December 21, 2016
Leaving Time at Christmas Time
LEAVING TIME AT CHRISTMAS TIME
by jim richmond
Blowing snow here in Battle Creek, when the phone rang at 2 a.m.
I knew it would be my Mom. I knew it would mean grabbing clothes, kissing wife and two small kids goodbye, and heading out for the 680 mile straight-through drive to Kansas City.
“I need you,” my Mom said simply over the phone. “Dad’s not doing well.”
He had, at just 69 and always healthy, lost kidney functions, on dialysis three times a week, and suffered a series of strokes.
Thin as a pencil, hands shaking, disheveled, his body barely hanging on with his limited mind. He could understand, but not write, nor talk, nor barely walk room to room.
So, I drove to Kansas City, knowing where I worked – the Kellogg Foundation and new responsibilities there as Vice President – would and could wait. ( My boss, Russ Mawby always put family and people first.)
Exhausted after the 14-hour straight drive, I sat at my parent’s tiny alcove breakfast table. Acting cheery, as we did not feel, with Christmas around the corner.
I looked over at the remnants of my Father – an extraordinary man, husband, father, sportsman who loved the outdoors – and knew it would likely be his last Christmas.
(As it would be. He died on my 40th birthday the next fall.)
“Mom, what else can I do for you.. Dad? I should get back to Battle Creek,” I finally said.
“Jimmy, have another sandwich. Please?” she replied.
Serving those she loved and cherished and missed by offering food, prepared with the two crooked arms she broke in childhood, not long after her own Mother died in the upstairs Atchison bedroom, and she would go on to raise her 5 Irish brothers.
I had another BTL with her.
With my Dad.
Smiling crookedly, painfully at his strained crooked smile.
A tear running down his cheek, from the eyes of a man I had never seen cry in his lifetime.
Suddenly, the smell of smoke from the adjoining kitchen. I rushed in, and the toaster cord was on fire.
I unplugged it. Threw the toaster out the back door, into the snow.
And prepared to leave.
Never admitted, blogged, written or told anyone this reflection….
Most of us -- my friends and our age range -- have our own toaster stories.
I can still see, am still devastated by that look, by that tear from my Dad’s eye.
I stopped, turned around and went back to Kansas City four different times on that same trip and spent another day, each time, with my parents.
They never asked WHY I came back four times. It was like maybe I’d just gone up the street for groceries or gas.
I laughed and told them it was that darn toaster’s fault.
It was no one, no thing’s fault.
It was about my Dad.
That Christmas time.
That true leaving time for the last time.