Family Memoir

Family Memoir

            Being a farmer is nobody’s dream job; well at least it’s not my dream job. Farming is the exact opposite of what I want to be doing. I wake up with the light, work out in the fields all day, and then come home too tired to do anything but sleep. I never see my family, except for dinner, because I’m always working. I consider myself a family guy, so it’s really hard for me not to be with them all of the time.

            That is why my wife and I decided that we wanted to do something better with our lives. We wanted to be with our two daughters, two more children followed later, and we wanted to be able to spend quality time together. About fifteen months after I started farming, and while we were still decided where we wanted to go with our lives, I was drafted into the army.

            I wasn’t quite sure what to think about that. I am a man of honor, and I’m more than willing to die in order to serve my country, but I couldn’t imagine leaving my family. I did not want to leave my wife and kids without a husband and father. Of course, there was nothing I could do about it, so I took my assignment with dignity and class. I needed to stand up and defend my country.

            I soon found out that I would be a radio operator; this was such a relief. I was allowed to bring my family with me, and I wasn’t going to be out in the front lines fighting. It was everything that I could have dreamed of. I was serving my country and my family at the same time. We packed up our stuff and moved from Andover, New York to Yakima Washington.

            We lived in Yakima for two years. It was a very slow, difficult two years. Working for the army was proving to be very difficult for me and my family. It wasn’t paying as much as we needed and we were starting to fall behind in our payments. Because of this, I decided that I would take a different job. I wanted my wife and kids to be together as much as possible, and I wanted them to have the best life that I could give them. I took a job in a canning company in order to supply my family with the financial services that they needed.

            In April of 1957 I was discharged from the army. We decided to move back to New York because that’s where the rest of our family was living. I found work in Wellsville, in a factory where the main product was the manufacturing of Steam Turbines. The job that I was offered was a floor sweeper. I was being paid $1.69 an hour. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to get by. I was able to provide my family with everything that they needed, and I was able to be home enough to watch my children grow up. I was an active part of their lives, and I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for anything. When I retired, forty-five years later, as an assistant plant supervisor, I was making approximately forty dollars per hour.

            Being retired proved to be a great experience for me. My children had all moved on, found love, had children, and were now providing for their children just as I had for them. My wife and I stayed in the house that we raised our children in, and we loved being with each other every day.

            A few years back my wife was diagnosed with a disease. I was devastated with this news, I felt like my life was going to fall from beneath me. They told us that she would start to forget things, it would continually get worse and worse, and the disease would eventually kill her. Those words hit me hard; I wasn’t sure if I could live without my wife. She was my first, and only love, and she filled my heart more than most people believed is even possible.

            We soon realized that our time was limited. She was already forgetting simple things like how to turn the T.V. on, or where to put the groceries. We decided that we needed to make a trip to visit our son and his children, who lived in Illinois, while she still knew who they were. I had the plane tickets bought and everything, but my wife decided that going on a plane was a bad idea. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to handle all of the stress. I was getting too old to make the sixteen hour drive, so we canceled our trip. I called my son to let him know, and he was devastated. He was a complete momma’s boy, and he wanted to see his mother before it was too late. Him and his family packed up their things and got in the car. They were coming to see us in New York.

            I felt terrible for making my son, his wife, and their two children drive sixteen hours just to see us, but I knew that it was necessary. I wanted my son to see his mother while she still remembered and loved him. I wanted him to be with her one last time before things got any worse. I thought it might really help my wife if she saw him and had him around, because she loved him so much. I was hoping that he might be able to help bring some of her memories back. Also, I wanted the two children to see their grandma while she was still “Grandma.” I didn’t want their last memory of her to be one where she didn’t even know who it was that was talking to her; that’s not how I wanted anybody to remember her.

            When the family got to Andover, they immediately ran into the house. My wife’s eyes lit up like I have never seen before. All the stars in the sky could not compare to the brightness in her eyes. She ran to the family, and she called them each by name. The entire time Pat and his kids were with us, she knew what was going on. They talked about old memories, old family stories, and about everything that has been going on in Illinois. She was still getting minor things confused, but for the most part she was doing spectacular.

            When Pat and his kids left ten days later everybody was extremely sad. I saw Mimi and Eric crying in their car, and Lisa and Pat trying to be strong in front of their kids. They all knew that the next time they saw Grandma she would probably not have any idea as to what was going on. Seeing my family fall to pieces right in front of me like that, knowing that my wife was getting worse every single day, and not having any control over it, is the worst feeling that a man can have.

            About a year later whenever Pat would call to say hi, I would have to remind my wife how to hold the phone, I would have to explain to her that there was somebody else on the other line, and I would have to remind her how to respond to the people talking to her. It was terrible. I knew that she felt helpless and confused all of the time, and I wish that there is more that I could have done for her.

            Soon after that I woke up in the middle of the night to dead silence. My wife wasn’t moving, making noises, anything. I had no idea what was wrong with her, and I was completely terrified. This couldn’t be the end already. I wasn’t prepared for this. I couldn’t live without this woman in my life. I needed her more that she needed me. I put her in my truck and I rushed her, about an hour away, to the hospital. We checked her in and I sat with her for hours while they ran tests on her. The long hours of waiting were horrible. I tried time and time again to tell myself that nothing was wrong, she was just exhausted, and everything would be ok, but I never could convince myself it was the truth.

            While they were running tests I was thinking about my three kids. I couldn’t decide if I should call them and tell them what was going on or just wait and see what happened. I decided not to call my kids until I knew exactly what was wrong with my wife. Almost right after I made that decision, the doctor came back into the room with the test results.

            He told me that my wife had a brain tumor. He mentioned many other things after this. He described exactly what it was and how it had happened, but I wasn’t paying attention. As soon as I heard the word brain tumor my head just stopped working. It was like time had stopped all together. I had no idea how I was going to break the news to my kids, no idea how I was going to comfort my wife while she lay there miserable, waiting to die. Then it hit me…. I had no idea exactly how much time she had left. I asked the doctor, afraid to hear the answer, and he told me that there was anywhere from a couple months to a couple of days before she would pass away. He said that the tumor was so large that there was nothing that they could do to get it out. They couldn’t help her; they could only give her medication to make the wait more bearable.

            I decided that I should call my family and tell them what was going on. I broke the news to them, and had to sit there listening to each one of them break down and cry as they learned that their mother would be dead soon. My three girls, since they lived in New York, drove straight to the hospital so that they could see their mother. When I called Pat, he said he was going to catch the first plane home, but I told him to wait. I didn’t want him to come out here until it was absolutely necessary. He shouldn’t leave his wife and kids without knowing when he was going to be back.

            Pat wasn’t happy about it, but he did as I wished. Not even a week later, however, things became even worse. My wife could no longer breathe on her own; there was a machine that was breathing for her. The doctor told us that she had, at most, two days left. I immediately called Pat. He didn’t have time to find plane tickets, so he told me that he was going to drive to New York.

            Because Pat loved his mom so much, just as she loved him, I prayed and prayed that Pat would get here in time to see her before she passed. I had given up praying that my wife would get through this; I was now praying that all her pain would go away. I just wanted my wife to be happy, and being Catholic, I knew that she would be happy in Heaven. Even though I wanted her to be happy, I still didn’t want to lose her.

            She was such a fighter. She always said that she wanted to see all of her kids before she died. Because of this, I truly believe that the reason she was fighting so hard to stay alive was because Pat wasn’t there anymore. Even though the doctors say it wasn’t possible, I believe that she knew he wasn’t there, and she wasn’t going to leave this world without him. This gave me some reassurance. I felt like I had her, at least for a few more hours, until Pat got to the hospital.

            I was completely shocked when she passed away a few hours later. My whole world was torn apart. I broke down, with my three daughters, and cried. It was the worst experience of my life; worse than I could have ever imagined. To make matters even more upsetting, Pat never made it to the hospital. I wasn’t sure how I was going to break the news to him; I was too upset to even talk. My oldest daughter was the one who got her composure back first, so she was the one that called him. I heard them talking, and then I heard her sobbing again. I could hear Pat crying through the phone. When she hung up, I asked her how he had taken it.

            She looked and me and told me that Pat had stopped in a church to pray for her. He went to the back of the church and lit a candle. After he lit the candle he said a prayer. He had prayed to God that his mom could hear this prayer. In his prayer he told his mom that he knew she was in pain, and that he loved her more than anything in the world. He told her that he was trying his hardest to make it back in time, but he didn’t want her to wait for him anymore. He told her that it was ok for her to leave.

            I was amazed when she said this. Pat had finished saying this prayer minutes, if not seconds, before my wife passed away. She really could hear him. She hadn’t left without telling him goodbye. I have always been a good Catholic, but this made me even better than before. I had witnessed, in my opinion, a miracle. That’s when I knew that everything was going to be ok. I knew that my life would never be the same again, but I knew that everything was going to, somehow, work itself out. I also knew that one day I would see my wife again, and we would be together forever.

            About a half a year later I moved to the Midwest, where Pat and his family lives. All my other grandchildren have grown up, and I had been a huge part of that. Since Pat lived so far away I hadn’t been such a big part of their lives, and I didn’t want to leave this world with that being the case. I absolutely love being with them. Every day they make me smile, and they are constantly reminding me of the great life that I have. I might not have my wife here, physically, with me anymore, but I see her every day in my family’s lives. I see her in Mimi’s smile, in Eric’s sense of humor, and in Pat’s generosity towards others. I could not ask for more than that.




Published on February 23, 2009 at 7:07 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. this is a really good story. it is really sad and very well written. if i was going to change anything i would probebly skip the introduction about being a farmer and just start when he went to the army- this would just make the story a bit shorter. but it is very good.

  2. Your grandparents seemed like great people. I only got to read your memoir but I can tell that they were special. This is good cause it means you went into plenty of detail. I know that this is a sad story but i would have liked to see something at the end to cheer the reader up, maybe a funny story or something.

  3. The second half of this story was phenominally written. It was a real tear jerker. Try and connect the first part to part two a little more. It needs some transition.

  4. I will second Niltiak because I think “tear jerker” is the right word for the second part of this story! Wow! I think you did an exceptional job capturing the emotions! Regarding the first portion, I felt that perhaps you were trying to include all of the information you obtained through the interview and it may simply be too much. The two are not well connected. I would encourage you to omit the bulk of the farmer story and maybe include a few nice details as background so we connect to the narrator. Also, I think the style of writing could be “tighter” (less wordy) and try to use stronger words. I noticed the word “was” sprinkled heavily in the first portion of your memoir.

    Thanks for sharing! Great job!

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