You know how little sisters never seem to forget ANYtHinG, well, here is a prime example.
Ally sent me this text on Valentines Day, again….
You know how long it’s been since we laid our pa to rest? 18 years. Ally was so devastated that “I” chose February 14th for dads burial. In my defense, it never dawned on me (at the time) that A: it was Valentines Day and that B: it would matter 😂 and C: I was trying to schedule the burial around travel and the weekend for those that were making their way to say goodbye to dad.
She said that she would always equate Valentines Day “as the day we buried dad” and well, she has.
Truth be told, I had to be reminded this year that it was A: Valentines Day by my brother Chad of all people, he has a lovely girlfriend that he wanted to spend the day with, instead of working on the other house (go figure?); and B: I totally forgot (this year) that it was the day we laid dad to rest in a blizzard so many years ago.
BUT, Ally did not forget.
I have told her for years that in its own way, it is (bitter)sweet that Valentines Day was the day that we said our final earthly goodbye to a man who we all loved and adored.
Our dad was the most imperfectly, perfect man that I have ever or will ever have had the gift and privilege of knowing and loving. The greater gift was that he was my dad, he was our dad.
He was stubborn beyond belief. Throughout his years there are many examples but my favorite has always been, and will always be the bush story! I won’t go into great detail, and you can read that story here. When he finally gave into the idea of “trimming” it up at our request, the 8 foot round bush that you had to battle through to get to the front door ended up being basically a nub in our front yard. As he set the chainsaw down (yep you read that right, there were no trimming shears used, it was the chainsaw) and as he stomped away to work, he said “there, I trimmed your damn bush!!” 😂. In the end, Ally and I pulled out our best Anderson humor and took a branch from the decimated bush and placed it in the front seat of his car, seat-belted into the drivers seat no less, while he was working with a note that said “save me”; and it became something we have laughed about for years, yes even dad.
He was also kind beyond belief even to those that hurt him, or wronged him. It is that example that has lead all of us, his children to be a light to others and to extend a hand to everyone, even those that may not deserve a hand.
He made mistakes. And that example allowed us to realize that we will also make mistakes. The greater lesson came in how we made our mistakes “right”, or what we learned from them.
This has been a harsh February with the polar vortex wreaking havoc across the country. Many years ago, our own dad got caught in a blizzard when he was trying to make it home from my grandparents farm. I was so angry that mom made him feel as though he should attempt it, but he did. The time came and went when he should’ve been home, long past actually. I will never forget the tense time that passed when he should have been home (no cell phone back then) and wasn’t. Mom called me worried (I lived away by then) and I was so angry with her! I couldn’t help but admonish her for making him try the roads in a blizzard. In her defense (though a weak one), they did need food and more fuel for heat for the house (and mom did not have her own money), still I felt at least they had shelter (and there was food and heat via space heaters).
A few tense hours passed….as we waited helplessly with limited options of where to begin or how to help him. There were many alternate routes home from the farm and he seemed to use them all. Even if we knew the road he had chosen, which we didn’t, how could we get help to him. It was a complete inter whiteout. In truth, the road he did choose was nothing short of miraculous and I do believe fate….
I will never forget his story…. “my car slid from the road and became stuck, so I was forced to walk, knowing that I could not shelter in my car for long (the blizzard was projected to last for two days). I had some warm clothes along but not enough, as I had left quickly, trying to beat the worst of the storm. I bundled up with what I had with me in the car and set out. I just tried to stay on what I thought, and hoped was the road, though I had no idea where I was. The pelting snow and blinding wind was disorienting. I walked for some time, I was exhausted and in truth, I was getting almost too tired and cold to keep moving….”
My heart always lurches at this moment of the story….
Thankfully, and with nothing short of Gods intervention he saw a small light ahead of him. So small that he wondered if he was imagining it. He said, “I just forced myself to keep going, toward the light. At times, I would lose the light, stop and seek to find it and once I did, I just kept walking toward it, just toward the direction even if I lost the light.” Later, this became something we laughed about, “going toward the light” but in that moment, it was the only thing that kept him going. “Just make it to the light…”.
By Gods grace, luck and sheer willpower, he did. That light, that blessed light, was the home of a distant neighbor. Dad reached the door and prayed someone was home or at the least that he would be able get inside and seek shelter (if no one was there). However, after a few knocks, dad heard movement, whispering and then finally he was asked some questions as to who he was? Dad told them who he was and that he was stranded because of the blizzard. Finally, after some moments of hushed talking on the other side of the door, it opened and dad was welcomed in by the adolescent children that were home. To continue to share this divine story, these children were home alone, their own father stranded in town and unable to make it home to them (their mother passed to cancer some years before). Dad would later learn that as dad was knocking, the kids called their own father who was helplessly stuck in town, and frantically told them someone was knocking at the door. He encouraged them to ask who it was, and their father was familiar with my dad and our family name (Anderson). So acting upon faith, they opened the door to my dad, who was frigid, scared and thankful beyond belief for their bravery.
So, it came that dad was stranded there for days, the children cooking meals for him, sharing their warm space and thankful that they had all found each other. Dad, seeking shelter found two children that were scared and alone, he was their savior, and those children, small heroes opened that door and saved our dad. For the children’s father, my dad was a welcome, though unexpected gift as he was relieved they had our dad there in case something went wrong with the house, and their own heat. Dad spoke with their father often, each reassuring each other.
For myself, I had never been more relieved or thankful to get a call from dad telling me he was safe, warm, and getting some home-cooked meals via the young daughter (who after her mom passed was forced to grow up too fast, as the matron of the house).
On top of the emotional trauma of losing their mother, and their father losing his wife, this family had faced significant financial hardship related to the bills incurred from her lengthy and expensive care. My dad listened to their stories. He told me later that “those kids never complained, they lived simply and humbly and they were thankful for what (little) they had”.
I am sure their stories hit my father significantly, as our dad lost his first wife Joann, his first-born son Douglas (born prematurely), and also by then, our second eldest brother, Daren had died in a car accident.
Dad more than anyone understood loss.
What I didn’t know, and what my brother Randy recently shared with me, was that dad was so moved by the entire situation; their generosity of sheltering him, the loss of their own mother, and the fact that they had limited resources for money and food themselves. Still, they fed and pampered my dad the entire time he was there, without thought of what they may be giving up for themselves. Dad went back later and gifted them with money. I don’t know how much, but knowing my dad it would have been generous and in truth, it was something we could also ill afford, but they needed it more. That was my dad.
Later, so much later, he would admit to us that he walked for some time, unable to see and was at the point of exhaustion and ready to give up…. I think of that often, and am so thankful that he was able to be guided to safety, by a beacon of light. More significantly, the kids shared with my dad that they always shut the outside light off, to conserve electricity for their bill. It has been “forgotten” on. We were blessed with many more years with our dad that we would have never known, if not for that ‘forgetful oversight’, or divine intervention. I have never been overly religious but I hope and I do believe that it is possible, that somehow and in some way, Daren, grandpa Oscar (his dad), and Joann had something to do with all of that, and that they in fact, guided dad to safety that hellish day.
I share that story for this reason: as my dad was here in my home, slowly giving up his lease on his physical presence here on earth, I will never forget him reaching out, over and over again, his eyes cloudy and seeing, yet unseeing. He would reach out, mumbling as if talking to someone and every time, he would try to grasp something. Over and over again, we would offer him our own hand, and for minute he would seem to come back to us, to see us, and each time it was fleeting. His eyes would again cloud over, he would look beyond us, release our hand, and continue to reach beyond us. All through his last night, and into his last day, we watched him make his way toward whatever he was “seeing”. It has always been my hope, all of our hope, that he was reaching out to Daren, grandpa Oscar and to Joann, as he made his last walk home, amid the winter, toward their light and their beacon of warmth.
The poignancy of the fact that dad left us amid a blustery, and a wintery season, February 9th, 2003; and that we laid him to rest on a blizzard(y) Valentines day, so many years ago has never been lost on me. I have many times thought of this; that we very nearly lost our father that day so many years before. Yet, all of the factors that came into play that day, that somehow guided him to safety, and to his salvation, amid a blizzard cannot be denied. Some may call it blind luck, we call it divine intervention. It was not his time then, and he was guided to salvation by a light, that through a blinding snowstorm, was barely visible, yet he was able to see, and yet, at times not see.
As he left earth, I feel as though he was also guided home, to his salvation, by those that had passed before him, their light guiding him, just as it did so many years before.
In our own way Ally, though (seemingly) unintentional at the time, we said our last goodbye to dad’s earthly presence, on a day known for love. In my mind, it is our final and everlasting gift to a man that we all loved, adored and will desperately miss to the end of our time.
So dear dad, happy Valentine’s Day, your final journey day, and our bittersweet day, forever and always…
Your children ❤️