Thursday, April 16, 2009

"The lights of home"

Dad had been taken by ambulance from the nursing home 15 miles away to the local hospital.  His heart had slowed down, I was told when I arrived.  He was having trouble breathing. "Why don't they just let me go?", he asked me.  "Dad, it is only oxygen that they are giving you.  No "life saving measure, just oxygen so that you will  be more comfortable."
He was transferred to a semi-private room to be observed for a couple of days.  My older brother and I took turns staying with him and it was during one of my stays that he awoke from a nap, lay there quietly and then said, "I had a dream.  I dreamt I saw the light, the lights of home.  But then I realized, no one was there." He was quiet, peaceful with his thoughts.
I never asked him, why didn't I, which "home" he was seeing.
Was he thinking about his home in Denmark, the home he left in his early 20's to come to Canada, to be with Pete his older brother?  Dad never saw his parents again.  By the time he and Mom returned to Denmark forty years late, my grandparents had been dead for many years.  Dad gave me the wallet that his mother had given him before he left Denmark.  His Mom told him to fill it with money in that new country.  The wallet was always flat, very skinny through the years.  Wealth isn't always measured by the thickness of ones' wallet.
Or maybe Dad was thinking of the home where he and Mom had lived when they were first married.  They had a chicken farm on the banks of the Bow River on the then, "out skirts" of Calgary Dad spent many days away from home working for the CPR, part of the crew building the Kicking Horse Pass in the Rocky Mountains with brother Pete.  That left Mom to sell the eggs, driving the Model A up and down the streets of the Mount Royal district.  She told me how she stalled the old car once and had to back down 14th street right into someone's front yard.
There was the home Dad built in the bush, east of Red Deer , in the Hillsdown area.  Having no money for lumber or nails, Dad cut down the trees for the log walls and made dowels out of saskatoon saplings to hold the whole thing together.  On Christmas Eve, that first year living there, a blizzard started, the cold was coming through the cracks in the walls.  So Mom made a paste of flour and water and papered the inside of the house with newspaper.  In the summer she planted morning glories, hops and all kinds of flowers and vines to cover the shabby building, making it beautiful, as only Mom could.
Then there was the home I knew as the youngest of the family.  This one was in the Pine Lake area, the Bellgrove school district.  Now the kids wouldn't have to walk 5 miles to school.  It was only 2 miles across the fields.  This is where Dad became a farmer, he and Mom raising 5 children, planting trees, spruce, pine, elm, maple and apple, a variety of fruit bearing bushes, a big, big garden and so many flowers.  The trees provided shelter for "home", a small 2 story house over a dirt cellar.  It was heated with coal heaters until a number of years after I, the youngest, left home.  Central heating and indoor plumbing made things more comfortable for Dad and Mom.
After Mom died, it was still "home" for Dad until he moved to the Lodge when he was 90.  He cared for his home, his garden, learned to cook, learned to make applesauce.  There was enough applesauce for him to eat it every evening for 9 years!  He made jam in quart sealers instead of  
nice little "jam" jars.  It was a more practical was for his liking.  After that he gave away pails of apples, gallons and gallons of strawberries and raspberries for others to enjoy. He couldn't bear to waste anything.
At 94 Dad moved to the nursing home.  His mind was clear but his body was worn out.  The nursing home never became "home".  He was thankful for the care, loved it when we visited but it was not home.
Twenty days before his 95th birthday, Dad went home.  I know that when he saw the lights this time, they were bright, clear and , I know, "Someone" was there to say "Welcome, so glad you are here."  And Mom may have added, "What took you so long?"