Dad worked for the Iowa State Hi-way Commission over 30 years. He never said he loved the job, but rarely complained about the work. Co-workers at times, but not much about the work. Summers were tough. Hot, humid, pavement blow-ups, but it was the shoulder and ditch mowing duties that got to him. He had acquired several allergies over the years. He would start a sneezing frenzy at the crack-of-dawn. As a kid sound asleep in the bedroom across the hall, I can remember hearing and counting sometimes 30+ sneezes in a row. It was enough to disturb even a teenager sleeping, ugh. Maybe that’s why I’m always up at 5. Don’t think he ever went to the doctor for allergy tests or relief. He just sneezed his way through a million blue and red work hankies from April to November.
|Retirement gift from Iowa State Highway Comm, 1981…|
As a state employee, he invested in their retirement fund called IPERS. Wonder what that stands for? Iowa Public Employee Retirement Savings maybe. Anyway Dad (who am I trying to kid? Mom handled the money, made all money decisions) contributed the maximum to this fund for many years. When he was ready to retire, he and Mom had several meetings with advisors on how to best distribute this chunk of change for their greatest benefit. Don’t remember all the option details, but lump sum or a monthly portion were 2 of them. Since Dad was a decade older than Mom you’d thought they would have chosen the lump sum to invest to take care of Mom, since she in all probability would live a lot longer than him. Instead they chose the monthly portion. They were (she was) wise in their decision choice since Dad lived 26 years after retirement, thus getting WAY more in return than what he put in. Who would have thought she would pass away before him?
|Dad on the snowplow for Iowa State Highway Comm, 1960’s…|
Their monthly IPERS check afforded them the extras. Well, everything they had was paid for, cars, house. They had some health issues so had some medical bills, but they ate out often, visited me frequently, really had no money worries, though were far from wealthy. They were comfortable, but didn’t spend a lot. Their house was one of the oldest in town and they had no intention of moving. For cars they ordered an engine, 4 tires and a steering wheel-period.
|1958 Chevy Biscayne, nothing fancy…|
At the end of the year, IPERS would send out a bonus check if there were dividends. I don’t ever remember either of them ever saying that extra check failed to show up in November. Mom, the money guru would decide where or what needed to be done with this extra influx of money. That of course after Dad took out the 10% tithe to The Lord, which he usually spent on bibles or tracts. Sometimes they would do a project in the house, but often it just went into the bank.
After Mom passed away, and Dad moved to Michigan, I became the bonus advisor. He would study and see how much money was here or there. We would check out how many bibles he had on hand. He liked having a certain version on hand, written especially for prison inmates. He also bought more large print versions. He might take me out for lunch to Pizza Hut, but that was about it until the next bonus check day happily loomed ahead.
|Great grandpa Rich with Landon, 2003…|
After his stroke and move to independent living facility, he continued his decline. Testy, losing weight, nitpicking me, usually about driving. There were a couple people living at the Village who looked just awful, but still drove. Dad on the other hand, looked great cause his health issues were not visible. Even though the cops had taken away his license, it was always my fault that he could no longer drive. He would start an argument about it every couple weeks. He’d say he found someone who would take him to the Secretary of State to get his license back. I’d explain that he would have to take a written test, a driving test and have a signed letter from Dr. Anderson stating it was medically OK for him to be driving. No way was she ever gonna sign that for Dad. He had blocked carotid arteries, congestive heart failure, chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I tried reasoning with him, what if he ran into a car filled with children? Who would get blamed? Him and Dr. Anderson for giving him the OK to drive. Dad, that wasn’t going to happen. After I explained this, he would be somewhat appeased for a couple weeks. Invariably he’d bring it up again, almost always on Sunday afternoons when I visited. He was frustrated, distraught and angry.
|Dad’s assisted living facility, The Oaks, 2007…|
I was truly amazed at how bad I felt when we argued. In my whole life I never remember thinking I loved him. Now why would a silly fight put me in such a depressed state? That I was a failure because he thought I wasn’t doing the best I could for him? When I got discouraged or frustrated with him I had a great support team to help me hash it out. My 3 kids were all supportive and great sounding boards. Especially Shannon, my-geeky-PHD-psychologist-over-achieving-daughter. Plus several friends would listen, and offer advice. I tried not to pitch-a-Dad-bitch to John very often. He ALWAYS sided with me (thanks Honey) but then tended to be ticked off at Dad. Not what I needed. In Dad’s defense, after he moved here, he really only had one person to air out his anger, frustrations and grievances with. Me.
|Not much fancier. Had air and a 5 speed, 2006…|
That November, with the bonus just a couple weeks away, here’s what he said. “Denise, what do you think we should we do with the bonus check?” “I don’t know Dad. Have you checked your stash of bibles?” “Yes, we need some large print. But Denise, do you think I could get a new suit with some of the money?”
My breath caught in my throat. Tears welled up and I didn’t trust myself to talk. I knew exactly what this meant. Dad had crossed some unseen threshold. He knew without question his time on earth was nearing an end, and it was time for him to get ready. Maybe he thought it was about time for me to get up to speed and on the same page too. He hadn’t been attending church very often anymore. That wasn’t the reason he wanted new duds.
|Dad and I visiting Char in Rock Valley, 2004…|
When I found my voice I said, “Sure Dad, it’s been a few years since you’ve had a new suit, and you’ve lost some weight. We’ll go shopping soon and get the works. New suit, tie, belt and shirt.”
About a year before Dad had one-upped a snippy doctor with his deep abiding, unshakable faith and had stated that Jesus was calling him home and he was ready to go. Now Dad and I both knew that time was drawing near…