Sunday, October 26, 2008

Putting family first

In October 2007, I wasn’t very busy with pet sitting. I only had one visit a day coming up for a two-week period, but I decided to stay home and hoped more people would fill in my schedule with appointments. I needed the money, and October was usually busy. But my schedule stayed slow. 

One morning I was lying in bed, thinking about my Dad, who at 86, was in a nursing home in South Dakota. When I had last seen him in June he was in poor shape, rapidly losing weight and his memory due to congestive heart failure. On my last morning there, he hadn’t known who I was.

My eyes filled with tears as I remembered, and I was overwhelmed with a sudden feeling of loss. I got up and called the nursing home, and then my brother Dan in Huntington Beach. “I’m going to see Dad this weekend,” I said, “do you want to join me?”  He said yes, and I made arrangements for a friend to cover my pet sitting visits for three days. We left the next day. I felt terribly guilty leaving my client’s cat, Sabrina, in the care of my friend, even though I knew she would do an excellent job. But I had to see my daddy.

We made it to Yankton, South Dakota by 8:30 pm on Sunday night. Dad’s room was dim as he lied in bed, a small lamp lighting his tired face. “My God,” he said when he recognized us, ”I never thought I’d see you guys again.” 

That night, while we slept, a wildfire burned through Poway and Rancho Bernardo back home, destroying almost 200 homes, including my clients’. I woke the next morning and watched the report on CNN. By the time we returned to California I knew the worst. My clients’ elderly cat, Sabrina, had perished in the fire. It didn’t matter whether I was there or not. The home burned before my substitute even knew there was a fire. The bad photo at left is the last one taken of Sabrina, with a cell phone the night before the fire.

We spent two days with Dad, visiting, holding his hand, and just sitting by his side. I told Dan that if we’d turned around and left that Sunday evening, only staying for an hour, it would have been worth the trip, just to see the happiness in his eyes.

Ten days later, my father passed away in his sleep.    


Anonymous said...

This sure puts life in perspective doesn't it. I'm so sorry for your loss and I'm thrilled that you both made it to see your dad for one more day. It's almost like he willed you there. Such a tragedy with the cat you/your friend were pet sitting for with the fire.
We love you, thank you for sharing your story.
Hugs, Tori n Bree

RockArtist said...

Teri: I agree, this story really does make you realize what is important in life. You treasure those last days with your parents, whether it was a year, a month or a day. The love you showed him by being there when he really needed you was what he took with him, and it with you as well. I treasure those last few years I had with my Mom too, and know that the quality of time I spent with her was life changing for both of us. Thank you for sharing that. Ilona