She lies at his bedside, and watches him breathe, its labored breathing and she counts each one. Holding his hand watching his chest compressions and begins to cry. Tears are streaming down her face; she cannot believe the journey it’s been.
Her brain wanders off to another time; a time she would love to rewind. Its been many years that have gone by and the children are grown and have lives of their own. She, Catherine is here with him alone, just as it was in the beginning. She remembers a time when the kids were young and he was full of life. Chasing toddlers around the yard, catching fire flies in the evening while Catherine calls out for dinnertime. Sitting at the table praying before meals, thank God for the blessings of life, of family and of health. She recalls when they bought a home, and it needed some work, how hard they worked together through the years to make it just right. She is so glad that they were able to do it together, especially after the kids all went off to school and they had the time together. He worked so hard, and Catherine just wanted to be a good mother and wife, her family came first. Making sure that there was a strong sense of tradition was so important to her, so she arranged every holiday, every meal and every family outing. Once in a while he would surprise Catherine and the kids with a surprise weekend adventure like a camping or fishing trip. Nothing extravagant as money was never their priority, but they always had just enough to get by and they always felt blessed for what they already had which was so much more important than money.
She remembers the younger years, traveling from base to base, year after year and the exposer to travel and culture that the kids got, and although it was not easy, it made for a closeness in the family, and a true dependence on one another. When a family travels that much, and everything changes regularly but them, they form a bond that no one can break. The culture they have been exposed to is immeasurable. She was always so grateful. She didn’t mind doing it, she made new friends everywhere she went. She also had a few hobbies of her own that kept her occupied when things were tough. For every destination was a new breed of gardening to learn, she loved it.
She especially loved when they finally settled in to their own home, building and making changes to the house as the family grew and changed. Each time a child moved on, He and Catherine would change the house to match their needs as a couple. A library, a foyer filled with family photos from over the years. Constantly changing.
Going even further back, she ponders the times when the kids were little, the carpools, the stinky sneakers in the back of the car, the mud and the days where she thgouth she would lose her mind from the chaos of the kids running through the house and all the toys on the ground. Those days are so precious. When the kids would play at her feet in the kitchen, banging the heck out of her pots and pans, thinking that they were making a joyful noise to the Lord! The days she had to remind herself, appreciate it now, it goes so fast. When the girls would get into her makeup, and high heels, and the boys would bring her worms from the garden that they should not have been digging in, but she couldn’t possibly be mad, they were so proud of themselves. The days when Catherine was pregnant and Dad would take the boys out fishing and tell them silly stories, some real some imaginary, and bring her home their fresh catch, “Oh my, look what a good job you’ve done”, shed say “now run off and wash up”. He would kiss her on the forehead and follow the boys off to the garage to wash up in the industrial sink. If they did so in the house Catherine would just throw a fit.
She remembers having the girls and watching dad cry, he was instantly in love. Girls have a way of doing that to their daddies. They were early, which sometimes happens with twins, but they were healthy and thriving, again, dad was in his glory. He spoiled them rotten. When Catherine was exhausted from feeding them both non-stop, he would rock them, and Catherine would fall back asleep listening to him sing over the baby monitor. He loved those girls with all of his heart. The boys were very much mama’s boys, they were protective and they loved being little warriors. Sometimes Catherine wished they would be a little less rambunctious in the house; oh she couldn’t count the items they’ve broken if she tried.
Another time that she loves to think about are the times when she would watch the girls on the wrap-around deck where the octagon room is having a tea party while she gardened away. Sometimes they’d get in power struggles those two, but Catherine always reminded them, “that’s your sister and someday, you two will be the best of friends so practice kindness”, then turn her back and giggle as they continue to duke it out themselves. Sometimes the girls were worse than the boys. As the boys grew older, and started playing sports, they were so competitive with each other, one being older than the other caused a regular contest of wills. They loved their sisters too. When they were not complaining about how annoying they are.
Catherine then starts to giggle as she remembers the time that the kids came in for dinner and yelled “ewww”, when they saw their parents kissing in the kitchen while making the table. Or the time that one came in fro a nightmare, barged in their bedroom while they were trying to quietly make love. Kids are so funny, Catherine and dad hid under the blankets and pretended they were sleeping, after their son crawled in and feel asleep, they held hands and laughed at the little close call.
He loved his breakfasts on Sunday mornings with Catherine, she always had laid out fresh coffee, fruit and berries on that day of the week, and it was kind of like a fend for yourself buffet of fruit cereal and juice. Sunday was a day that the family always spent together, and hopefully there were no cheerios thrown around the kitchen. After the kids ate, she and dad would sit on the porch and hold hands, listen to music and watch the kids play in the yard. Catherine remembers when the boys convinced the girls to beg Dad for a dog, because they felt he spoiled the girls more. Catherine remembers feeling overwhelmed at times, when they got the dogs, running around with slippers in its mouth, chewing things and running mud through the house after she cleaned it.
Catherine also thinks back to times of pain, when for example dad had a layoff, and the struggle was hard. She did her best to remind him he is a great man and father, she was his rock and sure enough he loved having her strength and faith in his time of need. It didn’t last long because he was so valuable, in fact she encouraged him to go into his very own adventure and try having a business of his own. Family business is tough, and it was small, but in their town everyone loved him and his business stayed afloat enough to pay the bills and save a little for later on in life. She was a natural helper and loved seeing people push themselves and succeed, and she did that for him. She was so proud of him everyday, even in the beginning when he wasn’t sure his new business adventure would work out. She smiled and kept encouraging him, never allowing him for a minute to participate in self-doubt. It was if Catherine knew all along he would succeed, and she never fell from that faith.
She misses his voice so much now, these past few weeks has been tough. She wishes to go right after him; life wouldn’t seem right without him. She cries over his deterioration yet stays grateful that she had the best years of his life and she loves the life they shared. The kids admired their parent’s relationship, and some of them are married now themselves, and having children of their own.
What Catherine would give to have her grandchildren have more time with him, truly know the wonderful grandpa he would be. She looks forward to telling them all about him, the love of her life. She does love that her sons spend identical time and activities with their kids that her husband did with them. She loves sitting in the next room and hearing her children tell their children about the man he was. And he was, the greatest man that ever lived. Of all of his accomplishments, and there were many, the love he gave to his family, the neighbor and friend and father he was, was immeasurable.
All of a sudden Catherine hears some noise at the door, it’s the kids coming to visit. They ask, “how’s dad doing?”, “not good she says, it will probably be tonight for him”. And she gets up to hug her kids. She leaves them to say their final words to their father, and goes to the chapel of the hospital. Upon entering the chapel, she falls to her knees and sobs. Out loud she cries, “dear God, thank you, thank you for the greatest man that ever was, and thank you for giving him to me….” Catherine sits in the pew and prays and prays, and rejoices in her gratitude, because even though she’s not ready for him to go, she knows that a short time with him is so far more precious than no time at all. She feels a sudden peace, and goes back to his room to relieve the children from their goodbyes to dad. When she returns, the kids each kiss and hug her goodbye, and leave for what they all know dad would want, to die alone with is love Catherine, alone and in peace. Catherine then falls asleep right in dads hospital bed, and a few hours into her slumber he passes into another world. When she wakes, she is sad, but she knows that now he will be strong and healthy and by her side for he rest of her time. After all, she sees him in their sons all the time, this makes her smile. They too are good men.