Dad will have been gone five years in August. That may seem like a long time to some, but to me, sometimes Dad is still here, living in that protected place in my heart. I wrote this after his passing, but share it now in honor of Father’s Day and my memories of him.
Dad and I at our first home in Seattle. You can see my Teddy Bear up in the window.
We had a private little service at Luther Burbank Park at the North end of Mercer Island. It was just our immediate family for Dad had requested that there not be a funeral. He said that nearly all of his friends had passed on before him, so we won’t call this a funeral or a memorial service. We will just call it a tribute or a celebration of his life instead. Kathryn played Dad’s Sax , she played one of Dad’s favorite tunes called “Out of Nowhere” and my brother, Dave played “I’ll be seeing you.” The weather was perfect as it always is in August. We chose Mercer Island because he and my Mom had settled there back in the 40’s and it was always a special place to him… and to all of us. Our formative years were spent here and there are so many memories of those years gone by. The view was spectacular being on top of the rise with Lake Washington in the background. This is what I read to my family.
Thoughts about Dad……………………….. by Marjorie K. Wallace
13 August 2006
It was just two years ago in August when Dad had pneumonia and we thought he wouldn’t pull out of it. But miraculously, he did. After being in the hospital for a week, then a two week stay at Kline nursing home in Rainier Beach, he rallied and was able to come back home. These last two years, I have had the privilege of getting to know my Father better than I ever have in my entire life. He was ninety at that time and one has to know that there cannot be a lot of time left. I had quite my job and now cherish those last five months as he got ready for his final journey. Dave, Lorrie and I took turns or came together for daily visits while he was in assisted living at Brighton Gardens in Bellevue.
Today, I wanted to share a few things about him that you might or might now know.
Like, just how independent he was.
Never really wanting to give up his ability to manage everything in his life on his own. He wouldn’t call for help with anything, simply preferring to do it himself. Shortly before Dad and Lisle moved from Silver Glen to Brighton Gardens, where they could get that additional care they needed. I remember Lisle telling me in such a proud way, that Dad had climbed up on the ladder and changed the light bulb all by himself. It was enough to make me shudder, thinking of what could have happened; a 91 year old with probably brittle bones and not very good balance up on a step ladder, but he obviously pulled it off without a hitch and it made me realize just how independent and self sufficient Dad had been. It was just a part of his nature that he was unwilling to give up and I admired that about him.
I remember him telling me once how he had this ability to see both sides of just about any given situation. Sometimes that isn’t always a good thing, because often times one cannot take a stand. But then, it also it gives us the ability not to judge before we have the whole picture and quite often we don’t . And then, when he did have an opinion about something and felt that it was important to keep mum, he did THAT very well too. But only if you KNEW him and watched closely did you observe how important it was to him to behave in a “conduct expected.” It was so very important to be diplomatic… and to exhibit good manners. He would never do anything that would hurt anyone’s feeling or make them feel slighted. Manners were very important to him. Even right up until the very end he would always do the polite thing. “Please” and “thank you” were a big part of his vocabulary, always letting a lady go first and not getting up from the table until everyone was finished eating. It was just the proper way to do things. In these modern times when good manners are often times a rare thing, I found my Dad to be a gentleman right up until the very end.
We could have called him “the quiet man”….. always choosing his words carefully and waiting until he had it together before he spoke. Sometimes one had to wait quite a while, but long ago I learned that eventually he would respond. When you grow up with a “quiet man” you learn all about the things they DON’T say. You learn almost how to decipher their silences and what those silences meant. I learned how to read his expressions or a look in his eyes. I did not understand this when I was young, but as the years went by our understanding of one another became more clear and I had long ago found an understanding that is based on intuitiveness and patience. This became very important at the end, because of the Cancer, his ability to communicate became severely diminished. Often times I could be his “interpreter” and let others know what was going on. I was so glad that we shared that special time together.
Dad with his first kitty friend.
His love for his cats over the years and most recently Tiki who he would brush everyday. Tiki’s fur was quite long and Dad was the only one who Tiki would allow to brush him and they had their little ritual where Tiki would lie at his feet and roll this way and that. It was such a sweet thing to watch. He had many cats over the years, starting at a very young age and I doubt that he ever forgot a one.
We all know that his love of Music was his driving force. It was a big part of his DNA and he could not imagine ever not having music a part of his life. He belonged to many, many bands and groups over the years. Some of my earliest memories are of him playing the accordion for family members, jam sessions or playing engagements around the Puget Sound area. He had belonged to the musician’s union until he was 91 and MANY, MANY musical groups over the years. Over the years, he knew hundreds of musicians who became his friends and kindred spirits. Sometimes, someone would tell me that they heard my Dad performing this place or that and it was his way of life right up until the end. One always knew that this was the one driving force in my Dad’s life.
He even took up the computer in his 80’s so that he could compose or transpose music for the groups he still played with. I will always remember the love he had for his music and that rare gift that he possessed. I will always remember his love for his wife Lisle and how he would take her hand and tell her that he loved her. I will remember that special bond of music they shared together, both of them gifted in their own way and particular style. We all know that Lisle will carry on that love of music and bringing joy to others…. Not only for herself but for Dad as well.
And last, but not least, I will remember Dad’s walk. That calm un-rushed gait that he had. I am remembering how it was when he was younger. When he had his strength. I am also remembering the sound of is voice and know that I will always hear it inside my heart and head. The last words he said to me were, “Marjie, I want to go to sleep now” and he took out his hearing aids and laid down to go to sleep. It was so very clear and decisive…. I can still hear his words in my head. We are going to miss him terribly, but also we know that he had a good life. Not without it’s trials, but a life that was filled with the rewards and a special gift of music and a family who loved him. I will think of him free of his tired old body up there playing music with all of his old friends. I am sure that is where he would want to be.
Playing piano at a Jazz club in Seattle
A little memorial for my Dad… I miss him still