to read if you don’t want to. This is for me. As a matter of fact, there are a few people I know, who should not read this…you know who you are…so stop now! (Which is a silly thing to write…because after you tell someone not to read it…of course they will.) So if you are continuing for some unknown reason, read what I actually say … not what you think you hear in your own head. Again…. this is for me, about me and my memories of my Dad, and this is my reality.
The Bible said it at Deuteronomy 5:16: “‘Honor your father and your mother, just as Jehovah your God has commanded you; in order that your days may prove long and it may go well with you on the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.”
Have I always obeyed this scripture? NOPE… There were many times…lots and lots of times, during my teenage years that I disobeyed this scripture. I was young and thought I knew everything…. and of course, the parental units surely had forgotten what it was like to be young. They were old…really, really old. I am happy to say that my hindsight has improved and I can now see what an ungrateful jerk I was at times. Not all the time…but be sure that there were many occasions when Dad probably wanted to muzzle me permanently. And I am happy to report that my parents were not Old Geezers after all.
My father said I did not understand “No” as an answer to any of my questions back then. I was hard-headed, opinionated and passionately insistent on getting my way. I knew every reason why I should be allowed to do what I wanted to do and skilled at making sure I was heard…even over their protests. I must say, in my defense, that I am a product of my dear Ol Dad. Dad took great delight in friendly debate, he wanted his children to be articulate and prepared to give a reason for our beliefs … whether those beliefs were Bible-based or as simple as why we believed we should be able to wear lipstick at a certain age. So Dad is largely, yes hugely, responsible for the way my brain works. On many occasion, I have been accused, or complimented, depending on your view, that I am just like him. Now-a-days I take that as a huge compliment.
One of the defining points in my relationship with my father occurred when I was 11. I had been a smart mouth to my mother…a real no-no when Dad was around, and he was going to punish me. Dad is from the South and he believed a spanking was not out-of-order. He told me to bend over and touch my knees and he was gonna whack me on my butt. Well, I took off running across the room and refused to submit to that spanking. He kept demanding that I obey and I stood in steadfast defiance. NO WAY was that going to happen. He asked me if I was out of my mind and I replied with righteous indignation: “You always tell us to use our brain…how much sense does it make to bend over and let someone hit you?!!!” Dad turned away from me and his shoulders started going up and down and he let out this huge belly laugh, which ended with him walking out of the room just shaking his head. He never spanked me again. I reveled in that victory. I thought I was so smart. I soon learned that spankings were probably better than lectures…and for a long time I was doomed to repetitive readings of the Book of James in the Bible. That’s right, where the famous scripture is recorded about my errant body member:
(James3:5-10) So, too, the tongue is a little member and yet makes great brags. Look! How little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire! 6 Well, the tongue is a fire. The tongue is constituted a world of unrighteousness among our members, for it spots up all the body and sets the wheel of natural life aflame and it is set aflame by Ge·hen′na. 7 For every species of wild beast as well as bird and creeping thing and sea creature is to be tamed and has been tamed by humankind. 8 But the tongue, not one of mankind can get it tamed. An unruly injurious thing, it is full of death-dealing poison. 9 With it we bless Jehovah, even [the] Father, and yet with it we curse men who have come into existence “in the likeness of God.” 10 Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way.
Okay, I admit, my tongue was not the sweet, dew-dripping, Pollyanna kind. Nope, not me. Dad said I was like a wild horse that needed to be tamed…and I, of course, responded with all my glorious insight: “Don’t you mean you want to break my spirit? Isn’t that how you tame a horse? Thanks Dad.” How did he stand me? I think Mom gave up and let Dad deal with me.
While Dad and I butted heads and went toe-to-toe on many issues, I always knew I was loved. Even when I was in my rebellious stage, I would wake Dad up at two in the morning to rat myself out and tell him what I had done wrong. I immediately confessed to my wrongdoing. Now, I look back and laugh, because what I considered wrongdoing is so mild compared to what is happening in families today. I really did not want to disappoint my father, but I felt he was unyielding. I now understand, that my Dad was not trying to be restrictive or overly controlling…he just wanted to protect me. He truly wanted the best for me…it just did not feel like it back when I was just plain out dumb.
After those teenage years were over…Dad and I relaxed into a great relationship… . I am happy and proud to say that Dad and I have experienced mutual respect and a deep and abiding love for each other that has never wavered through the years. He the Counselor and I the seeker of his wisdom. When I found myself in a diliema…I went to Dad and I would question him as to the wisest way to handle something … he would just turn the questions back at me, making me chart my own course. Frustrated with his tactics, I asked him once why he always did that and couldn’t he just answer me…. to which he said I was the one who was going to have to live with the results of my decision, so I should be the one to make the decision. Smart guy.
When I was low, Dad reasoned with me and lifted me up. But when I fell flat on my face, Dad told me to just get up…I knew how, just get up. Quitting was not an option. He made me do it and then he would hug me so hard as if to transfuse his strength into me. He supported me and even when I made huge mis-steps, Dad never condemned me, (but he did tell me I acted like a horse’s arse once…or maybe twice, okay many times, really … many, many times) but encouraged me to learn from my mistakes and move on. When I was feeling sorry for myself, he did not let me wallow in self-pity. He encouraged me to examine the cause and effect of my actions and was thrilled when I learned the lesson, even if it was the hard way. Because he was usually brutally honest, he helped me learn how to take a good hard look at myself and to really see. (Although, this has back-fired a bit, because I am super critical of myself… my own doing, not his.) His no-nonsense, no drama, attitude helped me become a good decision maker…and if I make a wrong decision … I understand and pay the consequences of my actions without blaming others…even though I really would like it to be someone elses fault. I have learned that I really hate the taste of humble pie. (I have been forced to eat more of that kind of pie than any other. I’d really prefer pumpkin please.) I make my own decisions and I either benefit from it or suffer, but I am the one who made the decision to act in a certain way. You do reap what you sow.
NOTE…I am not saying I have it all figured out … by no means do I … I’m saying that when I do something right, it is largely due to the way my Father taught me … and I am grateful. Here…I am really hoping that my words are portraying the right image…this is not about how great I am…it is about giving credit to my father for any good that might be in me. I am not trying to sing my praises…I am trying to show honor to my father and give credit where it is due. And Dad learned from his Heavenly Father and was able to show me a scripture for any and every problem I had.
So here would be a good time to stop reading if you want….I am about to get real melancholy, a little sappy, and a lot personal….so I will not be offended if you exit…your choice. It will probably be tear-inducing.
When I was visiting Dad and Mom right after they had moved to Oregon from California, … Dad gave me the best gift he had ever given me. As I was getting ready to leave for home, he walked me to the car and took my face in both of his hands. He kissed me on the forehead and told me this: “Daughter, I am so proud of the woman you have become. I am proud that you are a good mother, a good wife, a good friend and a good daughter. I can see your love for Jehovah and I am proud of your zeal. Thank you for teaching my grandsons how to love. Never forget that I am proud of you. Never let your love of Jehovah die. Keep your passion alive. I love you Daughter. Now get out of here and drive safe…your killing me.” I must have had tears running down my face for at least 50 miles as I drove toward home. I will never forget those words and they are replayed in my mind and comfort me, especially now. What’s even better, is that since that time, he has repeated those same words to me on several occasions. If my words could adequately convey just what that means to me … I would win a Pulitzer.
The biggest loss of my life occurred on May 17, 2011. My father died.
I will be eternally grateful that I was able to spend the last month of his life with him at home in Oregon, with Mom, Teresa, and quite a few days with Roger and Elena….and my husband, Randy who came up the week before Dad died. Dad talked and talked and I listened better than I have my whole life. I hung on his every word…. and wanted more… and I still want more. I don’t want to forget any of it.
Dad spoke about his great love for our God, Jehovah and the delights he had in serving him… He recounted some experiences he had in the preaching work. He spoke about studying and digging into the deeper things, examining the Greek and Hebrew words to get a better grasp and encouraged me to always do that. To really MAKE SURE. That is what he had been doing for over 40 years and he had no doubts, no qualms, no fears. He knew he was secure in Jehovah’s memory.
Dad walked down memory lane and took me with him. He spoke of his life with his Grandparents, and then with his sisters after his mother and father died…his time in the Marines….He recounted how he met Mom and how she was so cute that he could not keep his eyes off of her. He spoke of his love for our mother and how he admired her so much, especially for putting up with him all these years. He said that they were so different and yet so suited for each other. They would have been married for 61 years less than a month after he died.
He told me about the places they had lived and the people they associated with. He spoke about how he thought he was “ill-equipped and did not know how to be a father” when they started having children. Dad spoke of the joys and some of the heartaches he had experienced in raising us a little ones. Some really fun memories. I learned so much I never knew before.
Dad loved his family so much. He was thrilled when Roger was at the house and you could hear the love of a father for an only son..when he was talking with him. He talked about each of his five children in detail, listing our accomplishments and things he was proud of and some of the things he wished were different. Things he wished he could have done over, to try to make a difference. He spoke of how powerless he felt when some had their hearts and spirits broken by mates who were supposed to have loved them and how much he wished he had the ability to change that. He spoke about his grandchildren and how he was pretty darn proud of his progeny and said that we were a mighty fine bunch of people… He had tears down his face when he said that he wasn’t afraid to die, he just didn’t want to leave any of us…we had so much living still to do and he didn’t want to miss any of it. …Now I have to stop for a while because I cannot see the screen through my tears. Oh HOW HE LOVED US! ALL OF US!
Dad talked about me, he listed my strengths, encouraged me to keep writing, he was so encouraging about so many things and it was so nice to hear that he approved of me …..but then he pointed out some of my weaknesses…OUCH.. No really….OUCH! Among other things, he wanted me to work on being more tolerant of others … but then he laughed and said that he himself had no tolerance for stupidity. He pointed out my tendency to dismiss people and said that came from him…but that it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I asked him why he dismissed people and he told me the very same reasons why I do…. if they are too negative, too needy, too dramatic, too selfish..(too-too-too whatever.) I told him that I didn’t want to have to be the constant cheerleader for people who were always negative and down. I told him that I call people like that Energy Vampires and I am just too tired to deal with them. I hate it when I find myself being negative, so why would I want to associate with someone else who is always negative? He agreed, but encouraged me to be more Christlike in my attitude and not to be so hard-nosed. It seems we shared some of the same weaknesses. But…he was right, I have soooo many weaknesses that I need to work on. Under any other circumstance, I might have downplayed or made excuses for those weaknesses… but this was a time for honesty and clarity. Dad, in his last effort, was trying to give me the benefit of his knowledge and wisdom. He did not want me to have some of the same regrets he had.
Despite admitting that he had dismissed from his life a fair share of people he just did not want to deal with, Dad talked about the people who had meant so much to him in his life, the ones he admired and he listed the reasons; which usually had to do with their love for Jehovah and how they kept their integrity.
As I listened, Dad spoke of his accomplishments and his regrets … It was so sad to hear his regrets. He was hard on himself and was frustrated that there wasn’t time left for him to set some things straight and bemoaned the fact that there were so many things he could have done or should have done better. This man who I had come to believe was invincible was fading before my eyes and yet he will always be my Hero. His life-story retold in a weakening voice, replays in my head over and over again…. and I don’t ever want those words or his voice to fade away.
Dad expressed his appreciation for the love that was shown him by Teresa over the past few years, and how she had stayed right by his side through his fight with Cancer. He spoke in glowing terms, with tears in his eyes, how much he enjoyed the years he got to have his oldest daughter back under his roof. He told me that he was proud of how Teresa and I interacted and he teased that we had never grown up and still giggled like little girls. He was worried that she had given up her life for him and Mom….and I assured him that caring for the two of them had brought Teresa back to life and she loved him dearly and she had no regrets. He told me to hang on to our relationship and to help her, be there for her and make sure she is okay. Shoot, he said we are cute together….aw shucks, and that he loved that we are such good friends.
In his last days, he had the opportunity to speak to his Grandchildren, a few in person, face-to-face, and some by phone and tell them that he loved them and tried to encourage them to pay attention to our heavenly Father. As he lay dying, Dad was thrilled that all the kids and grandchildren were in the process of gathering together to be there to support Mom when he died.
His main concern was Mom…I think she is the reason why he held on for so long. He was upset with himself for dying first. Dad wanted to be there to take care of her, mentally, physically and most of all spiritually. So he made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was entrusting her into our care. He made me promise again and again to help my sister Teresa, take care of Mom and make sure she was happy. I swore to him that come hell or high-water, Mom would be taken care of and I would do my darndest to make sure she was happy. It was a promised I repeated to him the night he died.
I will honor Dad by honoring the promise I made to him. I will make no apologies to anyone for supporting whatever Mom and Teresa choose to do with their future! Furthermore, if I can influence Mom to do something that I know will bring her happiness, I WILL DO THAT. Whatever Mom needs, whatever she wants, and whatever will maker her happiest…. that comes first and foremost. I promised Dad and I intend to keep that promise. (SO MOM EAT CHOCOLATE IF YOU WANT–TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS AND HOWL AT THE MOON….IF THATS WHAT TOOTS YOUR HORN…AND I WILL DO IT WITH YOU.) (Really, I promise to make sure she does not eat tooo much chocolate…I do possess a little common sense, but howling at the moon will be up to her own discretion or lack of it.) I am just kidding … for crying out loud.
As regards to MOM’s decision to move to Ventura…. I am ECSTATIC. Let it be known that if it is selfish to want to be near Mom and Teresa, then paint me selfish. Shoot, make a sign, a big ol heavy sign, and hang it around my neck. YES…I AM SELFISH. I want to spend the rest of Mom’s life making sure she is filled with joy, despite the grief that she has been inflicted with….I want to worship our God together, I want her at my dinner table and I want to watch her playing with my grandchildren. Who wouldn’t want that? I am not celebrating at anyone’s expense…I am celebrating because I can’t help it. I am happy. If anyone feels excluded, then come and visit her (I’ve been doing that for 18 years) or better yet … there is some prime real estate here in Ventura and you are welcome to join us. I am dancing with glee and will continue to do so….and I’m not apologizing. I love my Mother and I know that she will be happy here.
Okay…. I said that this would be long.
So back to that scripture….Honor your Father and your Mother.
I didn’t always…but I have and I will continue to endeavor to do so.
I will honor my father by continuing to try to live with the morals and principles he tried to instill in all of his children. And I will try my best to support my children’s effort to instill them in their children, my father’s great-grandchildren. I will do my utmost to live up to my dedication to my God Jehovah because I love Him, but also in honor of the dedication my father had to Him and knowing that is what Dad wished for his children more than anything, that his legacy and example of serving Jehovah be our own legacy. I will honor my father by honoring my mother. By treating her with dignity and respect and never forgetting that she is the mother. I will honor her wishes and strive to keep her healthy spiritually, physically and mentally. I will encourage her to be happy, will sit and wander down memory lane with her and revisit Dad and everything he stood for, all the great gifts he gave us and the great life they had together. I will help Teresa care for Mom, in every way I can. I will also honor Dad by striving to promote love and harmony in our family just like he did. I will remember and will encourage all in the family to remember what was important to our Father and how we can show honor to him by being the type of people that he wanted us to be.
We are the progeny of Ray and Carolyn Cook, and they deserve our honor and our respect.