I had to say goodbye
Saying goodbye is difficult.
I had to say good-bye to the most important man in my life last Saturday - my dad.
I hadn't said a good-bye this difficult since I said good-bye to my mom 30 years ago.
My dad's name was Rich Nuehse. Rich was such an appropriate name for him. He was never wealthy but he was rich in generosity, in kindness, in love.
He liked to see our family together and for many years hosted holiday dinners. He was a darn good cook.
He never forgot a birthday or anniversary, carefully selecting cards for each member of the family and enclosing a check when our special day rolled around. We could count on it. His cards were never late.
In his retirement years he took up woodworking and could create anything we wanted without any type of pattern. A picture is all he needed to go by. He was proud of his creations, taking photos of most of them before he gave them to us, and he loved the smiles those things brought us.
My dad was the strongest man I have ever known. Throwing in a "bit" of stubbornness, that is what kept him going for his 90 years of life. I thought he was invincible and hoped he would be on this Earth forever.
He lost his dad when he was 9 and became the man of the house.
He was dedicated to his country and served in the Army in Germany during World War II. He would then become a 48-year member of the American Legion.
He vowed he would be a bachelor but he decided to take the plunge into marriage at the age of 39, marrying my mother, a woman he had known all his life. Their life together was too short; their marriage had lasted only 21 years when she was taken from him.
He took care of himself for years and when we thought he should have a cat to share his life he had only a brief comment. "I don't want any damn cat!"
Well, he got one anyway and she lived with him for 11 years until she died as a spoiled cat that was treated every morning to bacon - at the kitchen table - and with a nice lap to curl up on.
Heart surgery left him with a pig valve. A broken hip with a screw.
Untreated diabetes took one leg several years ago.
We moved him from the home he had known in Minnesota for over 50 years to Aurelia, next door to me to allow me to provide care and keep an eye on him.
He managed quite well with a prosthesis leg until he fell in his house, cracking a bone in his neck. A big brace was necessary and recuperation in the Sunset Knoll Nursing Home. It was his choice, when he was given the ok to go back home, to stay.
A short time later, he lost his second leg to diabetes and some of his speech and use of one of his arms was lost to a stroke.
But he kept on going.
He celebrated his 90th birthday May 8 and from that day, I swear, after reaching that milestone, he was ready for rest and more rest and more rest.
I visited him nearly every day. Terribly hard of hearing, he could communicate with me just fine. We didn't talk much but didn't need to. He always had a huge smile for me when he saw me and we always ended our visits with "I love you."
There will always be a void in my life, without our visits, without his smile. But I know he is in a better place where he can walk and talk with my mom - and his "damn" cat.