07 January 2017

Endings

Endings......


2016 is done. Over. Gone.

Over all, 2016 left a lot to be desired. There were some high points but mostly I felt like I was  just getting through and living with what happened around me.   Part of that feeling came from being front line with my mom and dad as my dad slowly faded.

One year old Roy.
I have had this photo in every house I've lived in since my early 20s. 
Original frame, original convex glass. 
92 years old. 

Early Thursday morning, December 29, 2016, at the age of 93, my father passed from this life. My mom was with him.  They had been married for 67 years.

My parents on their wedding day.

My dad was the life of the party. He LIVED his life. He was always learning something new, a huge volunteer,  fun loving, a bit of a Renaissance man.

Air Force, WW  II.

He had a great life. He had a great love- my mom.  His was a life we should all hope for.

And he was a great dad. I'm the baby. And the only girl. Supposedly my father told the obstetrician that delivered me that if I wasn't a girl, he was having the baby "put back". I'm sure my mother had some thoughts about that but we were all in luck...I'm me.  And dad kissed the OB when she told him "It's a girl."

Me, my dad and brother Paul. 
I'm the only one still alive. Sniff.

I had a pretty picture perfect childhood. We moved a few times. Dad worked, mom stayed home with us and did mom things. It was all good.  Remarkably unremarkable.

As us kids got older, I remember my dad picking up more hobbies. He tried oil painting- unsuccessfully.   When Chinese food became a thing, he got a wok.  While stuck in the hospital with hepatitis, he hooked a rug.  Dad was a voracious reader. He loved Art. Musicals. Broadway shows. Bobby Short.  Typing this I understand where my sense of curiosity came from.

He was always proud of his garden 
whether it was full of vegetables or flowers.
Or bugs.


A few memories....
My parents were big believers in Happy Hour every evening. So civilized. They sat in the living room and reviewed their day. Kids weren't necessarily invited. But dad was a martini drinker. He never allowed my older brothers to make him a drink but I was the third kid. I learned to make a killer gin martini when I was maybe 12 or 13. Wave the vermouth over the glass of gin, plop in an olive skewered with one of the fancy sticks. By the time I was 15 or so, I was allowed to make myself one if I wanted while I was also making him one.

Dad always loved a party.
This was New Year's Eve 1952.
Roy, Bill, Amy and Jean
Best of friends for close to 75 years, they frequently spent New Year's Eve together.

Early 1970s, dad modeled briefly.  He was so handsome and while it was just for fun, he did do one  national print ad. Mostly he was just on TV and in the local paper modeling for Foleys Department Store. It was odd to be watching TV and have your dad stroll across the screen.

 Dad on the right. 
His only national modeling gig. 


About age 18 or 19 (LEGAL AGE!) I got my ears pierced with a second hole. Mom was furious. Literally, she barely spoke to me for a week. (Imagine if I tried to draw that hard of a line now. I can't tell you how many times I've been with my girls, their friends, even the boy while ears were being pierced for the second, third or even fourth time. Let's not even start with the belly buttons.) For my birthday that year my dad gave me a small pair of earrings for that second piercing.  His writing was on the card, it was obvious that it was all his doing.  I was tickled and felt supported even if I was going against the grain.

Me with the Daddy-O in San Miguel de Allende

To get to school in Mexico, we frequently took the train, making it a family affair. On one such trip, my parents needed to purchase their return trip tickets at a stop in San Luis Potosi. The train was parked there for 20 minutes and dad and I immediately headed to the ticket booth.  There was a line. A slow line. As the minutes ticked away, dad got more and more nervous. He kept glancing at the train, back at the line, and back at the train. Finally his nerves won out and he thrust a bunch of money into my hands, said "You buy the tickets. If the train leaves you, you will be able to figure out how to get to San Miguel" and then he dashed back to the train. I stayed in line, purchased their tickets, boarded the train, smiled at the conductor who had been watching us, waiting for our return and headed to our car. As soon as the conductor acknowledged I was on the train, he called the Spanish equivalent of "Everyone's on board" up to the front and we pulled out. There was never any danger of being left but I was still amazed my dad was willing to let me, the 18 year old girl, get left in the middle of Mexico on my own. But he was right. I would have managed just fine.

This pic sums up a lot. 
Dad has the camera, we are on a train to San Miguel with the San Antonio neighbors and 
the boyfriend that I had DUMPED a couple of months earlier.
Yet dad invited him along anyway. 
Because dad really liked him. 
And they all came along to take me back to school. 
And it was a party.


After trying school in Mexico, at Houston Community College and at the University of Houston and STILL not having anything close to a degree,  I found an ad in the paper for Massey Business College's "Learn to be a Travel Agent" class. I begged for this one last shot at school. Dad agreed and told me flat out..."This is it. Take this class, get a job or we are having you put to sleep."  Thankfully the teacher hired me to work for his travel agency and I did not have to be put down. Seventeen years were spent as a commercial travel agent and if it was still a thing, I'd go back to it tomorrow.


Fishing was another favorite. 

My parents both were always great with my friends, welcoming and inclusive. Dad made it a point to know my boy friends, whether they wanted to be known or not. A couple of them he hung on to longer than I did. One in particular stuck around wayyy longer than I wanted.  Whatever.  He made dad happy and I was thankfully 1000 miles away. He invited guys to lunch and dinner, got one or two a job and pretty much made it a point to know them. Smart man.

Mariachis.
Loved them. 
I swear there are a million mariachi CDs over at their house.
(And I want to live in a house with pink walls and red sofas and mariachis serenading me.)

After we got married, the husband always joked "Where's my dowery?"  He constantly reminded my dad that he had taken me on for FREE!  On our first anniversary, dad showed up to his office with a check, the little "Memo" section of the check clearly marked "Dowery Payment". Totally shut the Hubs up about that.

Down the aisle.

Dad loved his grandchildren.  The Big Guy was the first grandchild to live in the same city and he benefited greatly from that. Once Big Guy was walking, dad had a standing Wednesday date with him. They went to the Children's Museum, the Zoo, the Farmers Market. Sometimes they just went to my parent's house and played outside. It was a break for me and a fabulous chance for them to bond. Dad tried it once with Belle but once was enough. No one could keep up with her.

The Big Guy cracking a cascarĂ³n on his grandpa's head.

There were phases. When you live 93 years, you get to live many different lives.
He had many loves. Some of them were my mom, his creek houses- the one on Caney Creek and the one on Oyster Creek, his family, his friends, Mexico, mariachi music, parties, my mom, fishing, gardening, Broadway musicals, good neighbors, good food, parties, music, my mom, art, plays and his friends.  And mom.



Amy, Roy, Jean, Bill
One of their last New Year's Eves all together. 

He was a wonderful person.
I'm lucky he was my dad.


R.I.P.
Stewart L. "Roy" Nelson
February 10, 1923-December 29, 2016


Happy trails!
•••••••••••••••••••

And here's my PSA for the day.
If you are twenty or fifty or ninety or 100, no matter, please stop and think about how you want to be remembered. Do you want a service? Where? What music do you want? Is there a reading or a scripture or anything that is important to YOU that your family may not know about? 
WRITE IT DOWN.  Share it with a friend, your family, put it in the file that everyone knows is your secret password file or SOMETHING.  Dad was an amazing person but we never thought to ask him what he wanted. This week has been a scramble to find the balance of what we think he wanted and what we should do. 
And my thoughts on No. 29:Plan MY funeral are here and here












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