Ken Harrison 10:30 a.m., Dec. 10
Through A Daughters Eyes.
There is no other relationship, like that of a Father and Daughter. One of the most important bonds a woman can have is with her Dad. The time spent together, the example a father puts forth, shapes a girls ideal of her future relationships.......the memories she will carry throughout her life.
It's been almost 7 years since my father passed away, the day he went into surgery, I was never able to converse with him again, though I talked to him and sang his favorite song, as he lay in a comatose state. It is something that has affected me and will for the rest of my life, leaving an insecurity like no other.....one of the downsides to a closely bonded father daughter relationship, but one I will accept cause the rest of it was so good and memorable.
I was third born. Dad was a busy guy, working in construction. At the time he was a laborer, often swinging a shovel and working asphalt. And the occasional directional sign. By the time I was 3 he was working with heavy equipment, and times being a bit rough, he worked hard and long hours, so we didn't see him much....as you could guess, the age of 3 does require more sleep and early bedtime. But I was an early riser, and Dad would wake me up to have breakfast, toast, oatmeal, fruit, whatever we had and then watch cartoons, usually Crusader Rabbit, just till he went to work. I would follow him around like a shadow and help him with his lunch, while he put coffee in his thermos, I would place a piece of fruit in his lunch pail.....Then back to my bed and he would leave for work.....
I would get to see him when he got home, and he would always save something in his lunch pail for me, half a sandwich, fruit or if I was really lucky there was a cookie or twinkie.....It really didn't matter, cause whatever he saved I knew it was for me, and that alone made it special....and a memory that has remained special to this day.
Sometimes Dad worked close by and my mother would take him hot lunch and I would get to visit on the job, a few times I got to ride on the grader or the caterpillar or roller, he let me drive a grader once, that was so much fun...I think I was 6 or 7 at the time. Those were special days for a daughter, to see the work ethic he had and that he was willing to share that with me, that it wasn't an inconvenience, but fun for him also. And at that age hanging out with the construction guys was fun, I got to wear a hard hat and reflector vest. What can I say, I was 7.....(Smile)
As I got older things happened in the family that had strained it to no end and I was no longer in the loop....there is a saying, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." Well, I wasn't a squeaky wheel, I was quiet and studious, had decent manners, and a couple nice friends. And very independent, My older sibling had a baby boy, and I took care of my nephew, from the day he came home from the hospital. I changed his diaper, and bathed him and fed him and that was the beginning of taking care of him.
My parents had a restaurant and Dad worked his regular job, my sister worked part time at our cafe. So I was left to fend for myself and nephew. I was 11 years old, and this went on till I was 13, at which time, my sister moved to an apartment, and to help her out, I was sent with her, as I continued to care for my nephew. I still went to school, I had a ride everyday, my nephew went downstairs and I would pick him up when I got home. It was a work ethic I learned from my Dad and being responsible was important to him, so I was responsible, and did my job. I continued this routine till I was in high school, halfway through my freshman year, I started modeling in fashion shows, etc.
Soon my world seemed to fall apart over family strife, and my father hit an all time low in his demeanor, he was depressed. My parents marriage was splitting up, it was a difficult time for Dad, and we seemed to be apart, though we lived in the same house, it just was not a home. As my mother left, she told me it was up to me to take care of Dad, and that I did. He would sit and watch TV, and I would fix dinner and clean the house and work, still in fashion, I was 19. On my 21st birthday my mother chose to tell me she was finalizing the divorce. My Dad seemed broken, but time passed and though the hurt never left him, he did move on.
At a time when things seemed to look up, he fell ill and had a massive heart attack, in the early morning hours, I was awake and making tea, just on my way out the door, he walked over to me and said he needed to get to the hospital, and I drove him....panicked and scared, knowing he had had a heart attack prior, hoping it was the same as the last, but instead it nearly took his life....I had witnessed the whole thing......he remained in the hospital for a week. Then he came home. Money was tight, so I took over nursing duties, and a close friend who was a nurse, helped out too. He again made it through.
Doctor visits were the norm and he had to have a quad bypass, and I sat by his side and at the hospital throughout the surgery. Dad was strong and tough, he held his own, and I took care of the home front, read every book on diet and nutrition, to make sure he had all the right food and doled out his meds, made sure he kept his appointments. After all he did the same for me since I was born.....
A few years passed and Dad stroked out, again early morning, I was sleeping and heard a noise, I walked out the hall to find my father angry at the dog. My first thought was that Wrinkles (my dog) had tripped Dad, but it was a stroke, I noticed a burn on Dads arm. He had been trying to make tea, and kept pouring the water in the sugar bowl....I was trying to get him in the car when his brain decided to have another stroke and he lost function and could not walk, I ran for the neighbor and we got him to the hospital, he remained for two weeks, upon his release he had very little movement and his speech had all but disappeared. We worked hard to regain all the thought process, and movement, it took a couple years to get back to a point of feeling self sufficient.
I spent the greater amount of that time retiring him from work and fighting for his social security....as I was holding down 3 jobs, one of which he was able to go with me, the other I had a friend watch him and the third was part time cleaning a laundry. We had to pay the bills till we could get relief, it finally came through and he was set for money. I continued to work my schedule and take care of him. He got healthy and was doing well and had been retired for quite some time. His doctors were pleased with his progress and he was able to take care of himself again.
I'll tell you, that man never stopped working, he just could not stop. If he even remotely felt like a non productive person it would just cause such depression for him. So he would work around the house and build things, carve wood, you name it, garden, work on cars...there was no stopping him. When he had his stroke, he had been working on a pond in the front yard, trying to sink this huge rock....I was so tired from my schedule, but I had to keep an eye on him, I would be awakened by Dad digging in the front yard, at which point I would take over, and dig whatever needed digging....geeesh. I found him digging under the rock, he was partway under, I had to drag him out. I told him to use the garden hose to sink the rock. By eroding the dirt under the rock, it would fall in the hole.....well it worked, cause all I heard was a big splash, and Dad came in the house with a huge smile, covered in mud....
A few years would pass before he needed another surgery for a blocked artery, I was going back and forth from LA to SD, taking care of him. He got through fine and he had help this time, but I still did the bulk of the scheduling, business and cooking for him. I went home every Tuesday till Thursday, and then back to LA.
I finally moved back to SD, cause he stroked again and needed help. He just worked too hard and didn't give himself a break......When I came home he took it a lot easier and enjoyed more time with friends and family that lived close.
I met my hubby, we married started a life in my hometown and Dad wanted to move to New Mexico, he had always wanted to go there, and he checked out Santa Fe, but my sister wanted to go to Az., so Dad agreed and moved to northern Az., near Prescott. The altitude was not good for his heart and blood pressure, so they decided to move again near Tucson. I wanted him to move back with Steve and I, and he even talked about it, but his health was waning and he was falling fast......I just wanted him home, where I could take care of him.
He would visit and we had so much fun together, and it never ceased to amaze me that we never seemed like visitors in each others homes, and the most difficult thing in the world was when he would leave and we had to say goodbye....or I would visit him and we would go places, but the best time was when we just sat and talked, had some good home cooked food and watched a great western.....lots of John Wayne, The Sacketts or Lonesome Dove. Then I would have to leave.....I would be heartbroken for days......Dad once had found a little stuffed animal that my dog lost, and chased me down the drive to get it to me, and when I did not see him, he called me and offered to bring it to me the next day.....I love my Dad just for that thought.....
The last time he was out, he was not doing well and I could tell his meds were off and we made a trip to his old doctor in town, he got him straightened out, and Dad said when he came out next time, we would work on the windows in the patio to finish enclosing it.......it was never meant to be......
He was scheduled for a surgery, and we make the trek out to Az. to be by his side.....we got to talk for only a few minutes and then he was prepped and ready, an hour into the surgery, his surgeon came out and said they had nicked an artery.......Dad lay in a coma for almost 7 days. With a moment of lucidity he was able to hold my hand, as a tear rolled down his face... respond to Steve and touch my nephews hand. That would be all......
But it was never the end, cause Dad and I had such a great bonded relationship. He taught me to hang in, no matter how difficult things were and to hold onto the important memories and keep a standard for myself and live up to it.......I do my best, but I do falter and it hurts cause I feel I have to do right by his memory.
Dad was and will always be the greatest inspiration in my life, and I thank him for being a great example for me and giving me the values that I hold close......It was the most important gift a father could ever give to his daughter.
Through a daughters eyes, her father is a window to her future. He will be the model to future relationships. How she is treated and expects to be treated,
Dad was not perfect, but he had good values and integrity, and I am grateful that he was my father. Just my wonderful Pop.......