Friday, December 25, 2009

Reflecting Back

Nine years ago, on December 12th, my parents stopped by on their way home from Salt Lake. My dad had been in the hospital down there (they had flown him down from Salmon about a week previous). His doctor could find nothing wrong, or so he said, and released Dad to go home. Our friends who brought them back were kind enough to stop here so we could see him for a while and give him a break from riding in the car. As I watched him struggle to walk from the car to my door I knew that if he continued on to Salmon he would not make it home alive so I insisted they stay here for a while to give him a chance to rest up. Little did I know that that would be my last opportunity to give service to my dad. His stay lasted just 2 weeks. He struggled to breath, he struggled to eat. We tried everything we could think of for him. I even put my chicken noodle soup in the blender for him to see if that would go down easier for him. The kids LOVED having their Paa-aa here for that long a time.
December 23rd I awoke from a dead sleep with the thought I need to go out and check on Dad. He was awake but having an awful time trying to breathe. He told me he thought he had better go to the hospital, but he wanted to try to shower first. When he got to the bathroom and realized he couldn't even do that I knew it was serious.
That day I had to make some of the toughest decisions a child should not have to make when it comes to their parents. Even though my mom was with us, she was not in the state of mind needed to make these kinds of decisions. After we got Dad into the Emergency Room on 100% oxygen and his sats were still at only 66% the doctor pulled me aside and told me we had to decide if we wanted to put him on life support to "try to pull him out of this." Dad asked the doctor if he didn't have something he could give him to take it all away.
Ultimately Dad was the one who agreed to the intubation but I still had to make the phone calls to family and let them know what was going on.
It was a hard time for us, having 4 little ones at home trying to get ready for Christmas, family coming into town to see Dad, watching out for Mom as she stayed there with Dad in the Intensive Care Unit and thinking I still had to fulfill my church calling. I am so grateful for wonderful friends and neighbors who helped us out.
Less than 36 hours later, as John and I were home on Christmas Eve getting ready to celebrate our little tradition with our kids of opening their 'pajamas', we got a phone call from the hospital. John & I left immediately, leaving the kids home alone until I could call someone to go stay with them. Dad had returned home to live with Heavenly Father on the Eve of our Savior's birth.
We opted not to tell the kids when we got home that night. We didn't want to spoil their Christmas. The next morning, after opening presents, KC hurried to get dressed and was putting on his shoes when I asked him what he was doing. He told us he was going to go see Paa-aa and show him his Christmas presents like we promised he could. It broke our hearts to tell him he wouldn't get to.
For a year or two after, I had a hard time at Christmas time. It has gotten easier as time goes on. Some years are tougher than others because I get in a more reflective mood, I guess. I remember all the fun Christmases we had when I was living at home. I remember the year after Dad's cancer surgery when we would ask him what he wanted for Christmas. "A new body and and a new truck," was what he would say. So we borrowed a mannequin from the clothing store and dressed it up and put it in a big box. We put it in the living room about 4 or 5 days before Christmas. Dad would walk around that box with a twinkle in his eye just chuckling. He was so curious as to what could be in that box. Then we bought a little toy truck, complete with horse trailer and horses and put it on a straw bale out in our calving shed. That was such a fun Christmas.
As a child, we would play Secret Santa to a family in the valley that we knew were less fortunate than we were. Mom & Dad would drive us and we would take the boxes to the porch and ding-dong-ditch the house. If we had enough snow my Grandpa (or Dad) would hitch up the team and wagon, or bobsleigh, and go up through the neighborhood, picking up neighbors and kids, come back and go out through the fields with the tubes, sleighs, car hoods and toboggans on back, then stop at the house for hot chocolate. Dad loved going sledding as much as we kids did and sometimes we would go up Williams Creek and sled down the road at night. We always had to wait, on Christmas morning, for Dad to get done milking before we could get up and open presents. If any presents were opened before he got there they would be his. One year I happened to spy a Barbie in my stocking before Dad got in the house. I didn't dare tell him because I knew he would get that present and I just knew he wouldn't enjoy playing with a Barbie near as much as I would.
My dad was such a fun loving guy who always had a twinkle in his eye. He loved to tease and he loved to laugh. He was friends with everyone and if you didn't know him, he would introduce himself and you would be friends in no time. He left me a great legacy that I will always appreciate. Of course, he wasn't perfect, none of us are, but he was a great Dad! I am forever grateful for the chance I had to have him in my home the last two weeks of his life, for the chance my kids had to have him near at Christmas-time. A friend, and family relative told me later that when they came into our home to see Mom and Dad during that time she noticed Dad sitting in the living room, with the Christmas tree up, and the kids playing there close by; she felt such a sweet spirit there. She thought that must be such a happy time for him to be surrounded with his grandkids like that.
As it turns out, Dad had problems with his esophagus and was basically starving to death. That is why he had such a hard time eating. But what was his undoing was he had been released from the hospital in Salt Lake with pneumonia. Because it went untreated, the infection spread into his chest cavity. He also aspirated fluid into his lungs. He died of asphyxiation and pneumonia.
Now I must always remember how blessed I was to have the father I had and to be grateful for all he did for me, especially all he tried to do while he was here with me before he died.
We love you Paa-aa and are very thankful for you and all you taught us. Merry Christmas!
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  1. Wow! so many memories, I can't even look at a picture of this great man without being overcome by his smile and loving spirit. I am so lucky to be his grandson, and for all the wonderful experiences and lasting memories he created for me. Thank you for the post, even though it brought tears to my eyes, it always helps me to remember what a kind and gentle person he was. His laughter could diffuse a situation almost immediately. I love my Pa-aa, and we all miss him dearly. Josh

  2. What a beautiful post, Linette! I miss grandpa and have such fond memories of my time in Salmon. Grandpa left us with such an amazing legacy- we are blessed. I have the neatest picture of grandpa & grandma when they were teenagers and grandpa has his arm around grandma with a little twinkle in his eyes- soooo grandpa!

  3. I miss Paa-aa and he was the best second father I could have ever had!!!! I am so blessed to be a friend of the Tolman Family - I love you Linette!


  4. thanks for sharing these with us linette, i sure do miss uncle rex. i miss his smiled and his fun laughter and twinkle in his eyes, i know he wasnt my grandpa but he was a great man, i wish my hubby ould haev met him.