Monday, April 16, 2012

Mississippi: Grand Fanale

As much as I love each and every component that makes our trips to Mississippi special, every back yard that my babies run through barefoot, every neck that we get to hug for the first time in months, each late night conversation with parents and grandparents that educate, inspire, and excite us, all the home cooked meals that bring childhood right back to you...
my favorite part to any Mississippi trip is seeing my Daddy.
Its the cherry on top of a delicious, satisfying, beautifully put together sunday.
My dad has suffered several strokes since the time that I was born.
Each of the bigger ones have taken an ability away from him.
Some were small things taken, like walking a perfectly straight line.
Others larger, such as two blind spots in his eyes that left him still able to see for the most part but not able to drive.
And the last one, huge. His ability to converse.

He is able to say a good handful of words. And that handful grows just slightly bigger each year.

Any one who reads this blog and knows my dad understands that this was a catastrophic loss for him and all of us that love him. Growing up, I recall my mom and grandmother both telling him "Carl, you could talk to a brick wall." Its been said about him by numerous people that "Carl, he never meets a stranger."

He use to strike up conversations with anyone and everyone. We would go to the bank and by the time his check was deposited, he would know the teller's whole life story. We'd eat at a restaurant and by the time our check was on the table we knew our waitress' name, hometown, and maybe even her the name and color of her dog. I'm sure it annoyed me when I was younger, but now I remember those moments with delight and longing. I'd do most anything to be able to have a two way conversation with my daddy. The ones like we use to have, where an hour slips by in what seems like minutes.

Here's the thing that amazes me endlessly about my dad. With each stroke that he's had, his spirit has never been broken. He's legally blind (and his sight has worsted with age), his hands shake terribly, and he can't not communicate all of the thoughts that are in his head but he always has a smile on his face. Before this last one, the one that took his speech, I never heard him utter a word that had to do with self pity. He has always been thankful for what he does have and not foccused on what he doesn't. Maybe its because I'm his daughter and he sheltered me from any negativity, maybe he did vent to someone around him.. I don't know. All I know is that he's the bravest, kindest, strongest person I know.

Back to our visit. We had dinner at an old favorite with all of my sisters.
Its been a really long time since ALL of us girls have been together at once, so I know this meant the world to my dad.
We had a great visit and good food. Family and food. I'd say those are his two favorite things in the world. I'd also say this apple didn't fall far from the tree.

My beautiful niece turned 15 the next week so we celebrated her birthday at dinner.

The only thing that would have made this night better is if my two brothers and their families had been there. I'm crossing my fingers for that day to come sooner than later.
I'm sad that the younger grandchildren, my kids included, don't know the talkative man my dad has always been. I wish they knew how great he is at telling jokes. I wish they were able to talk all night with him over a a bowl of ice cream.

But I'm so glad they are able to sit in his lap, and hold his hand. I'm grateful that they are able to see the love he has for them by the words that he can say and the happiness that beams from his face when he's with us. And I'm so happy that his playfulness still shines through with them. They know their PawPaw is an amazing man. I wish they knew just how much so.

After dinner, we headed to my big sisters house. We stayed up late visiting, playing games, laughing, and reminiscing. It was the perfect end to a fabulous trip.

Can't wait until Christmas to do it all again!

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