Tag Archives: death of Dad

Why I love my pillow!

8 Jun

I love my pillow. It is a big, fluffy feather pillow covered in a rose color bunting. When I rest my head I have the happiest dreams and most pleasant thoughts. I miss my pillow when I am not home, and have a difficult time sleeping.

I did not realize my sleep depended so much on this pillow till about a year ago. Over the first 33 years of my marriage, I had many pillows. But I never slept as well as I did when I went to visit my parents in New Jersey and slept with my pillow. I just thought that when I was home with my parents, I was not worrying about them. But I realized that was not the truth.

My pillow started out as part of my grandparents’ feather bed. I am like the little child in John Denver’s song, “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” This song always puts me in a great mood. I hear that song and I am immediately smiling and singing along. And I think back to my Grandma Thelma and Grandpa Nat.

When I was a little girl, I loved sleeping at my grandparents in the winter. First of all, Grandma always put a lightweight flannel sheet over the cold sheets. Second…was the feather bed (or duvet). I loved when she threw it over me and it cuddled around me. It was so soft and comfy. Filled with feathers and love. Grandma always slept with me when I was little and staying at her house. She would whisper to me and sing me Yiddish songs under the quilt.

I loved that feather bed. In the mornings, I would wake up and snuggle in the warmth of the blanket. My grandparents would be downstairs in their bakery in West New York, New Jersey. Once I was ready, I would get dressed and run down the stairs to be with them, have my breakfast and start my day in the bakery.

They took the feather bed with them when they moved up to Kauneonga Lake, in the Catskills for the full year. I loved our visits over winter break, because Grandma always let me sleep with the feather bed.

But it did not last for long. Eventually Grandma decided it was time for the featherbed to be washed and the feathers sorted. There were not enough good feathers to make a duvet again. So Grandma had it turned into several pillows.   All I know is that I got one: my beautiful rose-colored feather pillow.

It is true that many people cannot sleep with a feather pillow. They have allergies; they do not like how they sink in; they have issues. But for me…a feather pillow is heaven. My feather pillow is especially wonderful!

My pillow came to college with me and was home whenever I needed it.

But when I got married, my Mom kept my pillow. She had it in a plastic bag on a high shelf. No one used it but me. Whenever I came home for visit, the rose- colored pillow came out for my bed.

My children did not like it or want to sleep with it, better for me. They are the only ones I would have allowed to use my pillow.

However, at home in Kansas, with my husband, I searched for the perfect pillow for me. I cannot tell you how many pillows I bought over the first 33 years of our marriage. I never found a good pillow. I never got really comfortable. I used two pillows. I switch pillows. I tried everything. But I never really slept well. I could not understand why. It never occurred to me that I needed that one pillow.

When my Mom had her stroke, I flew out quickly to New Jersey. My pillow was there at my parent’s apartment. Once again it was the comforter of my tears. Even though I could barely sleep, I still felt better with my pillow. I knew my Mom had kept this pillow for all these years just for me.

My Mom died a week later in the middle of the December 2010 blizzard. I was with my Dad, trying to make all the arrangements. While I juggled three phones and a computer, I held my pillow on my lap and at times had it behind my back supporting me. It helped comfort me.

I left the pillow at my Dad’s apartment. I used it whenever I went to visit him. But nine months later my Dad passed away. I spent that first night alone in my parents’ apartment with just my pillow for comfort. Later people asked how I could stay there by myself. It really was not difficult. I had so many loving memories. I had my pillow filled with feathers and love. I was fine.

I still left my pillow there, after that visit.

But 18 months later, when we finally cleaned out my parent’s apartment, the time had come. I told my siblings, I am taking my pillow. I found a box and stuffed it in along with a few other things. And shipped my pillow home.

And for the past year, I have slept the most wonderful sleeps. I have had the most wonderful dreams. My family still does not understand.

My daughter says, “Mom that pillow probably needs to be cleaned.”

HA!

It was cleaned 45 years ago. The feathers are probably 90 years old.   Why would I clean it? When I put my head on that pillow I am a little girl whispering with my Grandma. When I put my head on that pillow I am a teenager in high school. When I put my head on that pillow I am a young woman in love waiting for my wedding the next day. When I put my head on that pillow, I am visiting my parents with my two children. When I put my head on that pillow I see my Mom and Dad getting it down off the shelf just for me.

My pillow that I love is filled with memories that I love.

 

 

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My Dad was A Proud Veteran

26 Nov

My Dad was a proud veteran.  He instilled a love of country and duty in my children. And my children loved him.   I know that my son adored my Dad.  But I guess until this past Veteran’s Day I did not realize how great that love was and remains.

My Dad died in 2011, ten days after my son’s 21st birthday.  On his birthday, Dad called.  I did not hear the phone call. But my son called me immediately after to tell me that Grandpa called to wish him a happy birthday and to say he loved him and would always love him.

My Dad was in the hospital.  Very ill.  When he hung up, he turned to my sister and said,  “No more treatments, no more food, and I am not talking to you anymore.”  Those might not be the exact words.  I wasn’t there. I was in Kansas. Dad was in a hospital in New Jersey.  But both my sister and brother agreed that he stopped talking and eating, and refused all treatment.

Did I tell you my Dad was very stubborn?

But in this case, he was right, because he made his own choice.   And he passed away 10 days later.

It was very difficult.  I had plane reservations for that morning.  But it was too late.  The phone call came at 12:30 am.  My brother calling.  I did not want to answer the phone.   But I had to face the reality…losing my Dad nine months after losing my Mom.   My grief was overwhelming.

I flew home to New Jersey, where my brother met me at the airport.  His words were in a way helpful.  “Dad saved us from making very difficult decisions,” he said.  And he was right.  Because we might have fought with him to do the one thing he never wanted…putting in a feeding tube.

Dad was strong willed.

My father was the recipient of both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.  Even though he died on a Saturday, the funeral home was able to contact the military.  At my father’s funeral were two soldiers. At the cemetery they removed the flag covering his casket with great ceremony as they folded it.  While  the commanding soldier delivered the flag to my brother, saying the scripted, but heartfelt, words of the military, the other soldier disappeared.  A few minutes later, I knew why. From a far came the sound of  a soldier playing taps.  I still cry thinking of how proud my Dad was of serving his country.  And how the grateful nation return his respect with the tribute of a bugle.

 

The flag from Dad's funeral.  His favorite Korea Veteran cap.

The flag from Dad’s funeral. His favorite Korea Veteran cap.

We kept the flag in the room where we sat shiva.  It seemed right that it be with us.  As it seemed right that my brother now has the flag.

So what does this have to do with my son?

Well first off, my brother and sister agreed that we would give my son my Dad’s newest tallit as a 21st birthday gift.   My Dad had three tallisim  (prayer shawls).  One from his bar mitzvah, one from his wedding, and then the beautiful one my Mom gave him when he became president of his synagogue.  In Jewish tradition, you bury the tallit with the owner.  But at the funeral home, the director told us, “Keep this one.  Use it for a huppah (wedding canopy)for his grandchildren.  Burying two is enough.“

My son was very quiet when I gave him the tallit. He held it for a while, then stroked the velvet case.  I cried because I could see the emotion in that gesture. Now  he  wears Dad’s tallit when he goes to synagogue.  My sister recently said to me that this Dad’s most personal item….his tallit.  That is true. My Dad was proud to wear his tallit.  Proud to be Jewish. As he was proud to be a veteran.

What does Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day have to do with this story?  So much.  My Dad served as a forward observer/radio man in the Korean War.  As he told my children,  “There were no cell phones then.  Someone had to go in front of the front line to lay the radio wires.  That was me.”

Korean Vet

My Dad explaining the Korean War.

 

So when they built a Korean War Veteran’s Memorial near my home, I helped fund it by buying a inscribed stone in honor of my Dad.   One Thanksgiving, when my parents were visiting,  I took them and my children to the Memorial, where Dad told them all about the war… He started to cry….even after over 55 years, the trauma of Korea still was fresh for him.

After my father died, in October 2011, I started going to the Memorial on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, to say hi to my Dad.  I cannot visit his grave, as he is buried in New Jersey. But this year, I could not go on Veteran’s Day.  I was out of town.  It bothered me that I could not make this important visit.

A few days after we got home, I had lunch with my son and his girlfriend.  I asked if I could take their photo to send to my daughter.  They said yes.  But then my son started making funny faces.

“Why are you doing that?”   I asked annoyed.

“I am channeling Grandpa,” he said.  “He would have done worse.  He would have also made bunny ears.”

I smiled.  But what he said next made me cry.

“I went to the Korean War Memorial on Veterans’ Day,” he said.  “I went there because I wanted to pay my respects and honor his memory,” he told me later.

When I told him that I went twice a year.  And I really appreciate his going for me.  He looked at me astonished and said he did not go for me.  “I never knew you went there to do that every year,” he said.  No he went there just to say hi to his grandfather.

There are no words….but love.

My Dad always said that with each child and grandchild your heart does not divide more, it gets bigger.  My Dad had the biggest heart, something he gave to his grandchildren.

So each year on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, I will continue to honor my father by visiting the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial. I will think of him and of all the veterans who served with pride.