As I look back it amazes me that I have not blogged since March back when I was teaching my class in Church History on Eleuthera. I have started this particular blog a number of times and it seems I just cannot get through it. It is also hard to imagine all the things that have happened since then. The biggest of course is the death of my parents. Even as I write that it seems surreal. My dad went into the hospital in early June, diagnosed with extensive cancer. He never came home. His last days were not terribly difficult and technically he was not in the hospital. At Palmetto Baptist in Columbia they have a wing that houses the hospice center. That is where my dad spent the last month of his life. My mom was there every day and there were few days when my sister LeRores, my brother Philip or I were not there.
Eight days after my dad passed away my mom fell at home and broke her hip. She entered the hospital, had surgery and the day after surgery due to being disoriented she tried to get out of bed, fell again and again broke her hip. A week later she was transferred to a rehab facility and the first time she got up for physical therapy, she apparently threw a blood clot and had a massive stroke and died. The odd thing is that I was with her as she was eating lunch just after the physical therapy. They took her into the lunch room, gave her her meal and she began to eat. I had been with her social worker and they came and told me the good news that my mom was up and in the lunch room. I went to see her, helped her eat part of her lunch, left to get my own lunch and less than 20 minutes later she was gone. I was totally stunned and in shock. I had called my brother, sister and wife to tell them the good news about her progress and less than one hour later I was the phone tell Debbie and LeRores (my sister) that mom was gone. My brother, Philip, was the one to call me because the rehab facility had called him being unable to get me on the phone.
The thing about all of this is that for the past five or more years my brother and sister and I had talked about what would happen our parent who out lived the other. They were so dependent on each other, so committed to each other and so in love with each other that it was hard to imagine one without the other. Apparently they felt the same way.
There story was a true love story. Not the kind you see about in movies where everything goes just fine, with do difficulties or problems or where the man comes and sweeps the lady off her feet. But the kind of love where two ordinary people with their own struggles, problems and peculiarities make a live long commitment “to have and to hold, from this day forward for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part”. And that is just what they did.
Dad grew up in Columbia and attended Clemson for one year before World War II came calling and sent him off to North Africa to help pursue Rommel, the Dessert Fox as part
of the Army Air Corps. After helping clean up North Africa by serving as a mechanics on P-38s he crossed the Mediterranean to pursue the Germans and the remaining Italians up the boot of Italy during the Italian campaign. After the war was over he returned to Columbia knowing that his father had died in Columbia during the war and knowing that the one year at Clemson was the only one he would see. His family had owned the old Columbia Dairy before the war but when his father died the dairy was sold and my dad had to try and find a way to make a living. He started off owning what he always called “a self service laundry” what most people would call today a laundromat. It was during this time that one of his best friends, Harrison Mundy, persuaded him to met his girlfriend, Eleanor Cochrane’s, best friend, Audrey Hopper.
Both were nurses and had been faithful friends for years. Some how Harrison and Eleanor persuaded mom and dad to meet
The story goes that Eleanor, being a Presbyterian, wanted mom to meet a Presbyterian (which my dad was) “so you won’t go to hell” and my mom (being a Baptist) wanted Eleanor “to marry Harrison so you won’t go to hell” and I guess it worked out because both couples got married. Mom and Dad were life long Presbyterians and Eleanor and Harrison were Baptists.
To the best of my knowledge it was not a whirlwind romance and my dad was no spring chicken when he got married. He was almost 32 when they got married and in 1974 when I got engaged, planning to marry in the Fall of 1975 at the age of 22, my dad told me on numerous occasions that he thought that I was rushing things and that a man needed to be single for a few years before he got married. Dad continued this almost up until the week of my marriage when I finally told him (after living with a fellow engineer roommate in Charlotte for 3 months), “Dad I guess you could say I have been single for 3 months and as far as I am concerned that is enough time for me. I want to get married”!
Well it was clear to everyone from the beginning that they truly loved each other.
It was also one of those things that became very clear to me as I grew from being a child to being a teenager to being a married adult myself. I still tell people that I learned more about being a husband from my father than I did from all of the books I read. It was not just by observations. My dad did not give me many lessons about most things in life (our sex talk lasted all of 30 seconds) but he regularly told me and my brother Philip how we should treat ladies and how we should treat our wives once we got married. The vast majority of those lessons are ones that I remember to this day.
There are very few days that go by that I do not think “I need to call mom and tell her …” That is especially true on Clemson football Saturdays but those days are gone. But memories are powerful things.
Several years ago Conway Twitty had a hit song with the title “Thats My Job”. It was actually written by Gary Burr an Nashville singer/songwriter that Debbie and I heard sing the song several years ago at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. He wrote it after his dad passed away and it always reminds me of mine