Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dad & Me ~ Part 2

Dad's young wife had passed away around 1995 (Mom and I had heard through the grapevine and assumed it was cancer). The actual cause of death? Chronic alcoholism .. at age 38! Holy moly.. you don't need a PHD to know that takes a load of drinking. They had a son together in the early 90's and dad raised him and her young daughter from a previous relationship as his own, alone.

A year prior to me getting the letter from the county, Dad suffered a stroke and was dumped at a nursing home by his now adult step daughter and her husband. Basically he was left for dead. Months before the stroke she had him begged to move back home due to financial problems and dad relented, although he didn't care for her "good for nothing husband", he loved her and her 3 little ones. She was family.

In his absence, they remained in his home, set up online bill pay out of his account to cover their expenses and helped themselves to his atm card. They let the once beautiful home fall to utter shambles. When his car was parked out on the street and hit by a drunk driver, she didn't care to press charges. She waved it off and said, "It's Vern's car, anyway". Pure nasty.

His son was a young teenager by then but had no drivers license and they wouldn't take him to visit Dad. Poor kid. Just a couple of mooching, absolutely heartless scumbags. The nursing home needed assistance from her to get aid set up for Dad's care but she couldn't be bothered to return their phone calls. That is when the County stepped in looking for next of kin or a family friend.. someone that would be willing to help the poor, disabled man.

The second I got inside the house with the letter from Riverside County, I was calling my Auntie and Uncle in CA (Dad's older brother and sister in law.. the ones I called when I got the letter about being adopted). Not wealthy people, but more generous than anyone else I know, after my parents divorced they loaned Dad a large sum of money. They had no reason to suspect they would be left holding the bag.. but they were. Dad and the young wife skipped town and had not heard from them since. They had every right to feel resentment and anger towards him.. but did they? Absolutely not. They were worried and praying that he was okay, heartbroken at hearing his circumstance. They are the most amazing Christians I have ever met.

The following morning I spoke with reps from both the county and nursing facility and found out where he is living. I passed along all this info to my Uncle and Auntie and without thinking twice, just a day later they were making the 2 hour drive to see him. They wanted to check out the facility (make sure it was up to snuff), surprise him and can I just say, surprise was an understatement. He was in the dining room and when he saw my Uncle he immediately hollered, "Brother Brother!" The tears of joy were immediate and shed by all.

Later, as promised, they called me on their cell and I actually got to speak to him... it was a conversation 20 years in the making. He was very hard to understand and I quickly realized it wasn't so much the stroke impairing his speech but as soon as he heard my voice he completely broke down. There were an innumerable amount of tears in the high desert of California and the foothills of the Colorado Rockies that unforgettable Sunday afternoon.

Dad's mind is sharp as a tack. He is just trapped in a body that is wheelchair bound and unable to speak, paralyzed on his right side. He can, however, write with his wrong hand (left side) and boy howdy, can he still tell it like it is. How ironic is it that a man that once was large and in charge, so into public speaking and in control of everything, is now trapped in a body that struggles to communicate. He could have abandoned there in that nursing home, forever silenced, had it not been for God's mercy on him.

In June of 2007 I flew out and we gave him yet another big surprise. We strolled into his room on a Saturday (it's a hospital style.. 3 beds, 1 tv, 1 bathroom) and he was kind of awake. He was confused for a moment to see Uncle and Auntie the day before their scheduled visit (he kept every important event-such as their visits-on a calendar) but smiled happily just the same. He nodded a polite, "Hello" to me, not knowing who I was. I walked up next to his bed and said, "Hi Daddy, It's Seesa" (my nickname since I was an itty bitty.. I couldn't pronounce "Melissa" and that was the best I could do). He gasped and reached for my hand. He rubbed it on his cheeks, kissing it, crying and said perfectly clear, "My baby, my baby". It was, hands down, a best moment ever. Not a dry eye in the place, let me tell ya. I got my wish on that trip and made sure to tell him I love him and forgive him. I consider myself very blessed!

Dad had been stuck inside his nursing home for 15 months. He had not felt the sunshine on his face or even a breeze through his now very thin hair. No visitors .. no nothing. We changed that all up in a hurry. We checked him out, went for lunch, he devoured a hamburger and fries and just relished the Coke on ice. We took him to Walmart, got him all new clothes (trashed the crap in his closet.. the step daughter left USED CLOTHES for him.. not even his own) and let him roam the aisles. What can be a pain in the butt shopping trip to some of us he soaked up like a sponge... the sights, the sounds... everything. He poured over meat prices in the grocery section.. to this day we're still not sure what he was doing.. just trying to feel like a human that belongs in the outside world, I suppose. I may be adopted but that will never change the fact I am my Daddy's girl and it was heartbreaking to watch.

This past June I went to visit him again and we had another wonderful day together. This time a huge absence was felt, as we had lost my dear Uncle Mel in February. I'm so thankful they got to see each other again during several visits over the last year.. God's timing is perfect.

The Bottom Line .. You never know what tomorrow will bring, so don't turn your back on the people that love you the most. Don't be stubborn, don't hold grudges and make amends when you can. You run the risk ending up alone and unclaimed... sometimes we don't get a do-over.


Lisa said...

Hi Melissa!
I am enjoying reading about your journey. How I wish I had started blogging before I adopted my daughter.
Keep up the fabulous work!

Kadi said...

You are so right. God's timing was impeccable. I am so glad that grandpa and your dad got to make ammends before God took him home. I know that it weighed so heavy on grandpa's heart.
Okay, crying again...gotta go grab a tissue and man up. I have a big meeting today.
God is good. Despite our undeserving selves!

Stella said...

What an incredible story! God works in wonderfully mysterious ways. I am so glad that you've reconnected with him.
I must go and grab a tissue now!

Ms.Christy said...

That is so sweet Melissa.

moxiejava13 said...

Oh my goodness Melissa you HAVE to write a book. You are an AMAZING story teller. I have spent most of my morning reading all your blogs, crying and laughing. I love to see how the precious hand of God has worked in your life. Thank you for sharing some of the most painful, happy and intimate times of your lives. There are stories in here that have inspired me as I'm sure others too.


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