We grew up in a modest home and we lived simply. My parents provided for us, we didn’t go hungry, but they never spent a dime that wasn’t necessary. We didn’t ever have much, but looking back, we had everything.
My dad always told my mom not to worry, that she would be taken care of. While he didn’t provide any details, he reassured mom in many ways, not always with words, he’d find a way and she shouldn’t worry.
Dad loved two things – going fishing and going to auction sales. He typically didn’t buy or bid on anything. I’d ask why and it was usually the standard answer, “everything went too high.” I later found out from my brother-in-law, dad waited until the end of the sale when there would be scattered tables of left-overs… items that everyone had left at the sale, and dad might bid five bucks for everything. It was this collection of random items that most people left to be discarded, that got thrown into the pickup and hauled home for another day.
My dad would then bring these remnants home, sort them, price everything, bring out some old tables he bought at a VFW sale years ago, and then resell these items in our driveway. People came to know that he would have items to sell, and they would stop by the driveway to buy stuff, or some just to shoot the breeze with dad. He knew everyone, and I think the social part of this played as much a part of his sales as anything. Somehow, he always managed to find a way to make treasure out of trash.
We were planning on driving home to visit my parents but decided to wait until the next morning. When I checked my phone around 8am, there were twenty-three missed calls and six voice mails. WHAT IS UP? The calls and messages started at 6am from my mom. Message one -“Dad died I think!” Message two – “Please call, dad’s in the hospital.” Message three (my sister) – “You need to call mom right away, something is wrong.” Message four – “Dad’s being flown to the hospital, go meet the helicopter so he isn’t alone. Your cousin is there already because you won’t answer.”
I raced over to the hospital, but dad had been wheeled directly into the “Cath Lab.” My cousin saw him, said he looked good, and said let’s grab a coffee. My dad never woke up. Five days later, we had to do the unthinkable and turn off his life support. As he slipped away, our hearts ached, as we replayed his final days over and over.
Losing my dad was hard on all of us, especially my mom. They started dating when she was 16 and had never been apart in 55 years. So many questions… not so many answers. She wasn’t sure how she was going to make it financially and make it without her partner. I had no idea how they were set up financially, but the focus had to be on mom, and healing.
As in most losses like this, mom couldn’t go through dad’s stuff right away. We didn’t pressure her at all, as everyone needs to grieve at their own pace. When mom began to feel she was ready, she started going through my dad’s closet. She found envelopes. A lot of envelopes. And every envelope was stuffed with cash. There were more envelopes in his underwear drawer, one fell out of a safe that we moved, and we found them in other arbitrary places. Plain white envelopes, loaded with random bills inside. While not enough to live on for a lifetime, there was enough to help mom to breathe easier, and for us not to worry. It was obvious that dad had taken care of mom in his own, quiet way.
I wish dad had put some notes in these envelopes to know what he was thinking. But he wasn’t much of a communicator, and certainly not one looking for accolades. He was my dad, who always took care of grandma and mom. Not always perfect, but in his way, and with his big heart, he found a way to make them safe.
When I think about dad on my walks, I can see him smiling at the end of every auction, the end of every driveway sale, and every time he filled another white envelope – knowing he was finding a way to care for mom. Good job dad. You can rest well and know mom is taken care of because of you. And we’ll make sure she’s safe until she sees you again.