Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Something Personal

My stepfather, Ken Sams, and I had a rough start.
It's a long story, but until I was 16, we fought like cats and dogs.
He did his best to rein me in,
but I was definitely a headstrong and troubled child.
It was a war of wills -
neither of us backing down,
and my poor mother in the middle.

Dad was a policeman, like his father before him.
He was tough as nails - or tried to be.
His tough exterior hid a very soft heart
and I soon learned the gruffness was a protection.

He was greatly loved by old neighbor ladies,
who would call when they heard a bump in the night.
He'd get dressed and go over with his flashlight,
rooting out the raccoon, making sure the windows and doors
were secured,
earning hugs and respect.
As a result, there was an unending supply
of cookies, bread pudding and pies at our house,
brought over by grateful widows.

Heck, one mean old lady wouldn't allow anyone
into her yard to retrieve a misguided softball -
except me - I could go
because I was Sergeant Sams' daughter!

Police work is stressful,
and many policemen end up with stress-related illnesses.
For Dad, it was a heart attack
that stopped him in his tracks.

After consultation, he agreed to experimental open heart surgery.
The surgery in the 1980's was not what it is now.
It took weeks and weeks to recover -
that was back in the days when you still had to stay in an oxygen tent -
and it was horribly painful for my dad.
He felt like he was smothering.
It terrified him.

The doctor gave him 1 to 5 years to live.

Ten years later, when he again began having problems,
the surgery had been exceptionally advanced.
But dad remembered his long painful recovery and just said,
"I can't go through that again."

He spent his remaining days on the beaches of Cayucos, California,
carving wood ducklings and miniature boots for children on the beach.

The day before he died,
we spent the afternoon reminiscing and laughing,
and crying,
about the years we had wasted.
He told me all about the history of Scotland,
and his family's history.

I had three children to support by that time
and couldn't get another day off work without losing my job.
We were told he was stable.

And so,
I returned to Bakersfield,
only to have my grandfather call the same night
and tell me
I better get back to the hospital - 3 hours away.
By the time I drove back,
he was gone.

I wrote this poem and put it in his casket.
I ran across it today while doing genealogy and wanted to share it with my aunt and cousins.

So please pardon me while I post something personal for my family and for my Dad's birthday, which is coming up in August.

Dad Ken

I close my eyes, remembering
the special hours we shared;
The long, long talks about our lives
while Dad sat in his chair.

Sometimes it made us sad to think
about the wasted years
When, both headstrong, we'd lock our horns
inviting needless tears.

But then, he'd start to chuckle
at our strong and stubborn ways,
and laugh at how we made it through 
some of the rougher days.

And as we'd talk, he'd sit and carve, 
this once-mountain-of-a-man,
each feather to perfection
with tired and gentle hands.

He's left us for a while but
we'll talk again some day
when I have gone to join him
in his new home far away.

But Dad's not idly waiting
as a heavenly chorus sings.
God's given him a special job…
He's carving angel's wings.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories of a loving Dad.
    Blessings to you and family.


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