Monday, March 5, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Someone You Love

The phrase that keeps running through my mind is, "How do I say goodbye?"

My dad, Carl E. "Bud" Amidon, died February 22, 2012. I was not with him at the time, but my sister and brother were with my step-mom at his side. I was on the road to get to him, but I didn't make it in time. He had just turned 78 years old in January.

I think back over the years. The times of struggle when jobs were scarce and we had to do with so little. I don't remember ever thinking we were poor, but now that I am older, with children and grandchildren of my own, I know that we were. Monetarily, anyway. But we were rich in love for each other. That's more important than money any day.

In his youth, he was a powerful man, able to drive a 16 penny nail with one blow. His pride in his carpentry skills was well earned. Driving by a new house, he could tell you from the road if it was plumb or square.

He built houses all over central Texas and Arkansas from the foundation to the shingles on the roof. Never a Union man, he couldn't understand why today's carpenters were so specialized that they refused to learn how to build the entire structure top to bottom. In his mind, it was vital to know as much about his trade as possible. In several cases, he took jobs that sent him to the library to learn how to do the work, but he always figured it out--even taught himself enough algebra and geometry to cut in an octagonal roof with gables. This was quite an accomplishment, since he quit school in the 8th grade over a dispute with his Biology teacher.

Education was important to him, just the same. He read voraciously, the classics as well as westerns. He enjoyed reading non-fiction, too, and taught us to love to read at an early age. A trait that has given his three children a lifetime of accomplishment. All his children have multiple college degrees, and many of his grandchildren have college degrees or are currently attending college.

There was never a question that his three children would finish high school. In my lifetime, the conversations about education went from, "When you finish high school" to "If you decide to go to college..." to "When you go to college..." Children in the family are now raised with the idea that advanced education is a foregone conclusion, though no one would force it on a child who is not willing. After all, we learned though observation of my dad that a formal education is not required for a person to be educated enough to succeed in life.

My best memories are of camping trips. Dad kept a small trailer stocked with camping necessities: tent, army cots, folding stools, folding tables, dishes, cooking utencils, campfire cookware, blankets, tarps, and anything else that might be needed. He would come home from work on Friday evening, Mom would throw some canned food in a box, and we would hit the road for one of the area camping sites and spend the weekend fishing and swimming. It was seldom planned in advance. We just went when the whim came on him, which was quite often during summer and fall months.

He was strong enough to survive and beat colon cancer twice, and lung cancer once. Unfortunately, the treatments that pushed the cancer into remission destroyed his heart and what was left of his lungs. The last year was extremely hard on him. He lost the ability to care for himself and had to fight for every breath. Family and friends try to comfort me that he is no longer struggling and suffering. That is a small comfort. But right now, I just miss my Daddy. Saying goodbye to someone you love is so difficult.

I will always love you, Daddy, and will always keep you in my heart. I suppose that is the best way to say goodbye.

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