Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Father's Eyes

Everyone who can see my face can pretty much tell how I’m feeling. I come by this trait naturally. My father communicated so effectively through facial expressions that spoken words were often just a courtesy.

He could cure a case of the giggles across a crowded sanctuary without so much as clearing his throat. If I was two minutes past my curfew he could put The Fear into my date at 25 feet in the dark.

I often reminded him – and it was true – that he had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. (I wasn’t stupid. Alas, neither was he!) They were a clear, crisp blue. Very striking, and very, very expressive.

Dad’s ability to communicate complete thoughts with his eyes was especially convenient for us the last two days of his life when his voice stopped working.

One of my greatest gifts in life was to be able to be with him as he died in his own home fourteen years ago. Just before we brought him home from the hospital, he told my sister and me that the doctors told him he didn’t have more than six months to live, but he didn’t want us to tell our mother because it would upset her. Our mother had just told us that Dad didn’t know it, but he didn’t have more than six months to live. They protected each other as best they could and God help anyone who got in their way.

Dad told me a lot of things with his eyes those last two days. He told me that his body hurt. He told me that it was beautiful, peaceful, pain-free where he was going. He said it was a scary thing he was doing. He told me to be good to this family. He said, “See! There they are! Right there!” He told me he loved me. He said, “See you there.”

He explained that as much as he was looking forward to the next life, he didn’t want to leave us. He worried that he wouldn’t be able to do this thing without Mom with him. Their relationship was more than close. It was symbiotic. They were joined at the soul.

I held his hand and I told him things, too. I sang to him, told him I loved him. I thanked him. I said, “It’s O.K. We’ll all be all right,” although I only half believed it. I said, “It’s time.”

I know that a lot of people tend to turn their relatives into saints after they die. I also know that a lot of times the baby of the family tends to attribute undeserved greatness to her father. However, neither of those is true in my case.

It just happens that my Papa really could do anything. He really did know everything. Well, everything except how to dress.

I still miss him fiercely. I still pick up the phone to call and ask him things sometimes. I surely wish he could see my garden. Sometimes I can’t picture his face now. But always, just a blink away, are the most beautiful clear blue eyes, twinkling at me.


  1. What a beautiful tribute. It is pretty much a rarity to have such a bond with a father, so you are extremely lucky.

  2. Oh Fay...he can see your garden and while you don't call on the phone, he can hear you. Just talk outloud to him. It's what I do at the beach when I walk along by myself. It gives me such peace. So what if people think I'm the wacky beach lady who talks to herself with her DD coffee in hand!! This was beautiful. I so can relate to it. My dad couldn't speak for 13 years. His eyes truly were the window to his soul! Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Truly beautiful, Mom. I remember those 2 days as well - I remember you took me out of school to go with you to Carthage and I didn't truly understand why. I remember being scared to get too close and then as if he said outloud that it would be ok, a settling peace. I'm pretty sure he also said that he forgave me for breaking that stained glass lamp during a mid-afternoon gymnastic session.

  4. I love that photo so much. I can really see how Nick resembles his Grandpa in it. Even though I never got to meet Grandpa Paul, this photo makes me think maybe I know him just a little. And GG just looks gorgeous with her gingham and bows. Thanks for posting!

  5. A beautiful tribute - I MISS HIM and especially this time of year. He was an amazing man. Nan