Trips to see my mother and my dad as they got older became part of my routine. They were good parents, and we were never estranged from one another, so these short outings were never a chore. Mother was a world-class cook, so some sort of pie, cake, fudge or other sweet was usually a part of the experience. We visited one another regularly but randomly, some Christmases, some birthdays, as well as plenty of no-reason-needed visits. My life, thank God, has lacked the drama of some families. Boring can be good!
During my seven years living in Batesburg, when we lived about an hour from each other, I met Daddy every Friday for lunch at the Holiday Inn in Aiken, South Carolina. I ordered a patty melt every week. They still lived in North Augusta so it was a quick commute for both of us. The memory of those lunches is a treasure. Mostly we just shot the bull, talking about football and family. On some occasions, we delved deeper.
Eventually, Mother and Dad moved into a retirement home in Darlington, an hour and a half drive in each direction from where we now live in Columbia. They no longer had a car, and I could not make the trip weekly. I went as often as I could, sometimes by myself, sometimes with my entire family, and sometimes with one of my daughters.
Dad’s health got better when they moved into the Bethea Home, then it got worse, and then, without much warning, after a bout of pneumonia, his heart gave out and he died. I was not with him when he died, but I was grateful for the times we had together. No regrets.
Mother lived several more years at the Bethea Home, and I continued to visit her regularly. Jenna was grown and married, but Julie and I often went together to visit her Grandma. Mother also died when I was not with her. She had gone into the hospital in Florence, and my brother and I visited her, but since she was in ICU, they sent us home at night. Middle of the night visits were not allowed. Though we arrived at the appointed time the next morning, 7 a.m., Mother had died about 30 minutes before we drove in from Columbia.
It would have been nice to be with each of my parents at the time of their deaths, but it did not happen. You can’t script death.
As a pastor, I have seen a lot of remorse when someone dies, especially when there are broken relationships, unhealed wounds and unresolved guilt.
I am grateful that my relationship with my parents was up-to-date and that there was no unfinished business left over to complicate the natural course of grief. I love my parents, and miss them.
Their anniversary was November 7. Daddy was a Veteran, so November 11 always stirs up some reminiscence. Sadness and sorrow. But no anguish or angst. No regrets.