Dad’s Story Part 7

This part…part seven….will be the hardest to write.  I think this because I don’t believe I’ve ever told it to anyone without having to pause a bit to gather myself and swallow the lump that tastes so bittersweet in my throat.  I’m tearing up now writing this.  This piece of the story, my favorite part, is one of those beautiful things I promised to speak of earlier in the series.

When I say beautiful, I don’t mean the kind Webster describes as:

1: having qualities of beauty : exciting aesthetic pleasure

2: generally pleasing: excellent

What I’m talking about is better described as that feeling that parks itself in the nucleus of your soul that you can’t help but return to over and over.  It’s a notion, a thought, a reflection of someone, something, that rattles you down to the deepest core of your psyche.  The place that only you can go and cannot even begin to describe (as I’m attempting here) to anyone in a way they could comprehend.  We all have those moments.  You can be in a crowded room, engulfed in people and conversation, or just alone, lying on the beach.  It’s that moment of pure feeling…a sensation in your brain as you reflect on something filled with such raw emotion that it cannot be explained.  That’s beautiful.

That’s this part.


Dad slept for a while after the tube was removed and one of us stayed by his side for the hours following.  They told us he was quite heavily sedated….numbed up…medicated…knocked out.  There was very little chance of him communicating with us ever again, or even remotely coming to.  We had accepted this as the end…now it was time to wait.

Throughout the week leading up to this, Debbie and I kept talking about the need to call Dad’s best childhood friend, Donnie. They met when they were six. Dad hadn’t seen him in a couple of years and it had been some months since they spoke.  I grew up hearing my dad’s stories about the adventures the two of them had together.  Donnie’s family was my dad’s second kin…having come from the rare broken home in a time when divorce was scarce, my dad craved a nuclear family.  Donnie’s household was always open to the scrawny blonde boy from around the block.  From what I heard, my dad was always sandwiched between Donnie and is little brother, Roger.  Boy Scouts, chasing girls, driving in the 57 Chevy…the Air Force….or the “Service” as my dad called it…tales of these days were legends from my childhood.  When I was about eight Donnie’s brother, Roger, was killed in a motorcycle accident.  I will never forget the heartbreak my dad suffered during this time.  These men were his brothers.

Donnie needed to be contacted immediately.  For some reason I felt a connection to this man even though it had been years since I had seen him. My only memories of Donnie were from pictures of him holding me when I was just a tiny pink bundle and the stories….Dad’s stories.

I called Donnie from my dad’s cell phone.  I had found a quiet nook by a window down the hall and around the corner from the ICU.  It was summertime and already quite dark outside so it must have been pretty late.  I felt as if time were running out as I dialed him.  Donnie answered the phone with a hearty, “Randy!” instead of a hello.  Pushing away tears, swallowing the cry lodged in my throat, knowing this was going to crush the man on the other end, I said it was “Janelle, Randy’s oldest daughter” calling.  There was a pause, a moment of confusion for him, and then I began filling him in with the details of my dad’s illness. Another broken heart.

`Donnie tried to process everything as quick as he could.  The rug had been pulled out from beneath him but there was not time to hesitate or to dwell on anything.  He asked if he could talk to my dad on the phone.  I told him that dad was unconscious.  He asked if  I could at least hold the phone up to dad’s ear so that he could say his good byes….there wouldn’t be enough time for him to drive up from southern California. I told Donnie that I thought that would be a great idea and I would arrange it right away.  We hung up and I walked back to the Intensive Care Unit.

I felt dry and heavy.

I don’t remember crying while talking to Donnie.  I felt like a zombie.  My shoulders sagged as did my face and head.  Heavy.

When I returned to the room I could immediately sense something was different.


Dad was awake.

He was talking….


Two very, very, very important and beautiful things happened in that half hour or so that I was speaking with Donnie and the minutes that followed.

This is my favorite part of the story.

Ridiculous…I know…Who has a favorite part of a death story???

 Randy’s daughter does.

This is the part I described before as a sensation in your brain you get when reflecting on something that’s  filled with such raw emotion that it cannot be explained…emotionally beautiful.


As I entered Dad’s room after speaking with Donnie I noticed that everyone had a different “something” to them…I’m not sure what it was, but there was a difference in the mood.  I could tell that something unusual happened while I was out.  In the room was Debbie, my brothers, Mike and Joel, my sister, Michelle, and my grandma.  I tried to not have that “What-The-Hell?” look on my face and quickly mumbled something along the lines of  “Well, hey! Look at you all awake and everything! ” to Dad and then told everyone that Donnie, who was waiting by his phone in Southern California, would like to speak with the man of the hour laying there in the bed all dopey {I promise I didn’t use those exact words. I swear}.  It’s really all a blur.  I said that I was going to call Donnie and hold up the phone for him so that he could talk to Dad.  I was shaking as I dialed trying to collect myself. I was prepared to just hold the phone up to a sleeping man.  Not this bizarrely alert dad of mine.

My dad may have never been the biggest guy in the room, but his voice….it was big.  He had a voice that carried. It was strong. The things he said were strong.  And this day, though he sounded frail and raspy… barely anything came out…what he said was powerful.

Donnie answered my call and I told him that my dad was awake. He was thrilled.  I cannot even begin to imagine the emotions flowing through this man who I would eventually come to know so well.  He’s become one of my biggest supporter, confidants, best friends.  I love him more than I ever imagined loving a friend.  “Dear friend” doesn’t come close to describing Donnie to me.  Over the last few years when I speak with Donnie it’s a bit like talking to my dad.  He feels the same about me.  We are both so very sentimental.

I handed the phone over to my dad.  He weakly held it to his ear as Donnie began to talk.  Words blend together in my memory of this conversation.  What I do remember hearing, from both of these men, was the phrase, “I love you Man!” over and over. The years of memories and love…fifty-one of them…. swirled through the air around the hospital room.

I was sobbing.

When they said good-bye and I was handed the phone I mumbled something to Donnie, who was bawling incoherently.  He wept something about having to go and abruptly hung up.

“How did you know?”

“Dad, his phone number was in your phone.”

“How did you know? How did you know?”


“Dad, you always talked about Donnie.  He’s your best friend. My whole life… you’ve told me stories about you guys…I know because you’ve told me over and over. I know.”


Have you ever thought about the best gift you could ever give anyone?

I gave it to two.



Exhausted from it all Dad drifted to sleep.  Relief?  Peace?  Both.

Now we had all the bases covered.


This part of the blog seems to be broken up into so many little parts.  I guess it’s because that’s how my mind has compartmentalized it all.  It’s less overwhelming I suppose. Now I’m going to share a piece that I didn’t experience.  I’ve only heard about this bit of the tale. This next portion is what set the tone…the theme…. of my dad’s death.

I wasn’t there when it happened.


Meanwhile…while Janelle is out in the hallway phoning Dad’s BFF….

Dad wakes up.  All of the main characters were in the room but yours truly.  I will address this part later.  I’m not bitter…there is no room for that kind of crap in a time like this.

For the sake of the story I’m going to write like I was there…adding things like “then Michelle told me….” And “then Debbie told me…” sounds lame after a bit………..

Dad came to even though we were told it was not likely he would be able to resist the sedatives and pain killers filling his blood. But, hey…he had something to say that was much stronger than drugs. Once he was pretty alert Dad began to speak and sort things out.  They explained that the oxygen tube was removed and that he shouldn’t talk because he was weak and his throat was going to be sore.  Riiiiii—ght…Randy not talk??? Ha! Ha! Ha!

I believe there was a bit of chit-chat first, and then Dad looked up at Debbie right in the eyes.

“Are you ready?” he asked her.

She knew.  They all knew.  They knew exactly what he was asking….were they ready for him to die, were they ready for him to not be here anymore. Ever.  Where they ready to let him go?

“Are you ready?” he asked Mike.

“Are you ready?” he asked Michelle.

“Are you ready?” he asked Joel.

“Are you ready?” he asked Grandma.

Everyone nodded their head or said yes…everyone was strong. They had to be. Everyone said they were ready.  They had no choice.

He didn’t ask me. 

I would have said no.


Later, after Dad had fallen back to sleep, my family filled me in on this monumentally emotional event that had just occurred. The one I missed.  The one I was out of the room for.  The one I can never experience…only imagine.  My heart was absolutely torn into pieces and scattered all over the floor.  On top of all the other hell we were saturated in, I missed the most important thing my dad ever had to say.  Inside I was a horrific mess.  Emotions were short circuiting.  Outside I was wearing a smile of some sort.  I remember looking over to my sister, Michelle, and saying to her, “I missed it.”

Honestly I don’t know how I got those three words out.

She just smiled at me and said probably the most healing words I’ve ever heard….”Yeah…But you got Donnie.”

 She took one of those pieces of my heart that were strewn all over the floor and tucked it into the palm of my hand.  I needed that.



I do wonder….Did my dad realize I was not there? Did he wonder where I was…why the heck wasn’t Janelle there???? I bet he thought to himself...”I better hurry the heck up and ask this before she comes back!”

I bet he knew…I bet he knew that I would call his bluff and say no.


There’s a song my dad used to consistently sing to me as a little girl….You Are So Beautiful to Me by Joe Cocker. Even when he was alive and well it always had an effect on me.  The raw scratchy voice of the singer stopped me in my tracks as a teenager…my dad could sound just like him. I hear it and go back to the days of my dad singing it quietly to me as he walked by me playing in the yard or loudly belting it out as I emerged from the bathroom covered in pastel pink eye shadow, Shimmering Shell lipstick, Cover Girl mascara, and Aqua Net. It’s a song that, if I had had dancing at my wedding, we would have had our Father Daughter dance to.  I don’t know when the last time I heard it played completely was.  I haven’t listened to in forever even though I have it on my computer and mp3 player thingy and have passed by it a few times on the radio while stuck on the 805 Freeway in 5 o’clock traffic.  I can’t do it.  I hear it and it takes me to that beautiful place in my mind where I just cannot bear to suffer the feelings that come with it.

I always turn the station or fast forward to the next song.  But I know it’s there….

Waiting to be heard…

To be felt…

One day I will play this simple song all the way through….

When I’m ready.


6 responses »

  1. Well…you did it!

    And as I read…a conversation came back to me…a little over a year ago… “I like to write” me “well you should then, I have a blog…on WordPress”… and you picked it up and ran with it and your write so incredibly beautifully…I love reading it.

    Things to leave for your boys….important things.


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