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A Cup of Coffee: Goodbye, Dad

Welcome back. Last week, we talked about Trauma Informed Care. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

This week, I had planned to write a blog on Methamphetamine use. It was halfway done when I got the late night call that my dad had fallen in his care facility. The words, “he’s fallen and hit his head, he’s throwing up, and having seizures…should we call an ambulance or just put him to bed and let nature take it’s course?” would forever change my life.

My dad was many things to many people. The folks in my hometown of Canby, Oregon knew him as “Bill“. Bill ran the Canby Cleaners in his younger days, then ran Greenwood Gardens, a wholesale nursery where he hybridized over 158 new varieties of evergreen azaleas. If you see an azalea, it’s likely one of his. “Bill” was a fair business man. “You don’t ever cheat, steal, or lie“. Words of wisdom for his three daughters.

My dad was a father to those three daughters. Involved in our lives, encouraging, protective, and determined. He thought that we would drown if we swam in the local river, so he built us an indoor heated swimming pool with his own two hands, and even constructed an environmentally friendly heating device created out of black tubing that snaked back and forth on the top of the building, warming up water and releasing it back into our pool. He taught us to swim and then raced us to build our endurance. He was our hero. When adversity would strike, he would say, “You’re a Viking…you’ll do what you have to do“. And so we did.

My dad was in WWII. He served on the USS Boise, and the USS Toro. He mapped mines in the Pacific ahead of an invasion that never came. Five subs went out, and only one returned. He survived the Battle at Guadalcanal, and as with the rest of the Greatest Generation, never really talked much about the war. “I lived it…why would I want to talk about it?” he would say when pushed.

My dad was a loyal husband to my mama. The greatest gift he gave us girls, and later the grandchildren, was to love her the way he did. He adored her. I can honestly say that in their 64 years of marriage, I never once saw or heard them fight. She preceded him in death in 2015.

In 2017, we talked him into going on his Honor Flight back to Washington DC. I accompanied him as his guardian, and it was truly the trip of a lifetime. One day, as we were sitting on the tour bus and the wheelchairs were being unloaded, I took a picture of the chairs. It had not escaped me that someday, all of those chairs would be permanently empty.

On Friday, as my husband and I rushed to OHSU (the teaching hospital in Oregon), we received a call from the trauma surgeon. “Your dad broke his hip…we need you to come as soon as you can“. The news poured in slowly, bits and pieces. He had turned on his call light to use the restroom…his caregiver hadn’t come in time…he tried to get there on his own…his feet got tangled up and he fell. He was now in ICU.

Awake, alert, we talked. Surgery was an option, but it was estimated he wouldn’t survive the anesthesia. My dad wanted to think about it. By morning, his kidneys had stopped working. The surgeon eased us into the understanding that this was not going to be a survivable event. He gingerly handed us a quilt, handmade by volunteers. I felt very sorry for him. Surgeons are made to fix things…save people. He had to do something, so he handed us a quilt. He had tears in his eyes.

By Sunday, my dad was looking very poorly. His cheeks were sunk in, he was sleeping a lot. A geriatric doctor came in with her nurse and talked with him. He looked into her eyes and said, “You’re so beautiful…don’t feel sorry for me. I’m done. I’ve been visiting with my mother, and I’m so very happy with where I’m going. I’m tired. It’s time to rest. You are SO beautiful“. The doctor and nurse stood there with tears streaming. She finally turned to me and said, “I should let him talk with all of you and tell you you’re beautiful“, to which I answered, “It’s ok…we grew up with him. Our tanks are full“.

On the plane headed to Washington DC, 2017

One by one, my dad called for those he loved most in this world. His children, his grandchildren, extended family…he told them he’d never forget them…and urged some to “be good” and others were tasked with jobs to complete for him. It was around this time that the nurses rolled him over to clean him up, and revealed a bed sore, black, the size of a salad plate over his tail bone.

There was an audible gasp in the room as one nurse ran to get a camera to take pictures. His home had assured me his bedsore was “the size of a penny”. My heart froze as I realized he was being neglected right under my nose. The lack of attention to his call light…the bed sore. My father didn’t like to complain, and even as his femur was separated from his hip joint, he would only say, “it burns a little”.

I could easily turn this week’s blog into a rant about elder abuse in America, and maybe I should, but for tonight, it just doesn’t feel right. None of this…feels right. To lose a parent to neglect is one of the most horrifying things to experience. I should have been able to protect him. He was 95 years old, and he didn’t deserve to die like that.

Today, we held him as he took his last breath. The head of the family. Dad, Papa, Bill, my mama’s Honey. I don’t know how I’m going to live without him, but…I’m a Viking. I’ll do what I have to do.

Fair winds and following seas, daddy…

Daddy and Mama

In Loving Memory of Wilhelm L. Guttormsen 4/14/24 – 7/30/19

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34 Responses to A Cup of Coffee: Goodbye, Dad

  1. Avatar
    Linda August 8, 2019 at 4:35 pm #

    Beautiful and heartbreaking. I am so very sorry for you loss and for how it happened.

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    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:47 am #

    Thank you Darlene…they leave a huge void, don’t they? Take care…and be well

  3. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:47 am #

    Thank you so much…be well

  4. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:46 am #

    I’m so sorry Cathy. They didn’t deserve this…either of them. Be well

  5. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:46 am #

    Thank you Louise…I will be taking up the topic at a later date for sure. My regular blogs take a bit of research, so it may be a few weeks…be well

  6. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:45 am #

    Thank you Lisa…be well

  7. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:45 am #

    Thank you for your kindness…be well

  8. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:45 am #

    Yes they do…thank you Lesli and be well

  9. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:44 am #

    Thank you Andrea…be well

  10. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:44 am #

    Thank you Cheryl…be well

  11. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:44 am #

    Thank you Dean. You are appreciated…be well

  12. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:43 am #

    Thank you Donna. I’m glad you found some value in it…I wasn’t sure if I should write it. I hope to see you back when we resume our wellness blog…until then, be well and God Bless..,

  13. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:42 am #

    Truly. Thank you Alex…be well

  14. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:41 am #

    Thank you Mary…be well

  15. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:41 am #

    Thank you Paula…and yes…he truly is. The world is a more beautiful place because of his flowers. Be well…

  16. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:41 am #

    Indeed we were…thank you…

  17. Avatar
    Linda Tate August 1, 2019 at 8:40 am #

    Thank you so much. I will indeed be following up at a later day…be well, Linda

  18. Avatar
    Mary Jo Robinson July 31, 2019 at 6:17 pm #

    Linda,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like a wonderful guy. The greatest generation never wanted to talk about their experiences. I am sad for the way he passed because it is so avoidable. One friend of mine recently lost her husband and before he passed experienced a horrific stay in a memory unit where he was not supervised appropriately. I do hope you follow up more in this topic.

  19. Avatar
    Crystal Rector July 31, 2019 at 2:54 pm #

    Beautiful. Good parents are such a blessing. You and I were both blessed that way.

  20. Avatar
    Paula Levin July 31, 2019 at 12:06 pm #

    Touching and eloquent tribute to your dad. He’s leaving a wonderful legacy.

  21. Avatar
    Mary Walsh July 31, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    Beautifully written! Thank you!

  22. Avatar
    Alex Vice July 31, 2019 at 9:43 am #

    What a life!! Thank you for sharing this with all of us.. ❤❤

  23. Avatar
    Donna July 31, 2019 at 8:49 am #

    Linda my heart hurts for you I have never stopped to read any of your blogs I’m glad I did today peace to you and God bless

  24. Avatar
    Dean ODriscoll July 31, 2019 at 8:16 am #

    I read the first paragraph and then took a break because I knew it was going to be emotional to finish reading. I am happy that you and your siblings had such a great father who has been a positive influence on your life. Thank you for finding the strength to share your story.

  25. Avatar
    Cheryl Kendall July 31, 2019 at 8:12 am #

    What a beautiful tribute to your father. So very sorry for your loss.

  26. Avatar
    Andrea Rohm July 31, 2019 at 8:03 am #

    What a beautiful tribute. Thank you. Sending prayers for strength to you and your family.

  27. Avatar
    Lesli Plummer July 31, 2019 at 8:02 am #

    What a beautiful tribute. 💕 So sorry for your loss. Lost my dad 7 years ago and it leaves such a void. Wonderful memories sustain us.💗

  28. Avatar
    Tina Schimpf July 31, 2019 at 7:49 am #

    Linda, I am so sorry for the loss of your dad. I met him the day he returned from his honor flight. What a sweet man! I was just sharing the story of that day past Friday with a WWII veteran I met. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  29. Avatar
    Lisa Watts July 31, 2019 at 7:43 am #

    My heart goes out to you, Linda. What a wonderful man. Thank you for sharing his story so beautifully.

  30. Avatar
    Louise E. Osterman July 31, 2019 at 6:57 am #

    Linda,

    So sir for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your father–it made my cheeks wet.

    Attention to elder abuse and/or neglect is an important topic for a later date. My 88 year mother recently had an 8-day stay in a nursing rehab situation. What a nightmare! She is now home and doing well, but those eight days could have gone the other way were it not for my sisters’ vigilance and advocacy.

    Again, so sorry for your loss.

  31. Avatar
    Cathy Schmidt July 31, 2019 at 6:01 am #

    Lost my dad in much the same way. Hugs to your family. I love Azaleas.

  32. Avatar
    J. Rupert July 31, 2019 at 5:37 am #

    Very sorry to hear of this terrible loss to your family. Beautiful tribute!

  33. Avatar
    Darlene Guyton July 31, 2019 at 3:22 am #

    Linda, I read your blog. It was beautiful. It made me cry thinking of my own Dad. He also fell in a nursing facility at 76 after a stroke. He didn’t make it either.

    Just know that I know what you are going through as a lot of other people will also.

    Reach out to us anytime.

    We are here for you.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Cup of Coffee: Meth | Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation - August 5, 2019

    […] Welcome back! Last week I wrote about the passing of my dad. You all shared this over 900 times. Thank you so much for your care and concerns. I will follow up in a week or so with a blog on Elder Abuse in America, as so many of you requested. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE. […]

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