John and I just got back from a quick trip to see my dad. He’s 89 and is doing very well for his age, though I can tell some differences every time I see him. His balance is a little off, his hearing is getting worse, and his eyesight is growing dim.
Daddy is the lone survivor of his family. He is the next to youngest of 5 siblings who survived to adulthood. His dad died when my dad was 9 of “silicosis,” attributed to his occupation of working in a sand quarry. Daddy had twin sisters; one of them, Etta, died at age 18 months of diphtheria. His younger brother, Bob, died of stomach cancer several years ago; his sister Callie died of ovarian cancer several years before that. We haven’t stayed in close contact with his sister Marie’s family, but she passed sometime in the last decade, as well as his oldest sibling, Kate (who lived into her 90s, I think).
Daddy reminds me a lot of his mother (Mary Maggie Blessing Leonard) except he is not a “sad-sack,” as my mom described her. He has seen a lot of loss during his life and has had many health challenges in the past 10 years. I never realized how strong and determined he was until I saw him fight back from quadruple bypass surgery at age 80 (followed by prostate surgery a month later…talk about a shock to one’s system).
I am well aware that each time I visit him may be my last time to see him, so I’ve vowed to get to North Carolina as often as I can (considering that I still have a full life in Nashville). I so wish that we could move him here to Nashville, but his wife, Helen, is still alive and in a nursing home. She turns 94 on April 15. She has dementia…deja vu for Daddy, as my mother, Niece, had Parkinson’s-related dementia and was in a nursing home for 2 years before her death in 1991.
Thanks be to God for my dad and his longevity (and his stubbornness, which I think has added years to his life). As an only child and his daughter, I have been blessed to have a close relationship with him. He has a sense of humor that I have only discovered in the years since my mom died. I hope I am like him when I get old…joking about “old Arthur,” his constant companion (arthritis) and how getting old isn’t for sissies. We’ve had a good life together.