Old 07-22-2012, 06:48 PM #1 (permalink)
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Default In Memory of My Dad

He was like a younger, more sarcastic Santa Claus: While the rest of Sacramento slept, Dad would tumble (sometimes literally) out of bed to deliver the morning newspaper to every half-hidden house nestled within the unpaved Delta wetlands. He would come home at sunrise, smelling of coffee and Old Spice, sometimes bearing gifts. More often than not, these gifts were extra cereal samples that came with the paper. But one Valentine's Day, Dad surprised my sister and me with tiny toy kittens he had procured from an early-rising customer. This was a real treat, as Dad's mind, being overstuffed with the elements of his active imagination, bore little room for remembering holidays. I remember being quite touched by the gesture; and for some time, the kittens remained on the mantle, along with my parents' antique treasures. The greatest surprise Dad came home with, however, was a real live kitten--an abandoned runt of the litter who was, truthfully, just as tiny as our Valentine's Day gifts. It was Heather and my 13th birthday, and I came down the back stairwell to find the kitten snuggled in the folds of Dad's soft, pine-green sweatshirt. She was so small and still that I had to ask him if she was real. She was, he said, and then told the story of how he rescued her from her decided namesake, the Delta.

Delta, who always loved to cuddle with Dad but preferred to interact with the rest of the family by biting and scratching, still terrorizes the Bezdecheck household today. Her rescuer, however, is no longer there to settle her down. Dad passed away from ALS, a disease with which he had been burdened for nearly four years, on the evening of May 30, 2012. Writing those last words feels to me so chilling and strange. I find it inconceivable that the world could, quite suddenly, be no longer occupied by such a big personality and subsequently massive presence.

Even when Dad could no longer speak, he still managed to have a powerful voice. I realized this during his last few days, the majority of which I was fortunate to spend with him, despite my living on the opposite side of the country for the past eight years. About 2-1/2 months after she was born, my daughter, Evangeline Addison Burrous, traveled with me, her dad Rob, and her Auntie Heather from New York City to Sacramento to meet her California grandparents. Although Dad's condition had prompted us to plan the trip for the earliest date possible, we could never have guessed he would physically leave this earth immediately after our four-day visit.

Dad met his first grandchild the morning of May 26. He was sitting in the same power wheelchair he had zipped around in the last time I'd visited, a year ago. My mom and I still chuckle about how we had to apologize profusely to a vendor whose display Dad toppled while zealously careening through the throngs of people out enjoying Midtown's Second Saturday. But now, paralyzed from his shoulders down, he could not move the chair on his own. His thin legs were sheltered by a plaid, flannel blanket, and his still hands rested on a red suede pillow. I went to kiss him and tell him I loved him, and to my surprise he took the great pains that must have been required to whisper, "I love you too," from behind his BiPAP mask.

My heart was beating quickly as I turned to pluck Evangeline from the bouncer my mom had rented. Dad could not hug his granddaughter, nor could he profess, in his once loud and fervent voice, how beautiful she was. He could not thunder about the big house, swinging her up in the air while unmercifully chasing Delta with her in his arms. And yet, as I held Evangeline up to him, I found that I'd never seen him so happy. In fact, I'd never seen him so him. His eyes, which his driver's license had always cited as being hazel, were at that moment a bright sky blue. I've never seen someone's eyes actually twinkle before, but there are no other words to describe the otherwise ineffable phenomenon taking place in those once supposed, now undeniable "windows of the soul."

As a writer, I felt almost loopy observing the verifiability of the metaphors about eyes I'd always found so trite; but there's no denying it--his eyes danced. They spoke volumes. I felt as though I could fall right into them. All the cliches rang true, making me feel like a jaded adult discovering the actual existence of the Easter Bunny. "Is she cute?" I asked, mesmerized by his remarkable gaze. He raised his eyebrows, nodding enthusiastically, and to my astonishment, he actually smiled. I knew that was something he hadn't managed to do for a very long time. His lack of strength meant that for him, a smile was no longer something easily done; but in this case, it was simply something that couldn't be helped.

Even though Dad seemed so full of life when he met Evangeline, he had in fact been using all his might to hold out for us, so that he could say both hello and goodbye. When I learned of his passing, the day we arrived back in New York, my first thought was how grateful I was to him for waiting until after our visit to go. Being such a boisterous adventurer, he must have hated having to be so silent and still in that wheelchair. I felt happy and relieved to know that when this rightfully proud and stubborn man agreed to a feeding tube and a machine for breathing assistance, he did so because he had something to look forward to. My mom told me that in the days just before he lost his ability to speak, he would announce to anything with ears that soon his daughters and son-in-law would be coming to visit, along with his new granddaughter, Evangeline.

I am certain that our recent four days in Sacramento will be among the most special days of my life. Even though he could hardly speak, Dad was able to communicate with us by using his eyes and by nodding or shaking his head. Seemingly simple occurrences during this time made enormous statements about how much he loved his family. Although it had become rare for him to find the strength to venture outside, he was adamant about going to a local art show with us. And when Heather decided she wanted to sit in the backyard and identify the birds that frequented Dad's feeders, he insisted on going out with her. They stayed out in the backyard for hours. At one point I peered at them from the kitchen window and found myself astonished by the level of contentment they exhibited in sitting side by side, simply watching.

But my favorite memory of those days is when I managed to position the swiveling computer chair in such a way that allowed me to squeeze right up next to Dad without disturbing the BiPAP machine that kept him breathing comfortably. I put my nose against his shirt to see if he smelled like coffee and Old Spice. Of course he didn't; it had been some time since he had been in contact with either substance. I therefore opted to capture a different memory--the experience of leaning on him while watching a movie, feeling the rise and fall of his deep, relaxed breathing. I turned my attention to the documentary on birds he was watching and carefully touched my head to his shoulder. I didn't dare put any weight on him. The only evidence of his breathing was the sound of the BiPAP machine changing pressure. Still, as I sensed him turning his head to look at me, I was overcome with the same feeling of collaborative comfort I had felt whenever Dad and I, both intense and somewhat neurotic by nature, managed to find peace and quiet together. I put my hand on his. That felt the same--large, slightly rough, and strong despite his being unable to move it. . . much. I watched in wonderment as Dad began to wave his thumb back and forth in appreciation, and when his thumb stopped moving, I moved mine in response. To my delight, he began to move his again, and at a time when I thought any tears I cried would be tears of despair, I found myself crying tears of happiness as we enacted our secret handshake.

There is no denying that our time at home was as difficult as it was pleasant. While we didn't know exactly when Dad would leave us, we did know it was highly unlikely that we would see him in person again. But this sad recognition only gave way to other happy experiences, as my mom, who had been spending nearly every waking moment catering to Dad's ever-changing needs, comforted me in the only way she could at that point--by commiserating with me. In doing so, she revealed her own thoughts, concerns, and realizations with such openness that I saw for the first time the full magnitude of her love for him. I went back to New York with thankfulness, appreciation, and in awe of the rich life they had led together. And that life has given way to their legacy--one in which my parents have repeatedly expressed their pride--their three children and now the grandchild who so lit up my father's blue eyes, Evangeline Addison Burrous.

I want so badly to complete this tribute by listing my dad's seemingly unending list of talents and accomplishments, but that is a task I invite others to take part in--one person simply can't do it alone! What I will say is that Dad was one of a kind--more so than anyone I have ever known, and I have met quite a few colorful characters! Dad, I love you and could not be more proud of you. I am so fortunate to be my father's daughter. And you know precisely what I mean.

Bethany (Bezdecheck) Burrous
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Old 07-22-2012, 08:39 PM #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: In Memory of My Dad

What a beautiful tribute... sorry about your Dad, and thank you for sharing this with us.
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Old 07-22-2012, 10:28 PM #3 (permalink)
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That was so very special. - I to am sorry you've lost your dad and what you wrote is absolutely beautiful.
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Old 07-22-2012, 10:34 PM #4 (permalink)
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That was a moving tribute! I'm sorry for your loss!

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Old 07-23-2012, 08:58 AM #5 (permalink)
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Lovely tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss.
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:50 AM #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: In Memory of My Dad

WOW, that was such a wonderful experience and a wonderful story brought tears to my eyes. It brought back a couple of memories for me too. Thank you for that.
They say when people are getting ready to "go", they are waiting for someone to come or some one to leave. I think your dad was waiting for you, your hubby and his grandbaby, then waiting for you to leave. You completed him. You gave him a purpose to look forward too. My dad's hazel eyes used to do amazing things too. My moms are blue, dad's were hazel (mine were too) Now since his passing and age, they turned green. Weird... I guess that makes me the 2% LOL. Thank you for sharing such an amazing, beautiful story of true Love between a daughter and dad. Thanks...
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:12 AM #7 (permalink)
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I can relate to so much of that beautiful story, thank you for sharing that with us.
I am sorry for your loss.

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Old 07-23-2012, 01:37 PM #8 (permalink)
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Very sorry for your loss, this was a very touching tribute.
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Old 07-23-2012, 02:38 PM #9 (permalink)
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Thanks for sharing your precious memories. So sorry for your loss.
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Old 07-23-2012, 03:43 PM #10 (permalink)
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Bethany ~ What a beautifully written tribute to your Dad, truly special
I am so sorry for your loss, thoughts & prayers to you and your family

>>>>HUGS<<<<
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Old 07-24-2012, 02:40 PM #11 (permalink)
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So sorry for your loss. What a tribute to your dad. Prayers to your family. Love Wanda xoxoxo
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Old 07-24-2012, 03:37 PM #12 (permalink)
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Thank you for sharing, what a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person, loving husband and father. I am so sorry for your loss. Prayes for Peace and comfort.
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