William E. Wilkinson, April 5, 1927-Juy 13, 2014
My father passed away on July 13th, he was 87. It seems unreal to me being without both of my parents—we as children are defined by their being there, and now I feel orphaned as there isn’t that one more step above me to turn to…or to tell about something that happened…or to call and ask “How are you?” Sometimes I dial the number just to hear its familiar ring.
He slipped away rather quickly once he started failing on the 11th, he had been in hospice care since April, and although he was frail, he seemed in good spirits and was doing well with the additional care provided by the hospice volunteers and nurses who visited with him at the nursing home. There's a strange false sense of security in knowing that he's being well cared for that made us think, he might continue on status quo...but on Friday he stopped eating, Saturday he was running a fever, was listless, and not talking; by Sunday he was completely unresponsive. He would occasionally crack open an eye to look—in response to our voices in the room or a touch, but the gaze that I saw was far away—he knew we were there. There was no struggle, he passed peacefully in the bliss of a deep sleep...the way it should be if one has a choice.
He was a patient man, gentle and kind, loving and loveable. He had the best laugh, a good belly laugh that was distinct. He loved to read, and made it fun for me to learn while sitting in his lap having a story read to me, and he'd talk to me about the story, almost like a story separate from the one we read, explaining the how come of things. He was also talented in drawing, he saw me struggling to make a picture of a lion once, and he showed me how as he made marks with swift, sure strokes with the pencil. I was so stunned that he was so good at it. He taught me how to take pictures and he built a darkroom in the basement so we could develop and print our pictures. I see the directions for developing a roll of black and white film that I wrote out in my girlish penmanship years ago still hanging by the stationary sink, a relic most revered by him because I wrote it down. His patience was most appreciated when he drove me on his Wednesday afternoons off from the store to take me to my weekly horseback riding lesson at Terry Ho Stables in Phelps NY. I had no idea how he learned of the place and arranged for these lessons, but this was something that he wanted me to have because I kept pestering for a horse, and he wanted to make sure I knew how to handle one first. So he sat in the truck for the hour, reading a book while waiting. Sometimes I'd see him by the rail watching, or strolling around with his camera taking pictures of the horses and landscape. When he did buy me a horse, we drove to many farms to look at several ones, he called on several advertisements in the paper, some were already sold. Hajji Baba was acquired August 1, 1975, I was 13. Which meant more time spent sitting in the truck while I rode my horse and did all the chores to take care of him.
He taught me how to drive...in addition to driver education at school, he took me around to learn parallel parking and all the other moves necessary to pass my road test. Sadly, I just had gotten my license when I sold Hajji Baba in March 1980, Daddy was with me that sad day when we loaded Hajji into the truck and saw him off, he let me drive home.
When I got pregnant, before I told them the news, he knew by looking at me that I had the little bun in the oven. He called me up and told me "You need to take good care of yourself, you have something very special inside you that depends on you to be good to yourself." It was very sweet.
I don't know where the time goes, but it's gone.
We’re still cleaning out the house that he built of their 61 years of life together—there is so much stuff. It’s hard enough to go there every Saturday to work on it when one has a house and a full time job to attend to…there has to be time for one’s self too. Of course, over the last nearly three years, there have been various illnesses and life interruptions that make going there impossible.
As I resettle myself into this latest version of normal, I find that I’m still editing the same book that I was working on the night that I learned my mother was taken to the hospital almost three years ago on August 2nd. (If I were diligent enough, I could find the exact file that I was making changes to that moment when I telephoned home on my normal Tuesday at 7PM to check in and say "Hello, what's up?") I'm superstitious enough to wonder if the book is cursed or maybe there's a reason for it, all that has happened has provided me with the additional angst I need to finish it properly...or something.
|William and William|
|On furlough visiting home|
|Fooling around as young sailors do|
|Home and the new car|
|On my wedding day|
|Bill and Janie 1950|