Funny how time flies. I remember when I was six and dad gave me a piece of candy. Then that one Valentine's day when he went and bought his 3 daughters some toys. Then, when I was in high school, when I really wanted to go to the most special dance of the year, he sensed it was important. That was dad. He kept giving.
My father was older. Sometimes that was embarrassing to me. I am ashamed of that now. But dad didn't seem to mind that. He just kept loving me.
I remember when dad walked me down the aisle, into the arms of my husband Tim. He was so proud that day.
Then came the grandkids. Laura loved Grandpa. He looked down at her when she was age 2, and that same twinkle came into his eyes, the one I remembered when I was young. Then Cecily was born, and she got to laugh at dad's antics when he would go and put on a wig and clown around for her. Then Michael...he was only 3 months old. We received a phone call from mom. Dad had fallen out of bed and couldn't get up. He was taken to the hospital. He had pneumonia.
So I took the next plane and went to Florida. With antibiotics, dad improved and was released. Now that he was home, I needed to return to my children in California. I wish I would have stayed.
Another phone call. Dad was back into the hospital. Kidneys failing. I flew to Florida with my husband Tim and our infant son, Michael, while Tim's mom watched our 2 girls. Feeling rather weak, Michael's Grandpa held him in his arms for the first time and the last time.. dad's life was ending, Michael's was beginning...and their lives touched. . I saw that twinkle in my father's eye again, as he cuddled with Michael for a few minutes.
We were told that Dad needed to go to a hospice. An ambulance came and took him to the top floor of a convalescent hospital. My family fell apart in grief. This was ACTUALLY happening. We were going to lose him. A priest came in to talk to us.
One of us was always with him...either my sisters or myself. We made sure he was comfortable. Dad stopped looking at us, and started looking beyond us, smiling dreamily. Then he went to sleep as his kidneys shut down. In the next 48 hours, he got a lot worse. A priest came in to give Last Rites. After this, Dad began wheezing loudly. My mom wanted to go home. It was too much for her. So I went with her, and gave my father a kiss on the cheek. Bye Dad...love you.
Past midnight, I, staying up, was blinded momentarily with bright light. It's not explainable. I never had it before and have never had it since. It, perhaps by coincidence, happened the moment he died. The call came 10 minutes later. It was my sister. I still remember the words. "Dad died". They were just 2 words, but filled with emotion.
I played guitar at my father's funeral. "Wind Beneath My Wings". I don't know how I did it. When they closed the casket, I lost control. I knew that I would never see that twinkle, in this lifetime, again.
Then one year later. I am in a hospital bed, battling acute asthmatic bronchitis, on respiratory therapy. I am afraid for the little life inside me as I was only 10 weeks pregnant. I prayed and prayed. In that hospital room, I asked for dad to pray, up there in heaven. Slowly I got better, and despite all the fierce coughing that burst blood vessels in my eyes...my baby held on...
On August 12, with the music of Yanni playing, Tim and I welcomed Christopher John into our lives. He is 2 now, a beautiful boy with large gray eyes...just like his grandfather's....in fact, everyone says he looks like my dad.
Once a year, I go to dad's grave. The girls bring a flower each...and this year, Michael,3, kissed the gravestone. Christopher touched the marker lightly. I looked at him, and he smiled at me with big gray eyes. Like dad's...with that special twinkle!
It was then that I knew that my father's love didn't die...it was still with me...and with my family. And somehow I felt that dad's love had helped me to get through my illness.
Rest in peace, Manuel Gutierrez. I love you, Dad!!
If you wish to write you can reach Lillian at: [email protected]
Lillian would welcome mail of support and understanding, particularly from those who have experienced a similar loss.