I have always lived in the rural area or as I like to say ‘in the country’. Growing up on our ‘farm’ we had always had this stunted black walnut tree by the roadside at the end of one of our pastures. This tree always had life in it and every year my step dad would say that ‘when that tree goes down, I will die’. I know, such an onimus thing to say to a ten year old and more so when the tree actually came down.
For years the tree lost more and more limbs due to wind and winters until there was only a broken, rotted, trunk and two limbs left. This took a total of forty five years.
As my dad got older and into his late sixties, he frequently said something about his old walnut tree. You could find him standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window towards the old tree. He would see you looking at him and he would turn and tell me that he would go when that old tree went. Every year and every time I caught him at the sink.
Now you might be wondering what I said back, if anything and you would be right if you thought I did. I would tell him that he will most likely be around way after that tree went down. That the tree had a lot of life in it especially if you looked at the nuts that still fell and the chipmunks and squirrels that still went to it and lived in it. One one occasion, I found a snake curled up in the rotten out section at the base of the tree.
The nuts got fewer and the leaves got less. This past winter year we had to cut it down to the ground. It was leaning way too much toward the road and we were getting more wind in the forecast. My mom made that suggestion to my husband and he went out to cut it up.
Where was my dad at the time? Well, he was in the hospital, recently diagnosed with lung cancer that didn’t necessarily affect his breathing but enough for the cancer cells to go elsewhere. He had fallen at home and my mom could not lift him up to his chair so she called the ambulance. He had lost the strength to hold himself up with the walker. So he went into the hospital, had some x-rays and ended up in a Nursing Home. After we talked to the lung doctor on prognosis, we as a family, decided to bring him home on hospice once a week to come in. The doctor said he would be surprised if he lived even a month.
The hospice were very nice people and our nurse manager was very helpful and always there if we had a question. I did not it too much. Not the people but the fact that he was on hospice.
So getting back to the tree, my dad was in the nursing home, came home on hospice and lived for a week and a half after the tree was laid to rest.
My dad died February 7, 2015. He was my dad since I was nine. I looked up to him as a father figure. I went with him many times on drives to wherever he had to go. He bought me my first pony, my first guitar, and my first saddle. He was tough, more so with my brother than me but I always respected him.
The last night of caring for him, I kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear that I loved him and always would, that he would always be in my heart as my Dad. I told him it was okay to go and take that sleep that we all end up taking.
I went home and looked out at that empty spot where the tree was. I said to the wind, ‘Yes dad, you were right and I will miss you.’
He died at 2:06am.
I still think of him and miss him.