The Knock

by | Jun 3, 1999 | Death, Experiencing God, Gifts, Marriage

His gorgeous silver hair shimmered against the hospital pillow. He instinctively opened his eyes as I walked in. I had flown from California to Texas, where he lived. He gave me a big smile, hugging me, lightly. He asked how we were, and if I needed anything. Here he was facing his gravest health crisis, yet found time to think about me. But that was his nature of kindness, generosity, concern. He had lost weight, like most male patients, his hospital food was “diet food.” He cooperated with the nurses, treating them with respect and appreciation. His bubbly personality had turned quiet and pensive. His anxiety, obvious. He was to meet the greatest challenge in his life, which would test his disbelief in surgery. His decision would impact my life unlike any other, as I honored the Father’s Will.

He and I had spent so many special moments alone, having dinner at his favorite restaurants where we would be led to his favorite table. We spent hours without any interruptions, enjoying the moments. His favorite subject – Mother, took center stage, always. He was inconsolable, as I sat silently listening to him embracing his grief filled with regrets, with so much left unsaid, which he wished he could recapture. He would invariably turn to funny stories or fund raising projects he did yearly, dispelling the sadness.

I would spend three weeks by his side, in Texas observing his health, ensuring I would be by his side when a diagnosis/prognosis was given him by his longtime friend, and doctor, who was at an out of state conference, leaving him under the care of two specialists. As the end of those three weeks neared, it was imperative I return to California to prepare the necessary paperwork for our passports. We were moving to Europe. I knew he wasn’t happy about it, so I prayed for ways to keep his spirit high.

As a child I had always saved my allowance for weeks to buy him gifts for Father’s Day, his birthday and for Christmas. One day he called me into his bedroom, he showed me all those gifts with which I had proudly presented him as a child. He had the first green silk tie, now outdated, still in that special drawer where he kept my gifts. I recalled this one day as I sat by his side in his hospital room.

He loved and missed his gardens, exotic plants, and his magnolia trees outside his home. It gave me the idea for buying him a potted plant. It was delivered, when he intuitively, asked me how much time I had before my return to California.

As the days went on, he became restlessness. I left the hospital to shop for a blue silk robe and matching pajamas for which he had the blue velour slippers I had sent him, now two months ago, for Christmas. When he opened the package carrying them, he was elated! He took his shower, shaved, and he had his beautiful silver hair trimmed.

As we neared three weeks, days were getting exhausting. I had my 1 1/2 year old baby daughter, Lori, with me. Subsequently, it took diligent planning, ensuring all her needs were met, while visiting Dad, daily. Relatives and a nurse kept her for me, entertaining her on the first floor of the hospital, while I was with Dad on the fourth.

His greatest joy were the moments we were able to sneak Lori into his room. I could see the light in his eyes, hear his laughter, as Lori danced for him, held and kissed him, refusing to be taken from him. She strengthened his will to live unlike anyone or anything else. This chubby -cherub-like-butterball-angelic-face baby offered him such hope. But she, also, was showing signs of tiredness as the third week neared.

After calling my husband in California, I learned that our deadline was getting too close for our passports. I knew it would not be easy telling Dad, but I prayed to find a way. He kept avoiding the subject. I knew he was having a difficult time letting me go. What I didn’t know was why.

I ordered him twelve yellow roses in a vase with water, which I detected when I arrived in his room, where they had been placed by the window where he could see the beautiful Corpus Christi Bay, below. He thanked me for the roses, gave me one, and said: “I loved the potted plant and the roses, but, Honey, roses die.” He knew it was time for me to leave without my saying so. He gave me his blessing, sending his love to my husband and children, and held Lori, kissing her cheeks, as he took a good look at her one more time. I told him I would return as soon as our passports were completed.

We spoke for a while alone. I reminded him of how he had always told me to see God’s nature, historical ruins, different places. Then, I said, “Now that you are retired, you’ll be able to come to Europe, and we will be able to do all those things, together. We need to start planning for a new wardrobe and a decorative cane, so that we can take walks as is customary in Europe every Sunday, dressed in our Sunday’s best.

I called him before leaving for California from the Corpus Christi airport to reassure him I would return within three weeks if not earlier, after I took care of urgent business. We shared some very special moments, embracing our joys. Instinctively, I said, “Daddy, what accomplishments I may have in my life were for you. Disappointments were never about you, but out of my own inexperience. They were never meant to hurt you.” He said, “I know, Honey,” tearfully, as I could tell from his change in demeanor. Then, I reiterated my return plans.

Knowing his opposition to surgery from his advice to me, and his primary physician of decades gone to an out-of-state conference, I felt confident he would wait for me, before deciding on the surgery. I was confident of that from what I had been told by family members.

Upon my arrival at the LA Airport, my husband picked up Lori and me up. He told me right away: “Your father is having bi-pass surgery tomorrow. He was advised that everything was fine, and there was no need for you to return to Texas, at this time. The family has promised to keep you updated on his condition.”

Three days before Good Friday, my husband, children and I were sitting down to dinner, when we heard a knock on our door. Instinctively, I went to open the door, but only a chilling, cold wind met me. As I returned to our dinner table, there was another knock. Our son, just turning 15 years old, three days later went to see who it was, only to be enfolded by the coal blackness of the night. On the third knock, my husband, who suspected neighborhood kids living at Edwards AFB, CA, housing where we lived, playing a prank went to opened the door, but only the shifting white sands seen by the lamp post , dancing in the around the lamp post on our corner greeted him at the door.

He complained about having swallowed something that was stuck in his throat that evening. I asked him to drink water after eating a slice of bread, which he did. The next day he called from his office, stating he could barely swallow water. I asked him to go immediately to our military hospital, five minutes away, where I would meet him. I picked up my bag and began giving our children, instructions when the phone rang. I will never forget the look on our son’s face. He said: ” Mom, the call was for you, but I took it. Grandpa didn’t survive the open heart surgery.” I ran out the door in shock paying no attention to cars traveling in the streets. Our son, turning 15 years of age the same day (Good Friday), was a good athlete in school. I literally outran him, until he finally caught me. Just as he caught me bringing me home, I recalled what I had to do next: Go to the hospital to ensure Bob got diagnosed and treated. I arrived at the hospital only to find the physician would not be available for another week. He was on vacation.

As we started to leave, a man wearing a red wind breaker, yelled at the secretary in the office:” How’s it going?” It was the doctor! He looked at x-rays taken of Bob’s throat, Bob needed emergency surgery because there was something obstructing his wind pipe, which could be fatal! It was a sliver of a chicken bone!

As I sat in the hospital waiting room, a folklore my grandmothers had told me as a child came into my mind: “When you hear three knocks on your door, and there is no one there, God is sending you His angels to prepare you for an impending loss.” Dad was gone three days later on Good Friday, March 28, 1975, on the same day as my son, Charles’ birthday, and my husband’s life was saved.

God had mercifully sent his angels, knowing I could not carry these burdens alone. The knocking on the door was indicative of my father’s impending death. The doctor returning from leave unexpectedly showing up as Bob and I left the hospital cannot be coincidence. There is no coincidence, but Providential. Our son became a man who despite his being in different parts of the world, he never ignores my concerns, and comes to see us, at great sacrifices every holiday season he can.

I never questioned God’s Will, but for the next decades I disconnected myself from just about everything in my life once treasured and important to me. I went through the motions in my relationships, developing a habit of never being without something to do to the point of exhaustion, because I could not deal with my loss, except for the sleepless nights that followed for many years, thereafter.

Risk became a stranger, challenge frightful, friends, dispensable. In another country it became easier to “hide” my pain, but obviously somebody had to be experiencing it for me because I wasn’t dealing with it.

Christmas, Father’s Day, and his birthday, December 23rd, were days I would go to stores, instinctively searching for Dad’s gifts. When I would realize what I was doing, I would return home.

I was becoming so ill , that my doctor, fearful of my declining physical health brought on by the tremendous stress of my father’s death, sent me for grief counseling 25 years later.

In 2001 I was watching one of Oprah’s shows on overcoming grief. Her friend, a counselor called “Dr Phil” who wrote a book called, “Life’s Strategies”, was on the air. A distraught mother who had lost one of her two daughters, had refused to grieve and turn her over to The Father.

Here is what he said:

“You know, right now there are a number of angels in heaven, that go to the Light, joyously every day. One of the angels always stays behind, sad and lonely. One day one of the angels asked her why she wouldn’t ever join them.” Her answer:

“I cannot go with you, until my mother releases me. You see, she is still holding me, earthbound!”

Dr Phil told the bereaved mother that she needed to go on with her life, with her family, with her friends, and set her daughter’s spirit free and let her move towards the Light of God.

It suddenly hit me! My grandmothers’ folklore had been revealed. God in His mercy saw fit to send his angels to knock on my door to forewarn me, knowing the impact it would have on me, the rest of my life! And, I, as the lady losing her child, had kept Daddy earthbound for over 20 years. I realized how selfish I had been all this time, and how it had not only affected Daddy’s journey, but my family, as well. I cried, feeling all the pain locked in my heart all those years, and realizing I had to say my final goodbye to send him to his destination.

That night Daddy came to me in a dream. Unlike the those I recalled, he was smiling at me.

I thank God for saving Bob’s life, my having had such treasured moments with dad, and for our son to have been home when Dad left this world in my trauma. While Bob was hospitalized, my family in Texas prepared for Daddy’s funeral. God’s Wisdom offered me courage when I called Daddy from the airport, not realizing this would be our last conversation.

God took Daddy as he left me Bob, and a son Bob reared with such a responsible character accepting priorities we taught him.

Somehow when Bob asked me to marry him, I told him: “I believe God sent you to me, because my father will not live long.”

@Copyright 2002(122313)



The Knock