Monday, October 21, 2013

From Commuter Husband to Mr. Mom
After spending sixteen months as a commuter husband, living and working in Arizona while my middle aged Special Needs daughter and I remained in Washington, my husband Dave scarce had time to draw breath on his return than to begin his new duties as a co-Mr. Mom to our grandson Gabriel while my daughter-in-law hurried to Brazil to support her critically ill mother.  If that sentence leaves you breathless, it is intentional.  We have been on a whirlwind that begs the question of whether or not this is retirement for him.
Even though Ana didn’t leave for a day after Dave’s return, that day was filled with the internment of both of Dave’s parents while she hurriedly packed.  This was followed the next day by a memorial celebration of his father’s life (we did his mother’s in September) while Ana was attempting to get out of a socked in SeaTac.
The role of Mr. Mom will be a bit new for Dave.  Although he is one of seven sons and has four grown step children, being responsible for Gabriel during the day for at least a month will be a first.  Gabriel is homeschooled and has many activities during the day, particularly on Tuesdays.  I predict that they will collapse in a heap after play practice (Gabriel is appearing as the chubby German boy in Willy Wonka—which is a stretch for a tall skinny Brazilian-American) for three hours at the Lakewood Little Theater followed by the Gig Harbor Youth Orchestra followed by his group violin lesson.  GranDave will have to make sure to take a thermos of coffee and plenty of reading material.
Amidst his many activities Gabriel is homeschooled so GranDave will be acting as schoolmarm, too.  Because my son Frank is a school teacher himself in the Lakewood School District and beginning his National Boards certification he can only be responsible for Gabriel in the evenings and with the National Boards, sometimes not even then. I have a job as a para educator in the Peninsula School District so the daytime duties for Gabriel’s care will fall on my husband’s shoulders although we ought to be able to tag-team some things.
Today we are starting easy.  I have another day of bereavement leave and Gabriel has only his private violin lesson.  We plan to take my daughter and him to the $2 movie this morning, followed by lunch at Subway before the violin lesson.  Although I can take Gabriel to his group lesson tomorrow after work, the bulk of Tiring Tuesday will fall to GranDave.  When Ana asked Dave to step into this role he was in the process of helping bring his father’s remains home.  He didn’t hesitate a second to say, yes because he saw his own brother put his life on hold for six months to care for their ailing parents.  As my blogging friend Lorrene LeMaster has said, families are like chainlink fences and you can’t let the links break if the fence is to stay strong.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The End of an Odyssey

“Ana’s mother needs a triple by-pass so she needs to go [to Brazil].  She wants Gabriel to stay here and keep his life as normal as possible.  She’s wondering if he can stay with you during the day while Frank and I are at work,” I said into my cell phone to my husband Dave, who is driving home from his odyssey as a commuter husband that’s lasted sixteen months. 

“Absolutely,” Dave said.  “I was just talking to Phil about how he and Eva put their lives on hold for the last six months to take care of our parents.  That’s what families do.”

“I know,” I said. “That’s what I told Ana.  She cried.”

We’ve all been crying too much of late.  When Dave made the decision to return to work in June of 2012 it was to pay off some debt and give him some closure with his job which had ended abruptly when Lockheed Martin closed Seattle Flight Service and moved their services to Prescott, AZ.  It was devastating for me personally, but despite my belief that it would not get easier, it did.

At that time I told him that our parents were aging and fragile, especially his mother, and that it was possible that one or more of them might die while he was gone.  As it turns out, both of Dave’s parents passed during his time in Arizona.  Fortunately, he was able to see them several times and was actually at home in Gig Harbor when his mother died in August.  I am glad that he was not alone.  He was not so fortunate, when a day shy of a month later, his father joined his mother.  In the words of his brother Corky, it seemed that he could not do without her.

We are comforted by the fact that Dave’s brother Phil and his sister-in-law Eva stepped in to care for the boys’ parents when their mom’s health took a nose dive in April.  I know that their loving care of Walt and Dottie eased the guilt that Dave felt about being 1,500 miles away and prolonged their mother’s life by several months.  Actually, Phil and Eva uprooted their lives to come from Temecula, California to care for the parents.  They have been the embodiment of how we ought to all treat our loved ones.  They put their lives and creditors on hold because caring for my in-laws was more important than anything as far as they were concerned.  Ultimately my mother-in-law said, “Phil, you need to go home and we’ll go with you.”  That is how it came to be that both of the boys (there are seven brothers) parents died in Temecula and how it came to be that three of the boys—Dave included—are bringing their father’s ashes back to the Puget Sound area for internment with their mother at Tahoma National Cemetery tomorrow.

The trip back to Washington has been a sentimental journey for the boys (if you can call men in their sixties boys) and a fitting end to Dave’s time in Arizona.  Phil, the romantic and most tender hearted of the bunch, decided that the best way to return the parents’ motorhome and their father’s ashes was to take Walt on one last road trip, stopping along the way to visit with family including the graves of both grandparents in Idaho and Eastern Washington.  Dave left Arizona on Sunday and in Sacramento on Monday met Phil and Eva who had picked up Steve who’d flown in from Seattle.  They stayed with cousins and then began caravanning home. Tuesday was their long day.  They drove for nineteen hours, only stopping for dinner in Salem, Oregon where they met my best friend, who grew up with all of us, and had dinner. 

Of their stop my friend Nikki wrote, “It was a privilege to spend time with all of them and hear them reminisce about their parents.  Phil got teary eyed when he talked about Walt dying--I could tell he was a feeler!  Eva is very sweet and Steve was quite thoughtful about everything.  It is really a beautiful tribute to their parents and such a touching way to honor them.  Just because the others haven't joined in will never, ever take away from what these 3 brothers have done--together.  They will always have this memory and will be helped in their grieving by doing this.”

They pressed on until midnight where they stopped in Walla Walla before going on to Lewiston/Clarkston where their mother grew up. 

Yesterday they went to Nez Perce, Idaho where their father was born and raised, visiting the graves of their grandparents.  It was on their way there that I was able to get ahold of Dave and tell him about our daughter-in-law’s mother.  He did not hesitate for a second to say that he would become the grandpa version of Mr. Mom, seeing that Gabriel gets to his lessons and activities and does his homeschool work.  The events of the past year and a half have changed all of us in many ways. 

It seems like we will have little time to catch our breaths from Dave’s Arizona odyssey and the internment and memorializing of his parents before he steps into his role as stay-at-home-grandpa.  He’s coming home none-too-soon!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sentimental Journey

Sentimental Journey was one of the iconic songs of WWII.  Doris Day recorded on November 20th 1944 with the Les Brown Orchestra.  It is bittersweet about going home.  They say you can never go home again, but ultimately you can.  Two of my six brothers-in-law will be making a sentimental journey with their father’s remains as they drive them in his motorhome from Temecula, CA to Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent.  They plan to stop and see relatives, living and dead, along the way and spots that their parents loved to visit in their motor home.  Said my brother-in-law Phil, the third of the seven boys who cared for both of their parents until they died within a month of one another, “We are going to bring Dad up in his RV, stopping at several locations: Judy and Diane's homes [cousins] in Sacramento, The Redwoods, The Oregon Coast and finally Grandma and Grandpa's grave site in Clarkston. From there on home to the final resting place at Tahoma National.” 
I had to wipe the tears from my eyes when I read of the planned trip.  These have been hard times for the Haeck family and hardest of all on Phil and his family who stepped up to the plate and cared for the parents as their mother’s health failed.  They had looked forward to spending some time with their father, but it seemed that, as so often happens, he could not long stand being separated from his wife.  Now Phil will perform this last act of love in bringing his father home to the Puget Sound area where the couple raised seven wonderful sons to be buried with his beloved wife at Tahoma National Cemetery.  Steve, the oldest of the boys, will be journeying with them and Dave, who will be returning from his year and a half as a commuter husband in Arizona, plans to meet them along the road as he journeys home himself.
“We are having a sign printed,” wrote Phil, “to hang on the back of the RV. ‘This RV is carrying Lt. Walter E Haeck home to rest at Tahoma National Cemetery. 1919-2013.’ Anyone who wants to come along or join the caravan at any point along the way is very welcome.”  Walter Haeck and Dorothy Haeck will be interned at Tahoma (if the shutdown ends) at 2 PM on October 18th.  A celebration of Walt’s life will be at Lake Sammamish State Park at 2 PM the following day.  Family and friends are invited to honor Walt’s love of the out-of-doors.