Needless to say, I am saddened by this. My inability to be with my family at this time is heartbreaking. I don't like the idea of my brother and my sister saying goodbye to our Dad without me.
The last time I saw Dad, I knew it would be the last time. It's one of those things we know in our hearts, one of those things we can't deny no matter how much we want to. And so it was for me.
I hugged him, felt how fragile he was in my arms, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears on the spot. I held it together for him, though.
Then I went to the car and sat and cried until I was sure I'd be able to drive away without incident.
It took a while.
Throughout my drive home to Tennessee (five hours), I would think of him and cry. I didn't want to go. I couldn't bear to stay. I had to return to Italy, too.
I called him at least once a week, every week after that. There were times he couldn't talk. There were times he was too sick, too tired, or sleeping and I didn't wish to disturb him.
Six months ago, at Thanksgiving, while he was in a nursing home recuperating from a bout of illness, his wife told him she wanted a divorce. She refused to let him come home again, and told him he'd have to stay there for good.
His worst fear in the world was that he would die alone in a nursing home. Evidently, she was more than happy to oblige him with this, knowing he'd have no other resources to draw upon.
I was in Italy. My sister was in Florida. My brother - who had a rather estranged relationship with our dad over the years - lived with his wife and they were barely getting by as it was.
Who was going to help Dad? Are you kidding? My brother stepped up to do this duty and did a great job. He and his wife took care of my father for the rest of his days.
As rough as it could be, Dad's humor was often good. Sometimes, when I would ask "How are you, Dad?" he'd answer with "I'm dying. Otherwise, not so bad. How are you?"
I laughed every time. He wanted me to. It was only after getting off the phone that I would break down and let loose the tears. The sound of weakness in his voice was something I just couldn't get used to.
The last time I spoke to him, he was too weak to hold up the phone. My brother had to do it for him.
This wasn't my Daddy. Where did he go?
Where is the man who taught me to read? Who taught me to fish? Who used to sing and dance in the living room while I watched from the sofa? Who had dreamed of being a professional dancer?
Where is the man who built the barbeque on the back patio of the house I grew up in? Who used to go to the Eagles Club, and who played Bingo - and sometimes called it?
Where is the man who once sneaked me out of school to take me to buy a TV - a surprise gift from out of nowhere? Who taught me the right way to hammer a nail?
Where is the man who could devastate me with a word, and lift me up to the Heavens with the same? The man who collected "Fool's Gold" and model cars and, yes, guns too?
Where is the man who took me for rides on his motorcycle and made me feel like I was the most loved daughter in all the world?
Where is the man who was a veteran, an electrician, and a volunteer firefighter who once had a child die in his arms?
I was a Daddy's Girl for my entire childhood, but as I got older, something changed. We lost each other for a long while, after he and my mother divorced. We grew apart, and it hurt him. When he was hurt, he got nasty, and mean.
And so he did with me.
Time changed things, though. Somehow, just in the last few years we reconnected. I forgave him the things he did that hurt me. He opened up to me, and once I'd worked through my own problems and troubles, he was proud of me again.
My last farewell wasn't good enough. But there are no words to convey what he meant to me.
He's still here. He's with me always.
And I'll always be proud that he was my Dad.
Because I always loved him.
Love you forever, Dad.
Miss you forever, too.
Wilbur J. “Bill” Hudson, 75, of Ashland, died Thursday, April 16, 2009, in Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.
He was born Feb. 22, 1934, in Ward, W.Va., the son of the late Wilbur and Stella Hunley Hudson. He was retired from the Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland and was a member of South Ashland United Methodist Church, Ironton VFW Post 8850, American Legion Post 76 and the DAV in Grayson, Ky. He was a U.S. Navy veteran during the Korean War.
Survivors include his wife, Jackie Doss Hudson; two sons, Chris (Lisa) Hudson of Grayson and Aaron M. (Valeria) Matthews of Ashland; two daughters, Lisa (Michael) Herbst of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Kimberly (Alessandro) Hudson of Reggio Emilia, Italy; a sister, Patsy Tucker of Cedar Grove, W.Va.; and five grandchildren, Charles Hudson of Westwood, Ky., Audrey Hudson of Coeburn, Va., Ethan Matthews of Ashland and Kelsey Herbst and Jordan Herbst of Port St. Lucie.
Graveside services will be at 1 p.m. Monday, April 20, 2009, at Golden Oaks Memorial Gardens by the Rev. Raymond Stephens. Burial will be in Golden Oaks Memorial Gardens.
The family will receive friends from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday at Miller Funeral Home in Ashland. Military graveside services will be by Ironton VFW Post 8850.