Interstellar Adventures

May 29, 2007

70 years, 647 miles, 3 feet

Filed under: Family & Friends,It's Me, Lass — by InterstellarLass @ 11:14 am

It had been 10 years since Pop had been on a plane. He didn’t seem too nervous though. Nick and I were the frantic ones I think. The staff at Love Field made it easy for us though. Wheelchair? Jump to the front of the line at baggage check in. Wheelchair? Jump to the front of the line at security check in. Wheelchair? Jump to the head of the boarding line. We were the first ones on the plane and got the bulkhead seats with lots of leg room. We had a wheelchair waiting for us at the gate in El Paso, and took it straight to the rental car, where the attendant took it over and off we drove.

At Pop’s house we jumped right to work. Emptying out the refrigerators (all three), the kitchen, grocery bags from stores that aren’t even open anymore, and more than you can imagine. If we wanted it, we kept it. If we didn’t, it was either deemed garbage or donation. Pop went and sat on the patio after a while, and he pretty much stayed there the whole weekend. I don’t think he wanted to watch.

When Nick’s sister flew in, I took our rental back to the airport and met her there to drive back with her. Then she and I checked into her hotel, stopped by the liquor store to get provisions, and finally rounded back to the house. We worked a bit more that evening, but we were pretty tired from travel.

Saturday started off bright and early. The neighbor came back and talked business with Nick’s sister. I got in contact with a real estate agent to get an idea of what a fair market price on the house would be. There is a large gap between what the neighbor is offering and what the realtor says we can get for it. We’ll see how that all works out.

The Savers thrift store got a lot of good stuff this weekend. Clothes, house wares, kitchen ware, lamps, knick knacks…you name it, we donated it. We also managed to sell a few things. It started with lifting a TV cabinet out of the house that we decided we didn’t want to load on the truck to take to donate. So we put a FREE sign on it and it was gone in 23 minutes. Then we put out some furniture and managed to make $50. A couple of other chairs went for free too, and then I later sold a mirror and some scales. Looking back in hindsight, we should have posted an estate sale message on Craigslist and then put up some signs. We could have sold a lot more that we gave away and saved our backs and feet some trouble.

UHaul also left us high and dry. We’d made a truck reservation two weeks ago. We were told by 5 pm Saturday we’d get our truck confirmation. Calling to check three times before that, there was no truck available, and no anticipation that a truck would be available. So I got on the horn. Call number one was a strike out. Call number two was a home run. We grabbed Pop and headed out to get a Penske truck. They’re more expensive than UHaul, but worth it. Nicer truck, nicer cab. We were happy. According to the Penske rental lady, she alone had worked with 50 people in the last week that UHaul had left in limbo. My recommendation for UHaul is that they suck. Bad inventory management. Just bad.

Pop’s BFF Duke also came on Saturday afternoon. When Pop walked back into the house from picking up the Penske, he saw his friend and had the biggest hello ready for him. He moved faster than I saw him move all weekend. “Well Hello my old friend! My best friend! How I’ve missed you!” And these two old men hugged and patted and hugged some more. They sat on the swing on the patio, and except to eat, sleep and potty, they didn’t move from that spot. Duke initially wasn’t going to stay. Nick and I would be separated in sleep if he did. So to force him to stay, Nick and I got a hotel room at the Marriott. Duke and Pop needed every minute they could have together.

Saturday night, we took a well deserved rest before heading out to the hotel. Duke was telling us that come November, he and Pop will have known each other for 70 years. They met on the train from Allentown, PA to Las Cruces, NM, heading for the CCC camps. They joined the Navy together, even though they were separated during service. Duke was in the Pacific Theater, and Pop in the Aleutians on the base there. Duke talked about his numerous surgeries and how amazed he is to still be here. Then he talked about his wife and how she passed. I’m glad he couldn’t see it, because I had tears running down my face. He had brought her home from the hospital after doctors told him she wasn’t going to get any better. He stayed by her side that evening and into the next morning. For the last four hours of her life, he petted her and talked to her. And he was there when she took her last three breaths. I hope that I’m that lucky one day.

Sunday was Load Day. Pop was getting ready to go to breakfast and Duke was helping him. I had another tearful moment when I caught Duke helping Pop tuck his shirt in his pants in the back. Pop didn’t have it quite right and couldn’t reach. Again, when I get that old, I hope to have a friend that will help keep me straight and neat.

After breakfast, we started loading. Duke’s grandson-in-law was sent to retrieve him, but before he left, he helped us load some of the big stuff. The neighbor’s nephew also showed up right on time, and the piano made it safely into the truck. Nick really didn’t want to bring it. He never wanted it anyway, and he was made to take lessons for a year when he was a kid. But I think it would be an asset, and with Zed playing the clarinet, he knows how to read the music. I also used to play (a little) a long time ago, and proved it by remembering the one Christmas carol that I was really good at. Give me some sheet music, and I’ll be back on track in no time. Beds, furniture, boxes, swings, a wheelbarrow, shelves, mirrors, and coffee tables were loaded, wrapped, tied and organized. It really didn’t take that long to load most of the stuff that we were taking. It was everything that we didn’t take that took so long to get rid of.

Duke left in the middle of it all. He and Pop hugged some more. “Good bye old friend. I’ll see you in the middle of June. I sure do love you.” And then Pop reached into the car and kissed his friend on the cheek. He then watched him drive away. He waved until he couldn’t see the car anymore. Then he sighed and walked back to the patio. After about 15 minutes, I went to go check on him. I grabbed him a beer on the way, and when I opened the patio door, his eyes were suspiciously wet and he held a wad of tissue. I handed him the beer and he chugged it. I hugged him and he thanked me. Then I left him alone again.

Nick and I went and had some dinner on our own. We were almost done and there had been some tension between him and his sister. She and I think that Pop can be put on a plane in June and can come visit Duke on his own. Nick is afraid for his dad and the fact that he can’t hear. Even though there would be a family member or family friend on either end of the gate to drop him off and pick him up, it’s the hour and a half on the plane that Nick is worried about. I think Pop is capable. Nick doesn’t want him to be scared and alone. So we talked about it more and he understands but doesn’t like it. I can’t say I blame him. I’m the same way about my kids.

Our original plan was for Nick to leave at 6 am. Sunday night we were way too tired, so we decided to get up at 6ish, and when he left, he left. We managed to get him out the driveway by 8:20 am. Not too bad considering. I gave him a tearful goodbye. I was worried about my sweet husband. Long way to drive a big truck by himself. 647 miles. “Be safe and make it home to me.” I said.

Pop and I finished up a few things, took out some trash, and got packed for our flight back. Our taxi picked us up at 10 and delivered us to the airport. I got the wheelchair no problem, but that was about the only easy part. Where the Love Field personnel were very helpful, the El Paso personnel were very UNhelpful. I had to wind my way through the security stalls, then put our belongings through the xray machine. Problem was, the xray machine was moving faster than everything else, so your buckets sat on the other side of security, where other passengers were walking by, while you had to stand in line to be scanned. Then, for some reason, Pop set off the scanner. So, there he was, all 86 years, no shoes, no belt, can’t hear, has to be individually wanded and checked. They never did find anything that set off the buzzer. I think it was the security worker bumping the machine while she helped Pop through. When it was all over, we were missing Pop’s belt. Fortunately he was sitting most of the time, so there wasn’t a lot of danger of him losing his pants.

I called Nick every hour before and after our flight. He made good progress and was feeling pretty good up to the last couple of hours. Pop and I waited at home after we secured our storage facility space. Elle and Zed were eventually dropped off, and then about an hour and a half later, Nick pulled up. The trip had been uneventful thusfar, so just to make the additional insurance purchase worthwhile, he plowed the truck into a tree branch. Those last 3 feet got him. The driverside corner of the truck roof was dented in, and when we checked it, there was a hole and the roof was buckled in the middle. Like I said, glad we got that additional insurance. We covered the hole with a garbage bag to protect from the forecast rain overnight.

Today I’ll leave work early and we’ll unload into the storage space. We can get everything but the piano, and we’ll have a friend come help with that. We are exhausted. Between 3 people, we cleaned out an entire house with 30+ years of living, plus more years of memories. The only thing left were Pop’s tools in the garage. There was no room in the truck, and there was no strength left in our arms or backs or legs to move it. The house will be put on the market with a For Sale sign to be planted June 9. It’s probably going to take a little longer to sell Pop’s house than we planned, but that gives us more time to work on our own house and get it ready for sale. Unless we have a few miracles occur, the kids won’t be moved before the start of the school year, which is something that we had initially hoped for. Not ideal to have to move them during the school year, but it may be unavoidable.

Watching Pop this weekend made me sad. When Nick and I got there and we started work right away, I actually stopped after about 20 minutes. I thought too late that we should make sure Pop was OK. To just come in and start tearing away at things was rather brusque. I talked with him for a minute and asked if we were going too fast. He said No, that there was lots of work to be done and we didn’t have a lot of time. A few times over the weekend he asked “what did you do with this or that”. Sometimes the answer was trash, and sometimes the answer was donated, sometimes the answer was kept. More often than not he would grimace and shake his head and then remember when he got it or how much he paid for it. But he knew he couldn’t bring much with him.

I know this weekend was hard on him. But I also know that it’s what’s best for him. He and Duke talked, and I think they made plans for Pop to go see Duke later in June. Duke is watching his daughter’s house right now, and he will actually be alone for quite a few weeks. Getting them to see each other will take planning, but will be worth it for the both of them.

After this weekend, I’ve decided that they don’t make people anymore like Pop and Duke. Nick at one point asked “Did you guys ever work out, or did you just stay in shape by working?” Duke replied “It was just work. Good old fashioned hard work. Every day we worked.” Duke talked about his numerous surgeries, and almost not making it after he had his gallbladder removed in the Fiji Islands. After his fall in January he was in ICU for over a month, but pulled through. Just last month he was working again in his son-in-law’s garden, moving rocks with a tube still in his chest. Unbelievable! I think I really do believe that I’d rather die doing what I love, with those that I love, rather than in some hospital bed, trying to prolong my life by days or weeks.

Just before we left his house, Pop looked around at the emptiness. He looked so sad. He shook his head and said “I just hope you kids can put up with me. I don’t know how you’re going to do it. You’ve had to work so hard already and I can’t do anything.” I didn’t say it, but I thought to myself that we’d never be able to work as hard or as much as he did. I only hope we can live up to his example and do right by him.


  1. Oh wow. I’m picturing Pop and Duke and getting all choked up. Sounds like you have an awesome father-in-law. And HE has an awesome daughter-in-law…

    Comment by Marie — May 29, 2007 @ 11:51 am |Reply

  2. When I started reading this I worried about how “Pop” was feeling whilst it was all happening around him. It must be so hard on everyone concerned… you guys trying to help all you can and him letting go of so much that ties him to his old life.

    I hope everything works out for the house sale and that “Pop” settles without too much upheaval. And yanno…. you already did by him by stepping up to the plate when help was needed…

    Comment by Carol-anne — May 29, 2007 @ 12:01 pm |Reply

  3. That, to me, is one of the saddest stories of our day and time. I know if was rough on all of you. Keep the faith. ^j^

    Comment by poopie — May 29, 2007 @ 2:09 pm |Reply

  4. I can understand getting caught up in what needs to be done and forget that there’s a human attached to this. That’s so sweet that he and his buddy got to pal around for a while. All the way from Allentown!! Now there’s a place near and dear to my heart….I’ve got family there. Hey, maybe Pop and I are related?!?!

    Comment by carnealian — May 29, 2007 @ 8:28 pm |Reply

  5. God bless you guys.

    Comment by Cara — May 29, 2007 @ 9:10 pm |Reply

  6. This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time, Lass. It was sad and bittersweet in lots of places, but it’s plain and simple real life. Thanks for sharing about Duke and Pop. What an amazing friendship.

    Comment by Bone — May 29, 2007 @ 10:48 pm |Reply

  7. Hi Lass, I know I’m pms-ing so I’m feeling inordinately emotional. That being said, your post made tears come to my eyes. The whole idea of getting old and watching your life be sorted into garbage, donation, or keep piles is scary and sad. I’m sad for you Pop that he had to go through that. On the other hand, it is so clear to me that you and Nick are doing right by him. You are amazing. I wish you and your family all the best. Good for you for doing the right thing. I only hope when it’s my turn to do something similar, I step up to the plate the way you and your family have.

    Comment by buttercup — May 29, 2007 @ 10:52 pm |Reply

  8. Wow.

    They don’t make ’em like Pop and Duke anymore. Well, maybe with you guys, there’s still hope!

    Comment by AbbyNormal — May 30, 2007 @ 8:37 am |Reply

  9. Best post ever!

    They do still make ’em like Pop and Duke, but they are very rare.

    Comment by nittanybri — May 31, 2007 @ 9:25 am |Reply

  10. That would be so hard to just pick up and move your life like that, but he’ll adjust. You are absolutley doing what’s best for him and I’m certain her appreciates all your hard work. What a great life he has had and what a great friend he has made. He is a very lucky man.

    Comment by Jolynn — June 1, 2007 @ 8:34 am |Reply

  11. It’s a little sad, but it’s awesome that you all have each other. That’s what family should be about.

    Comment by annie — June 2, 2007 @ 12:26 pm |Reply

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