Fifteen years ago today, August 20, 1999, I was working as an office assistant/inventory clerk at Pete's Fabrications on Blue Level Road in Bowling Green. It was my first job since moving to Kentucky and I was still learning just exactly what that job was about.
I was my desk on a Friday morning, reviewing the parts inventory and looking forward to the weekend when the phone rang.
I answered with the usual greeting I'd been using since I started working there in a few months. "Pete's Fabrications, this is Ron, how can I help you?"
On the other end of the phone was my mother. Between her sobs in a heart broken voice she told me that my father "was gone." He had lost his battle with cancer.
Dad had been diagnosed with malignant tumors in his lung and brain 10 months earlier. He fought as bravely as he could but eventually scummed to the awful disease that has taken so many from all of us.
I don't remember exactly what I said to my mother during that call but I'm pretty sure I told her I loved her and that I would be home as soon as I could.
I had been home just a few weeks earlier because Dad's condition had gotten worse. It was the opinion of the Hospice nurse who was taking care of him that medically "the end" was eminent.
I flew back to New Jersey for the weekend and said "good-bye" to my dad. I don't even know if he knew I was there. He was basically unresponsive due to the toll the disease had taken on both his body and his mind.
There wasn't anything dramatic about seeing him for the last time. I know I told him I loved him. But there wasn't any moment of closure that I remember and that's okay with me. It's not an "unfinished business" issue with me.
Over the last decade and a half I've done things and grown in ways that I know would have made my dad proud of me. I have no doubt that he loved me and still does.
Although I wanted to breakdown in grief when I hung up the phone, I did my best to keep my composure. My boss and the guys who worked in the auto body shop weren't exactly the kind of guys you wanted to see you cry.
As a means of catching my breath I sat back in my office chair and turned up the radio. The country music station I had on was at the tail end of a commercial break. The station jingle played and segued into a song.
That song was "Love Me" by Colin Raye. Its about a young man's memories of being with his grandfather on the day the boy's grandmother dies. The words of a note that applied to the grandparents' long life and love together made up the chorus of the song.
If you get there before I do, don't give up on me.
I'll meet you when my chores are through;
I don't know how long I'll be.
But I'm not gonna let you down, darling wait and see.
And between now and then til I see you again.
I'll be loving you. Love me.
The song was the catalyst that made it impossible for me to hold back the tears of sadness at the loss of my father and my empathy for the grief of my mother.
In those initial moments after my father's last breath I knew there was nothing my mother was feeling more than the void of being separated from the man she loved most. She wanted nothing more than to be reunited with him. Just a short 4 years later she would be.
Over the last 15 years, for me, that song has come to serve as a reminder and a symbol of 40 years my parents shared together. Their love and dedication to each other through thick and thin, good and bad, and making the best of the hand that life dealt them is the best example of a strong marriage I've ever known.
Although it was far from perfect, their marriage serves as a model for me when it comes to my relationship with the Love of my Life, my wife, Paula.
So on this anniversary of the day my father's life in this world ended and his "eternity" began I want to share with you the video of the song that still, after all this time, means so much to me. I can't hear it without tearing up.
Love Me by Colin Raye
One final thing before I end this post. Just yesterday I took a step toward preserving yet another special memory about my dad.
For about 10 years I've had a few of the model railroad cars that my dad customized himself. Yesterday I took those cars along with a shadow box to the young lady who made my giant blue Lego storage box for me, last year. She's going to set them up in a display for me.
In a few weeks I will have another reminder of my dad's life on my wall. I'll have more on that when it happens.
It's been 15 years but on this special day I want to tell my dad and my mom how much I miss them. Although I hope it's not for quite a while, I look forward to one day being reunited with both my parents in our eternal home.
I Love You Both.