One year ago this morning, I packed my car with two suits and other clothes for a ten-day stay . . . and drove west via I-70 to my hometown.
The hospice nurse had told me the day before that I probably needed to be home sooner rather than later.
I arrived in early afternoon to find my father awake and responsive enough to know me and say “Hi, Son.” Later that day he sipped a bit of Pepsi and remarked on how good it was.
Those couple of days in bed and awake were restless ones for him. By Saturday he was sleeping soundly, no longer speaking, difficult to rouse.
By Sunday night, he was gone.
One year later, I’m headed to Chicago for a holiday weekend of glorious music and even a visit to the ballet. Life is good. The last year has been full indeed.
But Pop is on my mind today.
This precious note was in my father’s files:
JoAnne Howard had lost her husband just a few months before my mother died. JoAnne sang at my mother’s funeral, as she had at countless funerals before.
The funeral home paid her, of course, but JoAnne returned the money to my father with this note.
Jo’s family had been intertwined with ours from our first days in Lee’s Summit. Her youngest son, Greg, was my best friend growing up.
Flash forward: 18 months after Mom’s death, my father returned to the USA from Argentina on a terminal furlough.
And a few months later this lonely man was courting JoAnne Howard.
They were married — this widow and widower — in May 2000, barely nine months after my father began his final furlough, and just a week after he officially retired as a missionary.
That marriage lasted more than 17 years until his death last December.
Not long after my father retired, he came to visit me in Owensboro. This was nineteen years ago this week.
Over the next 18 years until his death, he only spent one other night under my roof, an omission that continues to baffle me. But that’s another story with a therapist!
We visited Louisville on a Saturday: downtown, Fort Knox, Churchill Downs.
I later wrote this card to Grandma Carter, who by then was in a nursing home.
I lived in Owensboro, Kentucky for the 1999-2000 school year. My Grandma Carter was residing at that time in a nursing home in Jefferson City, and my father had just returned from his years as a missionary in Argentina.
This card is from 19 years ago this week.
My father used to give us this look that sort of said, in a faintly impish way, “what are you doing?”
The look had layers of humor and awareness and love. My sisters and I knew this look well.
Sometimes I think that Auggie is giving me the same look.
V. Richard Carter would be 83 years old today. These two photos are from 65 years ago, as he was matriculating at Hannibal-LaGrange College as a freshman. He is with his parents in front of his dorm.
After spending some time with my stepmother and my sisters and stepsisters Tuesday evening (all in prep for cleaning out my father’s belongings from the house on 3rd St. Terr.), I stopped by Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery.
My father’s stone is now set, next to Mom.