Sunday, April 09, 2006

Henry Clay - Part II


I start at the end because the beginning was long and laborious. Grant you, it is a labor of love, but there are a lot of aspects to Henry Clay that are to be addressed in Part I.

The end began on Mother’s day in 1979. Henry was given the diagnosis when he was all alone in a hospital room. Cancer.

At the time Daddy was handed the bad news, we were celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom. Daddy called mother from his hospital room. We dropped what we were doing and we all headed to the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital daddy was sitting there on the side of his hospital bed, both hands on the bed with his head hung. What do you say to someone you love when they have been given such devastating news? I chose to say nothing. From Mother’s day until October 16, 1979 was just barely six months, and it was somewhat of a long journey as I remember.

There was chemo therapy and all, but I don’t remember it being called “chemo.” The medicines they gave my father for his cancer took their toll on him. He suffered infection after infection; he lost a lot of weight and seemed to give up hope.

I can remember those six months, as if it were yesterday. We couldn’t get him to eat anything, except Reese’s Peanut butter cups. He loved them and would actually eat them too. I guess it was the only thing he felt like eating. Peanut butter cups weren’t much for a large man who had a passion for a good meal.

Daddy was diagnosed with cancer before he celebrated 40 years of service with the Census Bureau. While he was being treated, his 40 year anniversary date came. Daddy’s boss and some of his co-workers brought over his 40 years service pin and some certificates. He was quite proud of the service pin. His goal had always been to retire next year. Next year never came for my father. He did not get to enjoy the pleasures that retirement can bring.


My dad was very nosy. He loved to spy on the neighbors and keep an eye on the comings and goings of the neighborhood folks. When he would spot something, he would then send my mother to check it out. I guess, although nosy, Henry was somewhat of a chicken. While he was sick he would spend a lot of time staring out of the front door keeping an eye on the neighborhood, but he developed a different type of friendship. There were two redbirds that would sit on the telephone wire outside his front door, and daddy would talk to them. Daddy would whistle in “bird” talk, and the birds would answer. It was if they were carrying on a conversation that would continue each day. Some days my dad would perform his part of the conversation from his favorite chair. The redbirds would always correspond.


During his illness, my dad still kept his jovial mood. I can remember taking my son Johnny up to the hospital to see him. Daddy, who was still in pretty good shape, laid back on his bed and started to moan and groan like he was dying. Daddy did this just to scare Johnny, and scare Johnny it did. It was funny, but in a way it was a weird omen on what was to come.

As the days clicked, the illness took its toll. One day at the hospital my father was very sick with an infection. He asked me to put his watch on for him. As I was doing that daddy commented, “I’m dwindling down to nothing aren’t I.” I again chose not to comment, but in my heart, I agreed.

My dad died the same way he received the news of his cancer . . .alone. We were called in the middle of the night, but none of us made it there in time. When my sister Carol and I arrived, we were ushered into another room by a nurse, who had been crying. I knew then that dad had died, and I think Carol did too. When my mom arrived we were told we could go into his room, but I did not. I wanted no part of his death. I wanted to remember him alive. Carol only spoke of the Reese’s Cups that lay by his hospital bed.

Carol and I also spoke sometime later that we were never able to say the “I love you” words to our father. We both loved him dearly, but the words would not come to me. Carol indicated she did tell him, and I was glad for her. I always figured I had time, but time eluded me and time eluded my father. My daddy died without me having the privilege of telling him that I loved him. My silence – all of it - prompted changes in me. I am less likely today to be silent.

A few days after my father had passed; I was standing at the front door of his home. I saw those two redbirds on the telephone wire. The birds were staring down at the front door as if they were looking for him. I thought of attempting the whistle but I remained once again, silent. I just wondered if they missed him. . . I did.

10 Comments:

Blogger A Flowered Purse said...

Im still in shock that you never told me he had cancer. My jaw dropped when i read that! I swear you told me he died from emphysema. I've been lying all these years on my family history!
The things I remember about papaw are few. I know he used to plug in some ball and hide it, I didn't know it was a ball at the time, but it twirped and cheeped like a bird. He used to tell me their were birds in the house. Also he had these 2 dog magnets and he would put one on top of some table and then the other one on the bottom and make them chase each other around. It was really really neat! I was easily impressed. I remember him eating tomatos sliced and turnips or something at dinner. I always liked going over to their house. He was really really funny from what I remember. Always had neat stuff! He helped me make barbie furniture out of kleenex one day when we were over there. I think Johnny was sick because i remember him having a bucket and puking.
I am still in shock he had cancer!! i really really never knew that! I do remember the oxygen mask he had and pens always in his pockets. i wish i couldve known him longer
Good entry I can't wait til the next
Love
di

7:55 PM  
Blogger The Curl said...

Wow, it made me really sad to start reading this, b/c there is so much stuff I don't remember. I know I was pregnant during this whole time and Lindsay was only 2 mos old when he died. I remember the night he died, I hated that he was alone. We tried to make it. I do remember telling Daddy (barely) that I loved him. I don't remember the reese's cup. You know so much more about him in those years b/c you and your family always took them to church, etc. I was in my own chaotic world then and don't remember a whole lot. I remember bringing Lindsay over one day after she was born and daddy said " she is a cute little thing" or something like that and he reminded me to bring her over more b/c of mother-that she would like that. I just feel very very sad not to remember a whole lot of this later time of him being sick. I could write a book about the memories I DON'T have of alot of things. Especially traumatic things. People usually fill in the gaps. Guess thats how I dealt then. I'm sure he was so scared. I did see the toll his illness was taking on mother. Anyway, can't wait to read the rest of it. You might not have told him you loved him, but it seems you SHOWED it more, by your presence. You and your family were around ALOT then, which is cool. I didn't know about the redbirds or anything, makes me sad, but thanks for sharing all that. I have a memory now and I can store that stuff. Can't wait to read the rest.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I'm not sure but I think, we were in the room when he found out for sure it was cancer. We had just arrived from the country. We were all so glad to see papaw (As we always were). I can remember us only being there for a minute or two when the doctor came in, he started talking to papaw and Mom and Dad. I can't remember who else was in the room, but I will never forget my mom's reaction to what the doctor was telling them. Then I kept hearing Papaw say Cancer? Cancer? He would shake his head and say it louder each time, then he asked the doctor if he was sure. That was probably the only time I can remember that man crying. I also remember me staying all night one night, Papaw was wearing an oxgen tube in his nose. He was begining to become very bitter. Mamaw asked him a question, and his answer was that it would't matter anyway he would be gone soon. Mamaw started to cry. At that moment Papaw looked over at me and saw the puzzled look on my face. He then called me over to him and gave me a big hug.

1:04 AM  
Blogger david said...

I remember being in the room when the doctor told him it was cancer. Mike remembered it to, but i only remember me and my dad being there. The doctor kept trying not to say the c word, but papaw knew he was beating arround the bush. As mike said he sat there saying cancer it cant be. The next thing that happened i think of all the time, it is the thing i remember the most about tht day. Papaw looked over at me after the dr had left the room, and said Boy that will take the wind out of your sails. I too beleave that at that moment he gave up the fight. I want to read part one, so maybe i can remember some happy things. My 2 fondest memories are his laugh, and his being the only person i ever knew that read the whole sunday newspaper front to back.

1:11 AM  
Blogger smae said...

That was so sad glo....I remember the night he died. Jerry was supposed to take daddy to the doctors that afternoon but he went to the hospital instead because he had pneumonia. I think they went in an ambulance because of his breathing difficulty. Mother told me that she thought he was in really bad shape. I was working at the Jewish Day School and we had parent teacher conferences that night...so I didn't go up to the hospital to see him then. How i regret that. We had been over to the house the day before and I thought I'd go the next day. Well the phone rang around 3 or 4 in the morning...i jumped up and knocked the phone off the night table. It was mother telling us to come to the hospital. I called Pat and told her to tell Grandma Miller. When we got there he was dead. Mother went in to see him but I could not. Jerry went with her. I too remember the peanut butter cups. There was a bag of them with his belongings and when i saw them i almost lost it. When daddy was first diagnosed i seem to remember that they said surgery wasn't an option and that he would only have a year or two. I think he gave up because he couldn't do any of the things he enjoyed doing. you did a great job of recounting those last days. i always felt bad that i wasn't as close to daddy as much as i was to mother. i always felt that it would have been nice for him to have a son. also he was so smart and never got the promotions or recognition he deserved. And the suit he was buried in...do you remember we all chipped in and got him one. This was before he got sick. At first he didn't wear it because it didn't fit and then he got it exchanged and altered and for some reason he never wore it. when i picked up that suit at bond's in southland terrace a thought went through my head..we'll bury him in that suit. he never wore it until he died.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Linney Bell said...

Wow. I didn't even know him and I am nearly in tears. I wish I would have known him. I was only 10 when granny (mamaw) died. Why was I the ONLY grandkid to call her granny, when all the rest of you called her mamaw? Weird huh?

What was her middle name?

5:55 PM  
Blogger smae said...

lindsey, your granny's middle name was alberta. i was always glad she never used that for any of us.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Michael & David: I can remember you all coming up from the country that day, and I am sooo glad you all were with him when he received that news. I remember that your Mom was adament when your grandmother died that your grandma would not be alone. It was a big thing with Dorothy Ann, as with all of us. It bothered all of us, but especially your momma. I'll cover that in your mom's chapter. Henry Clay Part I is still a work in progress.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Lisa_g said...

Gosh, I loved Papaw so much. As you all know we shared the same birthday and I always felt very close to him because of that. I was 8 years old then, so like Dianna I don't remember alot. I remember mostly how it affected Mom. I was so upset because she was upset.

I always loved when they would come down to our house. One time they rode home with Daddy. When they arrived Papaw didn't come into the house right away. When he finally came in I asked him where he had been. He told me he didn't like to ride in the car so he turned himself into a big black bird and flew in, and he had just arrived.

From that day on everytime I seen a big black bird I thought it was Papaw. I believe one day riding in the car I yelled out "There's Papaw!!!" Mom asked where? And I pointed to the sky at a black bird and said right there.

He was so funny, from what I remember. I loved him and Mamaw so much and miss them every day.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Lisa_g said...

Your right Glo, it was VERY important to Mama that mamaw not be alone. She never really got over papaw being alone when he died. She was determined that someone would be there at all times. I remember she just wanted to sit in the room with her.

11:04 PM  

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