Sunday, October 16, 2016

Changed for Good

"Because I knew you, I have been changed for good." ~ Wicked

So, this blog hasn't been updated in a solid two years but it's time for an entry.  As I was driving home tonight, a flood of memories and stories hit me like a wave.  And that's fitting.  I feel like I've been knocked sideways this weekend.  I was at a conference in DC called the SLJ Leadership Summit, crossing the street when I got a call from my sister.  My dad was in the hospital and we should go there immediately.  I began to sprint for my car.  I met my sister at her condo in Arlington and we drove together to the hospital in New Jersey.  To the best of our knowledge and understanding, he suffered a massive heart attack.  Extraordinary measures were taken to try to bring him back to us but that wasn't meant to be.  As a result, our hearts are broken.  Since then I've been in a focused mode of making sure no one else should worry, that things were being taken care of, and they will be, but as I drove back home tonight, as I mentioned, stories, thoughts, and memories hit me and it occurred to me that I want to document those so that my kids have a record of what a kind hearted man their grandfather was.  To add to our heavy hearts, we lost my sister's mother-in-law less than two weeks ago and she was, likewise, an incredibly kind soul who treated my kids so well.  It's been a hard month.  And we're not off the roller coaster of emotions yet.  I had asked some people to think of and document a favorite memory of my dad.  So, of course, I started thinking of some of mine.

When I was engaged and preparing for my wedding, I asked my dad if he had any thoughts on our father-daughter dance.  He did.  I know, you're shocked.  Not only had he chosen a song (Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel...an untraditional choice, but as it turned out, I didn't have much say in the matter), but he had also choreographed a dance.  He scheduled our rehearsals.  It was amazing and I will never forget how special I felt that he considered me an angel.  Now he's one of mine.

When I was in fifth grade, my dad got really intense about some paper/project I had to write about starfish.  I'm still not sure why, but it is a vivid memory.  While we were in Florida, he had the foresight to buy a starfish to affix to the front construction paper cover.  He took me to his work to type the paper and helpfully suggested exactly what I should write.  To be honest, my irritation with this probably prompted me to never, ever ask for help with any assignment again.  I did it on my own from that point forward.  He did this again when I was writing essays for my college applications and I asked him to read them and give me feedback.  My dad had high standards for me and for my work.  Which is good and all.  But during the time I was trying to perfect my college application essay, I was accepted to the fine institution of Shippensburg University which did not require an essay and I jumped at that opportunity.

My dad worked in hospitals all his adult life.  He felt very comfortable in hospitals and navigating their systems and halls.  So much so, that he often disregarded rules meant for mere mortals.  And made his own.  When Jeff was hospitalized, my dad practically stayed around the clock.  He tried to pull strings to get him treatments that were near to impossible because the resources just weren't in place.  He gave massages.  Visiting hours, hah!  When I had my first born child, my dad was at the hospital ready to go.  When they served me a sandwich with meat, he gladly ate it for me.  And possibly the sandwich of the girl next door.  Jeff is convinced that happened.  I'm not so sure.  He would often fiddle with equipment I'm pretty sure had signage that indicated you really shouldn't touch it.  And, if we needed help, you'd better be darned sure he was taking the walk to find the nearest nurse rather than waiting to push a buzzer for assistance.  I've inherited this utter disregard for such limits.  Walk with purpose and you can get through just about any door.  Don't wait for help, go get what you need.  These apply to hospitals and life.

Touching Hospital Instruments/ Corruption of Minors

Dad and Elliot, June 17, 2013

Dad and Cecelia, July 14, 2009


My dad loved the crap out of his grandkids.  Cece and Elliot and now Tommy and Ryan literally made sunbeams shoot out of his face.  And he insisted upon getting those grandbabies in the Atlantic Ocean.  Whether they wanted to or not.  He made it his mission to get their tootsies wet.
Dad and Cecelia, 2009, Sea Isle City, NJ
Dad and Elliot, 2013, Sea Isle City, NJ


My dad worked hard.  He took care of himself.  He ate healthy food.  He exercised.  He did things he loved.  He did what made him happy.  He didn't care much what other people thought of the way he lived his life.  And he did that until his last moments on this earth.  You have perhaps never met such a productive person.  When I hear what he did on Saturday, it blows my mind.  And yet, it doesn't.  At all.  Let me walk you through Mike Dollarton's last day on earth.  He woke up early.  He gardened.  He rode his bicycle.  He made two trays of ziti.  He mowed the lawn.  And that was it.  All before most people left the house.  And then he left his house for the last time in an ambulance.  He made every moment, every second count.  He told people he loved them.  He made time to spend with the people he loved.  I want to thank all of the people who have surrounded us with love.  We are all so blessed to have such amazing friends and family.  If you have a special memory or story to share about my dad, please take a moment to do so in the comments below.  I hope I can steal time to share more stories for my kids to look back on.  Thank you!

From the Broadway Musical Wicked:

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

1 comment:

Stephanie Winsman said...

Ellen, this was a beautiful thing to read and brought a smile through some tears! Your dad was a special guy. The world was definitely better because of him! I'm so sorry to hear of his passing, but I'll be thinking of you and the family. Lots of love ❤️