Friday, November 29, 2019

My Tribute to Dad – 1928-2019

As a blog writer I knew the day would come that I had to write about the passing of a parent. The passing of parents, spouse, kids, even dogs become very emotional. Back in 2016 while in Alaska we thought we were going to loose Skruffy...I woke up around 3 am and wrote a draft for a blog on her passing...but she got better. I titled it “Skruffy’s Last Bark?” and to this day it was my best (but not most popular) blog post. Lucky for me, Skruffy survived and is still barking her head off. Unfortunately for me now, and all those who knew and loved him, dad has taken his last breath. I knew the day was going to come...just wished it was still off into the future. After all, he was ONLY 91 years young!

Marcia and I arrived in California this year back on May 9th. On May 20th dad was in the hospital for the first time because he was unable to get up out of his lift chair that he slept in. Five days later he was released to a Rehab Center where they built up his strength and 20 days later was back home at the Assisted Living Facility. On the last Saturday in June, after mom and dad's 71st anniversary while he was in rehab, and after his release, we had a big Father's Day-Anniversary party, and on July 7th Marcia and I went up to Oregon. In late July dad was back in the hospital for 2-3 days due to missing a critical medication for his heart that he did not know was for his heart...had a very slight heart attack and also a small UTI. By the time Marcia and I had decided we 'might' go back to hot Sacramento, we realized he was getting better and we stayed in Oregon. But in late August he went back into the hospital with a real bad UTI...of septic level, and we came back to Sacramento. Released nine days later, he was back in rehab again for 20 days. He was not as strong as when he got out of rehab the first time, but he was getting stronger and stonger each day...until this past Tuesday when he told mom, “I feel like I am taking a step backwards.” By Wednesday morning it was obvious that he needed to go to see a doctor, and the facility nurse called 911. Wednesday night when my sister Patti and I left him he needed some sleep, and he ate a bit of food. Thursday morning he was so tired that we could not wake him up when Patti and I arrived to visit. By 8:40 pm he had passed.

  
First Rehab left, Second Rehab right

As I sat there through the day off and on Thursday, I started jotting down memories of dad that I had. Many of these memories had come back to me over these past six months, but this is the first time I jotted them down.

From my earliest memories through the time he turned 55, he worked at the Sacramento Army Depot. The day he turned 55, he retired. At that time I was a manager at Mr. Steak, and I remember one particular family who came in to eat once or twice each week. I would always stop by their table and talk for a bit, and somehow one evening the subject came up of the father of the family working at the Army Depot. “Oh, my dad works there too,” I said. “Oh, what is his name?” “Albert, but he goes by Al,” I replied. “What is your last name again?” “Burdick,” I said. “Hmmm, Burdick....Al Burdick...uh no, I...WAIT, you don't mean MR BURDICK?” “Well, yes, but I just call him dad,” I replied. “MR BURDICK? MR BURDICK?? He is my bosses bosses boss! Your dad is like head of the entire operation!” “Yep, that's him!” (I could not help hiding the biggest smile...)

Sacramento Army Depot

In my very early youth, dad finished up his studies to earn a degree in Electrical Engineering. He worked full-time, took classes at Sacramento State and then up at the college in Reno, and even most of one summer down in Los Angeles. Back in those days, there were no hand-held computers, not even hand-held calculators...so they used Slide Rulers. He always wore shirts with front pockets, many times two pockets, and he put a pocket protector in one pocket along with his slide ruler, a mechanical pencil, a small ruler, and a small note pad, among other things. Even after his retirement he kept using pocket protectors for many years, although the slide ruler was replaced with a pocket calculator.

Pocket Protector left, Slide Ruler right

Dad always drove the oldest, most run down car that the family owned. For years he had a old Ford Anglia. When it broke down, he would fix it...even rebuild the engine. How he had time for this is something I never thought of back then...but made the time. Later when I was 16 I had a 1965 Austin Healey Sprite. I got a smog ticket from the CHP and I needed to rebuild the engine. Dad helped me the first time...and I did a bunch of it on my own the second time when we realized we had bought the wrong year's head gasket and piston rings, which did not stop the exhaust smoke...actually made it worse.

  
Anglia similar to dad’s on left, Sprite similar to mine on right

When it was Tax Time, he would lay out all the paperwork on the floor of the family room or living room, and by the time the night of April 15th rolled around, he would have the finished them and off to the post office he would go, typically between 9 pm and 11 pm so that it was post marked before midnight.

Many nights he could be found in the family room, after us kids were suppose to be in bed, watching Johnny Carson followed by the reruns of Perry Mason or other shows like that. Sometimes I would wake up, go out to get a drink, and sit there with my head or my feet on his lap and sneak a few more minutes of TV watching with him. If I heard mom's footsteps, I would jump up and head for bed, telling her that I was just getting a drink as we passed in the hallway.


Dad would get home around 5:15-5:30. Many times us kids would be outside playing, but when we heard his distinct whistle (whistle by mouth and two fingers), we would come running. Two whistles and we might get a talking to about why we did not respond the first time. More than that, well, we won't go there.

If we were out playing basketball when he got home, and if 'dinner' was not ready, sometimes he would come and join us on our driveway basketball court. Dad played baseball and basketball during the proper seasons in the Sacramento Parks and Recreation Church Leagues, and sometimes in other leagues if enough church guys wanted to play. As the youngest boy, I did not get to play as much when I got older because dad too was getting older too. By the time I was 18, he was 45...but I cherished those games, mostly basketball games, that we both played on together.

Marcia, Dad, Mom looking over Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay, 2012

Our family took many trips to go see exciting places. Grand Canyon, Lassen Volcano, Death Valley, Washington DC, Gettysburg. We camped often at Lake Tahoe, and one of my favorite places, Yosemite. Many road trips were in the station wagon or VW Bus which was packed to the rim with kids and suitcases, the latter strapped to the roof. On the trip in the Bus to Gettysburg and DC, the VW Bus ran out of gas on the tollway. With only a few miles away to get gas where dad had planned to fill up, dad resorted to putting white gas, for a Coleman Stove, into the tank, and that VW started up, pinging all the way to the gas station.

Mom, Skruffy, Dad & Marcia, 2012

My favorite trip is one that for half the way was just the two of us. Dad had a TDY (Temporary Duty Assignment) in St. Louis, and my older brother Jim needed to be picked up from the church college in Southern Iowa, and I was the lucky one who was able to go with dad, despite school still being in session (I was in the 7th grade), for the trip. We were in a VW Bug, and I clearly remember traveling through Wyoming, going up the hills passing the 18 wheel trucks, and down the hills being passed by the same 18 wheel trucks, over and over again. Driving through the first night and all the next day, we stayed in Rawlins, WY. After a night in a cheap motel, we traveled the next day on to the college. Eventually we made it to St. Louis, and Jim and I played many games of Chess, until he got too frustrated loosing to his littlest brother. When the TDY assignment was up at the end of the week, we drove straight through to Sacramento since there were two drivers now. When dad drove, Jim and I would still play chess now and then...more then because he did not like loosing. But that was my trip with dad...

Burdick Christmas Party Family Portrait, 2017

My next favorite trip with dad was when we were returning to Missouri from California after Uncle Red's (dad's only sibling) funeral. We drove straight through, with me driving most of the time. Dad was 81, but still a good driver. Somewhere in Nebraska I gave up driving and turned it over to dad. As I was slightly dozing, I really hate it when someone else drives, but I always had trusted dad's driving, I feel him move over to the left to pass...and then back to the right after passing. But as he pulled to the right it just seemed to take longer, and I opened my eyes...and we were just hitting the shoulder headed off the road to the right. I instantly grabbed the wheel with my left hand, say “Dad!”, and he awakens with a shake of his head. “Oh my, I have never done that!” he says. I was going to pull over at this rest area 2-3 miles ahead, but just had trouble keeping my eyes open. Well, we did pull over at the rest area, and I did drive the rest of the way. By 2011 they moved back to California, by 2016 they were in Assisted Living and dad hung up his driving keys. The only other time I remember him nearly having a wreck was when we were coming back from Mexico on I-5, in the rain, when he hit a water puddle, lost control and we all (most of the family plus a cousin in a station wagon) slid across the oncoming lanes and hit a mud-dirt bank. We were facing south on the southbound lanes, and after a quick look over, he got back in and we drove south until the next exit, turned around and headed back north along the northbound lanes. Yes, that was a wreck...but considering what it could have been, I just call it a 'close call'.

My kids (Stephanie, Ryan, Michael) with mom and dad, 2017

There were many trips with dad which were short...to the store where he loved to stop and look over certain mechanical related magazines, to the hardware store where he needed to either pick up a 'tube' for the TV or radio or something for the gardens, to church where other siblings also tagged along (well, they tagged along to the store and hardware store sometime too), or even to work where he needed to look something over or turn in some paper work (we had to stay in the car most of the time due to security concerns). On some of these trips I would ask a question dealing with math or science, and by the time he answered so thoroughly, I regretted asking. He was VERY DETAILED in these type of things, and VERY EXACT! For instance, the last time he was in rehab, they weighed him. He was around 219. When I went and got mom she asked about his weight and I said, “219”, and dad corrects me, “219.2 pounds”. When I got back to the motorhome I told that story to Marcia and asked, “Who does that sound like?” “YOU!” she responds...”just like your dad.”

Mom and Dad, 70th Anniversary, 2018

“Just like your dad” reminded me of the time I drove by his parents old house, years after they had died. I got off work at 2 that day, working a 12-2 shift in the restaurant after attending my three morning classes at High School. I decided to take a ride, and just ended up driving by Grandma-Grandpa's old home on V street in east Sacramento just to see if I could still find it. (Grandma died when I was 7 ½, Grandpa when I was 11 ½, but he moved out of that home when I was 8.) I turned around and started back down V street and who do I see headed toward me? Yep, it was Dad. He had a Doctor Appointment or something like that, and he just wanted to drive his parents house too. I stopped, he stopped, and we chatted for a few moments right there in the middle of the street.

Dad and Mom, 2016

Back in the mid-70's the colleges were teaching about the coming “Ice Age” and how the world would be “out of oil” within 20 years. I thought about that and decided to confront dad about it all. He, in his very conservative fashion, gave me a wonderfully detailed account on how the college teacher (it was a community college so he did not call himself a professor) was off his wagon, stupid as heck, and shouldn't be teaching such ridiculous things. In the mid-80's Sacramento had a new talk show radio host on KFBK...some guy named 'Rush', who eventually moved to New York, went national, and frankly, you either love him or hate him. Dad, of course, loved him to his dying day.

Mom and Dad catching ZZZzzzs, 2014

As busy as he was with work, dad ALWAYS put his family and his religious beliefs ahead of all else. He was a lay minister with a strong emphasis on budgets and other financial things. He was asked to head-up a district here in Northern California consisting of branches in Modesto, Stockton, two in Sacramento, and missions (smaller than a branch) in Lodi and Turlock. (I hope I did not miss anywhere.) Mom was his secretary for many years, and I learned my typing skills typing out bulletins and stuff on mimeograph paper...copy machines were not as popular back in those days, and cost mega-bucks. I took typing one semester of my senior year...after a month the teacher asked me if I wanted to 'grade all of the papers' since she knew I was not going to take any more typing classes, and she said, “you have already earned an A as it is.” Dad held many church positions, and the hardest thing about moving back to Sacramento was having to attend many of the Missouri meetings via phone or TV instead of in person.

Dad’s 90th Birthday, 2018

In my personal religious beliefs there is only one Lord and Savior...but there was also another 'Savior' in my life...and that was dad. The summer between my Sophomore and Junior year my brother, cousin, a next-door neighbor and I went backpacking in the Trinity Alps. We decided to cut the trip short because the neighbor brought his dog, and the dogs pads were cut up from the granite. We hiked back to the over-night shack where a phone was located, the neighbor carrying his dog and backpack all the way. When we called home, dad drove up to get us and return us home even though it was a few days prior to our prearranged time. Or the time I decided to take an over-night bike trip from our home in South Sacramento to just above Jackson. This was going to be around a 50 mile trip...what I did not anticipate was it was the hottest day of the year back in 1974, and I chewed off more than I could handle. When I got to Sutter Creek I was so exhausted, I called, and mom and dad came to the rescue. Then there was time back in December 1975 when my Chevy Malibu's clutch gave out in Battle Mountain Nevada as I and three other college kids were coming back from that same church college in Iowa my older brother attended. It was around midnight when I called dad, and he showed up around 6 am. We pushed the broken car with his car to a Chevron Station, they agreed to fix it, and he drove us all back to Sacramento. Then there was the time back in 1994 when my first wife Shelley's mother was near death in Sacramento, and we lived in Pine Bluff Arkansas. We loaded up the Ford Taurus Wagon with the kids and suitcases, and we made it to Hays Kansas where I pulled over to get gas...and the transmission just gave out. Mom and dad lived in Blue Springs Missouri, and mom and dad drove the nearly 300 miles, helped us get the car into the Ford shop there, and drove us back to Blue Springs. The transmission was going to take a few days, and unfortunately her mother died before we even got back to Hays...and mom and dad were there to comfort Shelley and the kids. He was there to answer questions over the phone. Once in 2011 Marcia and I were visiting them in Missouri while I still worked in Arkansas. I needed a spare tire for the HHR, and dad and I went to a junk yard. While there I discovered the spare is normally in a hidden compartment, so I went back to the HHR and found my spare tire sitting there already. Oh, I never lived that one down...he told that funny story to everyone who would listen. Like his brother LeRoy, we always called him Uncle Red even when his red hair turned all white later in life, dad loved a good joke, funny story, or just something to laugh about. I don't know how many times he played the “OnStar Blond Joke” on his cell phone or PDA to anyone and everyone who would listen. Oh, if he could only play it one more time now....

Mom and Dad, 67th Anniversary, 2015

Dad loved a good meal. A good meal to him was typically Prime Rib...or a Good Steak. At Mr. Steak where I worked for nearly 16 years of my life, he would come in and get a New York, a Ribeye or a Top Sirloin. The one thing they all had in common...he would start at one end, eat about a third of the way into it, turn it around, eat the next third of what remained, turn it again and eat the next third...by the time he was close to finishing, he had the middle of the steak left...the best, most juicy, most delicious part of the steak. He then slowly enjoyed these last few bites...cherishing each and every bite. Of course, there was always the big baked potato with a lot of butter along with it, and he would have already finished the soup or a salad, always with no dressing. before the meal came out. But even there in the restaurant he had to pull a joke...bringing in a large, blown up picture of son number four to put up along the table to see...a young, 4 year old standing there, zipper down, finger up his nose, standing next to his brothers. Of course, the blow-up version only showed me...I can still remember the wait staff coming into my office telling me that there was something I needed to see at table 6. Oh how I wish I could turn that red again at one of dad's jokes.

Dad and Mom, Father’s Day, 2014

In this life you can't tell your loved ones enough times how much you love them. I told dad many times...I did not tell him enough times...there are not “enough times”.

Burdick Family Christmas Party, 2017


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving but NOT happy for all





Despite DAD going back into the Hospital AGAIN last night, we sure hope EVERYONE has a super Thanksgiving.   We HOPE dad is out in a few days, and they are still planning on his procedure for Monday...will find out more today or tomorrow.