Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14th

February 14th, 1973: Same story as yesterday. But tomorrow is judgement day. Mom got some roses delivered to her from dad today. Mom said, "Virg, what are these?" Dad said, "Well, that's my Valentine's present." It was the first time I ever saw dad cry.

February 14th, 2013: The judgement day thing is in reference to the coming, next day. Test results would finally come back, and determine whether the tumor on dad's lung was malignant. I believe it was a foregone conclusion that it was. Maybe the tests would determine the type of cancer, etc. As I'm getting into recounting this, for this blog, it is obvious I will have some problems communicating some medical details. I just wasn't involved in those conversations.

Somewhere around dinner time, there was a knock at the front door. The house had three doors. Front, breezeway, and back. The front led into the living room. The breezeway to the kitchen. And the back to sort of a "mud room." Most casual friends used the breezeway door. A knock at the front door usually meant a stranger, or something more formal.

I was home from school. Mom was preparing dinner. Dad was home too. Either early from work, or the delivery person was running past their hours. I'm not sure who answered the door.

What I can clearly remember is confusion. This was atypical behavior of dad. He was not outwardly emotional, and had never done anything like this before. He wasn't a tough, macho type guy at all. But he didn't wear his feelings on his sleeve like I do. He didn't spend a lot of time hugging or kissing mom, and I don't remember hearing the words "I love you," with any frequency. To mom or me. He didn't have to. You could read it in his eyes. It's hard to describe. But there was genuine love. There was never a tense moment between mom and dad (that I saw) in their marriage. And I'm very perceptive, even as a kid. There wasn't even a "vibe" of problems. Because there were none.

Mom & Dad. "Moonlight Madness," 1965
So, there we were. All three of us in the kitchen. The roses ended up in mom's hands. Dad was either standing, or sitting at the kitchen table. Same with me. Mom was surprised. I was surprised, having never seen anything like this before.

It was almost surreal. Like a mistake had been made. The delivery man must have the wrong address. Then, dad gave her those roses, and mom asked that question... "Virg, what are these?"

Dad broke down. I'd seen what I thought was a tear in his eye a few days before. But this was the first time in my life I ever really saw him cry.

It was one of the most emotional moments of the whole, three month ordeal. Even without having kept a diary, I'd remember this scene for the rest of my life.

Front of 73' Valentine, made by Aunt Betty
Inside of 73' Valentine, made by Aunt Betty


  1. Kent, I can feel what you felt. I can see what you saw. Tears sprang to my eyes in an instant. Your writing is touching. Real. You are a talented man whose spirit is captured both in your images and in your prose. I want to read more. I'm hooked.

  2. I too am hooked!....You might just inspire me to write about my Dad's death, (also from cancer). Too much of that in Pike County! I can also see what you saw. My dad, in the last few days of his life, had been bedridden not too long. A few days before my spring break in college. I remember pulling into the driveway on S. Monroe street, next to Patti and Toby Smith. Mom nearly met me at the door, anxious to get out of the house for a bit-I did not realize why she was hell-bent on gettin out of the house. There sat Dad at the dining room table- very gaunt, very weak, very sick, stomach bloated. He asked me to make him a grilled cheese sandwich, because no one, according to Dad ever could get the cheese inside perfectly melted without burning the bread, no one but me. Of course, how could I deny him this....but as the sandwich was done, as he took one nibble, he promtly asked me, his 20 year-old baby to carry HIM back to bed. I did not realize that he hab been bedridden for the last week. But he had insisted on getting out of bed and having a Camel Cigarette for my arrival home from Stephens College. The grilled cheese conversation was the last we had...he died soon after, on Easter Day, with a homemade bunny cake at the side of his bed. The very first Hospice nurses, and Hospice was not even established yet helped us all so much.....Mary Beth Little, from Griggsville, Mary Margaret Robb, and Mrs. Bill Ferguson. They gave SO much to our family....I could only give a grilled cheese sandwich. But it's all good!

  3. Kent, my kids have seen me cry dozens of times. I'm holding back tears as I read this. I'm just an emotional guy. And this tugs.