Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Remembering Dad Carlson

This is what I had to say about my father-in-law:

Just about 12 years ago, I married into this family. I was welcomed warmly and given the freedom to refer to my in-laws with whatever title I felt comfortable. Using “Rod and Joy” to refer to them just seemed inappropriate because of the way I was raised. “Mr. and Mrs. Carlson” seemed too informal. Still, the words “Mom and Dad,” were difficult to say because those titles were reserved for my own parents. Over the years, however, I grew quite comfortable with referring to my husband’s parents as “Mom and Dad”.

When I think of Dad Carlson, I think of eating pizza together at the kitchen table. We would often go over there on Wednesday nights or every so often on the weekends and order pizza together.

Wisconsin will always remind me of Dad as well. Every year, we enjoyed the tradition of visiting New Glarus and LaValle along with the Dells. It always seemed to be the highlight of the year for Dad and Roddy. Although attending a small town parade and doing quite a bit of driving took some years for me to appreciate this tradition, it is now one of the dearest memories I hold. My heart is warmed with memories when I think of him holding Nikelle in his lap and making her feel safe as the sirens cleared the parade or picturing their hands interlocking as we walked to the restaurant. I remember how he sat with Jaycie as she napped so the rest of us could mini-golf and how insistent he was as we’d head to the Dells that we couldn’t forget to have the Old Time Photo taken.

The card game of spades will always be associated with Dad as well. We would make sure to reserve the adjoining rooms in the hotel so that we could put the girls to bed in one room and play cards in the other. We would snack and play until a winner was declared despite our better knowledge to stop the game and get some sleep. (I shared Dad’s early to bed; early to rise philosophy of life.)

I think the dearest memory for me will be from that of the title he gained almost 6 years ago as “Grandpa”. Nothing could brighten his day like Nike and Jaycie did.

The memory from this last time he came home from the hospital is etched into my mind. We brought him home to keep him comfortable expecting him to leave us very shortly. Never did I dream I’d ever walk into that front door again and hear his smiling voice welcome us with “Hi, Nike. Hi, Jaycie” the way I did the following day. As I watched him hold out his hand for theirs, we were given a miracle to cherish forever.

As we look through pictures and are reminded of his failing health, we are also reminded of how nothing could get in the way of his time with the girls – not even Leukemia. Hugs and kisses were always abundant and there was always a welcome place in his lap, as he’d say to the girls, “Come and sit with Grandpa.” Despite his terrible back pain, he would still find strength to go to the front door and hug the girls goodbye. All the way to the end, he mustered time and energy for these little girls. He only wished that he could live to see this next grandchild as well.

It’s our privilege to keep his memory alive. Be it while we cheer for the Cubs or the Illini; while we eat Pizza King or make a visit to the Dells; or when we color and read to the girls. All the while we will remind our kids of how very much Grandpa enjoyed doing things with them and how he was filled with love and pride for his grandchildren.

Dad was always the one capturing the memories with his camera in hand. Now we cling to these memories of a man who loved life and family. He lived an example of appreciation for life. We didn’t often hear him complain. Even in the end, he told me he was content being right there at home in the bed surrounded by family. “I’m fine just like this,” he told me in those final days of blessing we were given with him.

He never gave up. From buying a piano just months ago so he could learn to play it; to working on the house until this disease forced him to stop; even bringing himself to drink juice from a straw just hours before he left this world – he fought.

We will honor his life by appreciating what we have of ours. We’ll remember the example of a life without complaints. A legacy of a life filled with love for his family is what he’s left us to hold so dear. And we won’t give up.

We are told to encourage each other with words found in the Bible in the book of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4, verses 16 and 17. They say “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

I am forever grateful for the years I was given the honor of calling Roderick L. Carlson: “Dad”. So, we say “So long for now…” and I long so much more for heaven where the Dad who raised me and the Dad who welcomed me so warmly 12 years ago are both there with Jesus even as we speak.

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