|My father and I at our Memorial Day family cookout.|
Memorial Day 2014 will go down in history as the best holiday I will ever experience. This was the last holiday we shared with my father and the last good day we ever had with him. The next morning he suffered an event similar to a stroke, went into the hospital and passed away a week later.
Daddy's favorite food was hamburger but he also loved a good hot dog. In the last few months, as his health went downhill, he wasn't able to eat much food in one meal. He still really enjoyed his hamburgers though and he didn't care if they came from a fast food place, a nice restaurant or were home cooked. It had, however, been a long time since he'd had hamburgers cooked on the charcoal grill as I hadn't grilled much in the last few years and usually cooked steaks when I did. Yes, he preferred hamburger over steak.
My grandfather, Ed Matthews, used to run a grocery store and he was also a butcher by trade. They tell me that back in the old days, when my dad was young, steaks tended to be tough. As a butcher with his own grocery store I am sure Papa (my grandfather) always brought home the best meats to his family, even during the depression. Daddy grew up preferring the more tender hamburger and his whole life it seemed like he would have them at every meal if he could.
This Memorial Day Mitchell and I decided to bring my charcoal grill over to Mama and Daddy's house to cook out hamburgers and hotdogs for the 4 of us. The weather was nice that day, not too hot, and we set up the grill on their side porch where they also have some chairs in the shade and a round table set up under an umbrella. Daddy loved sitting out on that porch and eating out there under the umbrella was always a treat for him.
He had been having some bad days memory wise and had been coughing more. We knew it was related his condition, called congestive heart failure. When he fell on Christmas Day the doctor took him off the blood thinner that he'd been taking to minimize his chances of having a stroke. We knew his health wasn't good but Daddy was usually in good spirits and really enjoyed time with his family.
So we were lucky to have this Memorial Day cookout together, but as we sat in the shade watching Mitchell do all the work (grill the hamburgers and hot dogs) we talked about how nice it would be to make this a regular event. Today, July 4th, we would surely be out there again grilling some of Daddy's favorite foods.
That day, just for fun, I put on my Kentucky Derby bonnet that Daddy loved seeing me wear. Mama and I always watch the Derby together and now that I can be myself, we've enjoy wearing colorful hats while watching the race. I also wore this hat on Easter when we took a few pictures. On Memorial Day the lavender bonnet seemed to be a perfect match for the top I was wearing.
While the burgers were grilling I asked Mitchell to take a couple of pictures of Daddy and I with my camera phone. We didn't take the time to get a group shot of everyone, just a couple of snapshots of the two of us. If we had known what would happen the next morning and that these would be our last photographs ever taken together I am sure we would have gotten more. But you never know.
When it was time to eat, we all sat at the table under the umbrella and had what I am going to say is the best meal we ever had. We all ate a lot, probably too much, but I was surprised that Daddy was able to eat an entire hot dog on a bun and almost finish one of the gigantic, juicy hamburgers. We even had a couple of special Memorial Day cupcakes for dessert. After the meal, we wrapped the little corner of a burger up for him to eat the next day.
It was after 7 when we got through with dinner and with plenty of light left, we were going to sit on the porch for awhile and talk while the food settled. Daddy was tired and wanted to go straight to bed. This was unusually early for him to retire for the night but we attributed it to him having such a big meal. I went inside and helped him get ready and into bed, then Mitchell and I hung around talking to Mama until dark.
I'd told Daddy goodnight when he first went to bed and I thought about going back in and speaking to him but I didn't want to wake him up, so I didn't. Early the next morning we got the call from Mama that Daddy had fallen and Mitchell and I quickly got dressed and rushed over.
The details of that morning and the following week can be found in the last section of this post, The Premonition.
I did speak to Daddy again during his week in the hospital. He slept most of the time and was coherent only part of the time but we said "I love you" many times and he usually recognized me and greeted me by name.
One of the consequences of this "neurological event", as his doctor described it, was that Daddy never regained the ability to swallow after it occurred. The entire week between his fall and his death he was never able to eat or drink, only receive fluids intravenously. The hamburger and hot dog that Mitchell grilled for him on Memorial Day, his favorite foods, had indeed been his last meal.
Goodbye Daddy...I LOVE YOU!!!