Posted by: Jim E | June 17, 2011

Father’s Day…My Story…About My Dad…

It is not easy to write about your own Dad…I guess I have written some things about him before…but this weekend is Father’s Day…and I decided a couple of weeks ago I would write some things I don’t think I have written before…but maybe I have, here goes anyway…

My Dad was born George Rueben Elmquist, July 26, 1916…Imperial, Saskatchewan, Canada…he never liked his middle name, Rueben…didn’t mind the R. for a middle initial…but not Rueben…that was his father’s middle name, so he was stuck with it…his first name, was from an uncle…I think that uncle fought in the Spanish-American War…so Dad was kind of proud of that…he was born in Canada…that was a bit of a thing for him…he was so proud of being an American, which he was…he always thought being born in another country somehow made him less of an American…his folks, my grandparents moved from Minnesota to Canada for some reason, I never knew why but Dad was born there during that time…he rode horse to school, lived in a log cabin and they almost starved to death there…so back they came to Minnesota…

My Dad was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the north side…he loved sports…especially football and baseball…in fact the story goes, he quit school after the 9th grade because his mother would not let him go out for football…he lived through the Great Depression, served in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), played some class D professional baseball…then Mom and Dad got married 1938…my brother Jack was born the following year and I was born in 1942…my brother Jerry was born after WWII, 1948…Dad served in the U.S. Navy in the south Pacific on the USS Cinnamon…we covered those years quickly…

After WWII are the years I can remember…Dad was not home a lot when I was young…alcohol seemed to take charge of his life during all those years…there is one thing though…he was still present in my life…though not maybe like I would have liked but Dad was still in the home…my Mom carried the weight during those years…and they were tough years for her…though Dad always worked everyday…he was gone most nights until late…that is one thing I can say for him, he went to work…and though he must have had a hangover on many of those days that would have put an ox to his knees…he went to work…Dad never drove his whole life…so he got up extra early to catch a bus to get to the job…he worked outside most of his middle years, putting gas service into homes…and in Minnesota that is a task…outside at 20 or 30 below…heating up your frozen sandwich over the coals they used to thaw out the ground…but he went to work everyday…that was an example for me and my brothers…

My Mom and Dad stayed together for life, though some times it must have been a challenge…he was a tough man to live with I’m sure…but as time went on his drinking was curtailed…mostly I suppose because he just couldn’t do it anymore…he got so sick after he drank alcohol…then be miserable for days after…and there were other changes in his life…he started to go to church with Mom, after all those years that he never would darken the door of a church…he always said he had his fill when he was young…but life changes people…and he changed too…the “ol’ stubborn Swede”, as my Mom used to call him…it was when he was well into his 70’s that Judie and I had to take a bigger part in their lives…

One day when I was at school (I was a principal there)…I got a call…I answered the phone…it was my Dad…now I had never had a call from my Dad, even at home, my Mom, yes…but not Dad, I knew something was up…he said, “Jim, this is your Dad. Something’s the matter with your Mother.”…we talked for a minute…but then I went to their apartment…Mom had a stroke…we called the ambulance…and this started a number of years of taking over for my parents…it was not an easy thing…but necessary…we moved them, after dealing with a number of issues, to assisted living…I had to tell my Dad things that he would never have listened to before…I had to explain to him the situation and how it was going to work for him to care for Mom…it was a wake up call for him…and though Mom’s mind was effected by the stroke…my Dad’s mind was sharp right up to the end of his life…so it all had to be explained in a way he would accept…because his life changed drastically…Mom was not in charge of things, he was…and I was there to help…

When we moved them to assisted living, it was a major change for Dad (for me too, I remember I had to teach Dad how to use the shower…he was legally blind by this time and he couldn’t see, so I had to get in the shower with him to tell him where things were, try that on for size!) …for my Mom, because of her stroke, the move did not bother her…but he couldn’t get into the changes…how meals were served, what was served…and just about everything else…his behaviors of wanting it on his terms couldn’t happen and this was tough…on us too…I think I have written this before…but one night when I picked Dad up to go to the hospital to see Mom…I could see he was uneasy, agitated, uncomfortable…I looked over at him a couple of times and asked him if he was alright…he didn’t really answer…so I assumed things…and said to him, “Dad, listen to me. I want you to hear me. If anything happens to you, we will take care of Mom. And if anything happens to Mom, we will take care of you. Do you understand?”…he said yes…and it seemed to settle him down…

One day, sometime later, I was at work and Judie went to pick up Dad…my Mom had fallen and broken her hip a few days before, she was at the hospital…Judie and Dad were to pick her up and take her to a rehabilitation nursing home…Dad was going to go with her to do that…it was a dreary, rainy, cold day in May 1999…Judie got up to the apartment to get Dad…the door was not unlocked, which was unusual…she used her key and Dad was sitting in his chair…he didn’t look good and was coughing…she could see he should not go…so he asked if she could do it without him…(funny as that seems now, he was serious)…she said she could…and went downstairs…by the time she was on the ground floor, she suddenly realized that he was dying…she got the nurse and they called 911…then called me…I came over and he was taken to the hospital…

After they got him settled…he was awake but uncomfortable…we talked about what he needed…but as I did…I noticed over on the table a kit that was for heart failure…and pardon this but…he was coughing and clear liquid just came running out his mouth…I knew he was in trouble…we called the nurse…we told him that we were going home but would be back…no sooner did we get home and I got a call from the doctor…she said his lungs were filling up with liquid…and asked what I wanted her to do…she asked what kind of quality of life he had and though he was unconscious, she could bring him back but it would happen again and again…I told her I didn’t want him to suffer…she said no…I told her I would be right there…I hung up…and by the time we got ready to go out the door…only a minute later…the phone rang again…it was the doctor…she told me Dad was gone…

Would it surprise you if I told you I can’t describe to you the feeling I had…my heart sunk within me…my Dad was gone…I can’t begin to tell you what I felt…I cried…the doctor asked if we were coming to the hospital…and if I wanted them to leave Dad there so I could see him…I told her yes…when we got there I had to sign papers and where we wanted his body to be taken…just mundane things that come with death…but there was other business on my mind…I had to see him and talk to him…Oh, I know he wasn’t there…but it was important to me…they had cleaned him up and he looked so at peace…Judie left Dad and I alone…I said to him and I don’t know why exactly…”Dad, we made it through.” and I meant all of our life together…I leaned over and kissed him, told him I loved him…that we would take care of Mom…a few other things…and left…

After a relationship that was bumpy in the beginning and rough throughout…it ended there…do I miss him?…Oh, even though all the disappointments in my younger years…still he was Dad…and he was “there” all those years…and yes, I do miss him…I think about him even now, he was my Dad…and it’s Father’s Day…I honored and loved my Dad during all my years with him and still do today…so no matter your situation…don’t forget to love and honor your Dad this weekend…Happy Father’s Day…

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