Saturday, November 26, 2011

Honor Your Father

Dad and Steve

My dad rose very early each morning to start his day.  Dad worked as a truck driver distributing beer to all the taverns in a 25 mile radius of Maquoketa.  He worked very hard and it showed by the calluses on his hands.  I remember getting up and seeing him at the kitchen table in his underwear, smoking a cigarette and drinking his coffer before he got dressed and headed to work.  It is funny the pictures that stick in your head.  He was a very tall man with dark hair.  He quit school at an early age to go to work and worked physically hard all of his life.  He met my mother when I was only 2, Dion was 4, Charmayne 3, and Dona an infant.  My birth father had abandoned my mother leaving her to care for us small children. She moved in with her parents and was working at the local theater when he me her.  He married her and we became his children.  They had 4 more children within 5 years making us a family of 10.  He bought us a small 3 bedroom house on Grove Street that my mother still lives in today.  I still consider it home.

To support us, Dad began his day before 6:00 AM in the morning loading his truck by himself.  He would deliver beer to the taverns and would not get home until late in the evening.  He worked everyday except Sunday and then he still went into work to wash and load his truck to get a head start on his work for Monday.  He never missed work and never took a vacation day.  He lived for his work. 

Everyone called him Weep (short for Wiebenga) and loved him.  He was a simple, quiet man who never said a bad word about anyone.  He had a difficult life growing up.  His mother and father divorced when he was only 3 and he was sent to live with his aunt who raised him.  He was living on his own and working when he was 16 years old.  He did not like to talk about his youth.  It was difficult for him to talk about.  Like my mother, he did not complain. 

I remember before leaving for work him coming to kiss me good bye.  He would set off on foot because we could not afford a car.  On Saturdays he would bring the work pick up home so he could take mom to get groceries.  His life was work and his family.  I have always called him dad because I wanted to honor him for being there for us and being a true dad.
His health failed him early in life.  He got TB and was sent to Oakdale until he was cured.  When I returned from California I asked him to live with me in that he and mom divorced while I was away.  He did not want to impose and wanted to go live at Crestridge Nursing Home where he seemed very content as long as he got his cigarettes.  He asked very little of life, but smiled and laughed easily.

My home was full of foster kids and each Sunday I would take them to church and then we would go visit dad.  What a wonderful circus.  I’d bring him his cigarettes and the kids would entertain him and the other residents.  I’d pick him up often and bring him home for dinner or take him to visit his mother who was also in a home.  He was happy with his very simple life.  He fell on the ice on Christmas Day at my home and broke his hip temporarily putting him in wheel chair.  He eventually got out of the chair but he was never the same after that.  He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and was hospitalized many times to have the fluid taken off of his lungs.  He fought long and hard but finally signed a do not resuscitate order.  I went to visit him more often knowing that we would not be sharing time with each other much longer. On his last day, I stopped to see him on my way to work and I knew that the end was near without anyone telling me so.  I called work and said I would not be in and sat with him most of the day.  Later that afternoon while sitting with him, I saw him take his last breath.  It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but he had always been there for me and I needed to be there for him.  I did not want him to be alone.  He died before any of his other children could get to his side. 

He may not have been great to others, but he was my dad and I loved him so.  He is still in my thoughts and prayers daily and no Sunday has ever seemed right since because that was our day to be together.  He taught me my work ethic and to love kids that aren’t my own.  Those were great lessons.

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