Monday, June 13, 2011

Good-Bye Dad

Last August, my dad was diagnosed with liver cancer (directly related to Dad's cigarette habit many years ago). At that time, he was given an indeterminate "weeks to months" to live. His oncologist then started him on an oral chemotherapy drug and Dad achieved remission in March of this year. At the end of April he developed a lesion and osteomyelitis on one of his toes and the toe was surgically amputated. He was sent home with Augmentin, but after a couple weeks he started experiencing some jaundice and fatigue symptoms. His health continued to decline and after numerous visits to Mayo Clinic, the doctors determined that Dad's diseased liver had been unable to cope with the Augmentin and they began trying to reverse this antibiotic side effect. Last Tuesday, Dad had gotten so weak that Mom had to bring him to the ER again. He was admitted to the hospital that day and again the doctors spent much time trying to figure out how to get his current condition reversed. Many things were tried, but without any success and this morning at 3:30 AM, Dad achieved his heavenly reward. Thankfully, we were able to be with him at the end to say our final good-byes.

I've known Dad for over 52 years, and being the first-born child, Dad also had to deal with me for the longest time of all his children. I'm sure when I was born, my dad sincerely hoped that someday I would become a doctor or maybe even a teacher like he was. No doubt the thought of his little girl becoming a tattooed biker or master naturalist never even entered his mind, but life always has a way of throwing in a few curve balls and Dad got the chance to experience all sorts of interesting things with his oldest child.

Dad got to be a Norwegian with me for the years when I was knitting and selling at some of the Scandinavian festivals here in the upper Midwest. I even sewed him a "gen-yoo-ine Norvegian" vest so he could dress the part to work in my booth. He also bought and proudly wore his red cap that stated, "I'm not Norwegian, but I'm taking pills for it." In the photo below, we were at the Norway Day festival in Minnehaha Park. It was about 90 degrees that day and we were so happy to take that booth down and get into our air-conditioned car for the drive home!
I'm sure Dad also never expected his oldest daughter to become a slayer of wild animals, but he dutifully came out to admire my first deer kill on this horribly cold November day so many years ago.

At this festival in Fargo, North Dakota, Dad got the chance to meet a Viking! We should have gotten into the Viking re-enactments, because I think Dad would have made a pretty good Viking. I could definitely see that he would have enjoyed donning one of those helmets with horns on it and a pair of reindeer fur boots.

Dad was the beneficiary of several of my hand-knitted creations. He also willingly modeled sweaters that I was hired to knit for other people that were about the same size as Dad. (I think he would have liked to keep this particular sweater for himself!)

Since Mr. Johnson and I only ever had furry children, Dad learned to love his grand-dogs. Here's Grand-Dog Candy caught in the act of mooching from her "Grampy."

I got my love of nature from Mom and Dad. Even as a little child, I remember Mom and Dad always kept the bird feeders filled. When we moved to our new house in the early 70's, a much bigger yard gave them the chance to put out more bird feeders and we all got to see and learn about the new birds and wildlife that started visiting the backyard.

Dad was a Lutheran school teacher for over 53 years. That's how he met Mom -- at his first teaching position in Chicago. When my sissy was 10 days old, Dad & Mom packed up the family and moved to Minnesota where he was principal and taught for many years. He "officially" retired from teaching in 1997, but continued to work in an administrative capacity at "his" school right up until the last day of school this year.
I believe his greatest joy was in knowing how many students received a quality education while they were in his classroom and school. It was really gratifying to him when a former student would send a note or tell him personally how much they appreciated him as a teacher and what a positive influence he had on their lives.

Having never become a doctor or teacher or even completing any post-secondary education, I always felt that perhaps Dad might have been a bit disappointed in me. Until I got this greeting from him on my 50th birthday:

I don't think there's anything better for a child to know than that their parents love them and are proud of them. Thanks Dad, for everything you taught me during the 52 years of my life and for supporting me in all of the decisions I've made -- even the not-so-smart ones! I love you and I'll miss you very much!

Charles Raymond Kaun
May 24, 1933 - June 13, 2011


Rick Sikkink said...

That is a fine tribute Ruth. God Bless and thank you for sharing some fond memories!

Penelope said...

Oh, Ruthie, I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing this wonderful tribute. Your closing sentences brought me to tears. I cherish the memory of my father telling me how proud he was of me, and I have made sure to say it to my children as well.

Mary C said...

Ruthie - you should add "writer" to your many talents. That has to be the most beautiful tribute I've ever read; I had tears reading it. It's so good to know you and your brothers and sister will cherish many memories of your times with your dad. Please accept my sincerest sympathy, but we can also celebrate your dad's final reward. May God bless you and the rest of your family.

Susan Gets Native said...

Ruthie dear....sending you huge hugs from here.
That was beautiful. A perfect tribute to your dad.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Ruthie, friend, I am so sorry at the loss of your Dad. You've written such a beautiful tribute to him. What a wonderful letter he wrote to you. I'm sure you treasure it along with all of your memeories of your Dad.

You and your family are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful. Thanks for including all the photos, too. We have so many great memories to look back on and cherish. I was so hoping that Dad would be around to help me celebrate my 50th as well, but it wasn't to be. I hope he knew that we were there at the end and I hope he could feel all the love surrounding him.
Love, Your Sissy

Emily said...

I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your father, but your memorial to him was so well written that it brought me to tears.

My thoughts are with you and your family.

Heather said...

What a beautiful loving tribute to your father. How lucky you were, and how lucky he was to have each other.

Prayers to your family.

Cindie U. said...

Lovely pictures and words, Ruthie. What great memories. Thinking of you!


Carolyn H said...


I was so sorry to hear about your dad. You gave him a wonderful tribute. Take care

Mama Pea said...

What a lovely, lovely tribute to your dad, Ruthie. Seeing all the included pictures added so much. You are a lucky gal to have had such a good relationship with your dad. To have received the note you did from him on your 50th birthday must have meant the world to you. I know it would have to me.

I can tell you have many wonderful memories of your dad that will sustain you through this difficult time of grieving. Keep them in your heart always.

Mary said...

It's obvious you and your Dad had a close and special relationship. He had many reasons to be proud of you. I'm so sorry he is gone but you know he'll always be in your heart.

Love and hugs,

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU RUTH. We are proud of all our children and all their accomplishments, you are all different but yet alike, you are all a part of Dad and me and very special.

Love MOM

kayceebeebee said...

So sorry for the loss of your Dad. May all the memories sustain you in the days ahead and beyond. Very nice tribute which showed all the love you have for him.

Jayne said...

Oh Ruthie.... I have a lump in my throat. What a beautiful tribute to your dad. Sending my love and warm hugs to surround you and your family as you say goodbye.

Taos Sunflower said...

Dear Ruthie: My heart aches for you for your loss; especially after reading your entire, loving, tribute to this great man who obviously touched so many lives. You are so fortunate to have had a dad like that! I imagine he never once felt disappointment in you for not having followed other paths...we put such pressures on ourselves. Try to let that go if you can. You're an amazing person in your own right, and I'm sure he was extraordinarily proud of you for all your accomplishments. My most sincere condolences to you and all your family. XXXX Martie

Anonymous said...

Ruthie, That must have been the most difficult thing you've had to write in your life. I know my life decisions probably weren't what Mom & Dad were hoping for either, but they supported and encouraged us all the way. Thank you for writing this; I would have liked to have been there at the hospital with you.
Love, Philip

KGMom said...

Oh Ruth--this tribute is so filled with love, humor, and grief. It is wonderful to read, even though the reason you wrote it is your present pain.
My prayers and sympathy to you, as you go through this time.
And, to your mother and siblings, and all the in-laws & other loved ones who gather round.
This journey is one most of us must walk--the only way we don't is if we die before our parents, which brings a different kind of grief.

Meggie said...

Dear Ruthie: I am so sorry for the loss of your dear father. What a beautiful post. I especially loved reading his note to you on your 50th birthday. May your lovely memories bring you peace in the difficult days ahead.

barefoot gardener said...

Oh, Ruthie! (((((hugs)))))

Wonderful tribute to your dad, sweetie. I will be thinking of you....

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Rick.

Thank you Penny.

Thank you Mary. I think you would have enjoyed meeting and talking with Dad.

Thank you Susan.....hugs received!

Thanks for your kind words and wishes dear Lynne.

You're welcome Sissy and I'm sure he did. He seemed to really calm down quite a bit after he knew all of us were finally in the room with him.

Thank you Emily.

Thank you Heather. As teen-agers we didn't think we were so lucky, but it's surprising how we learned as we got older that Dad ended up having a pretty positive influence on us after all.

Thanks Cindie.

Thank you Carolyn.

Thank you Mama Pea. It was fun to go through my albums and pick out the photos of Dad and me. Each one brought back good memories.

Thank you for the love & hugs Mare. This post was hard to write and not quite as eloquent as the one you wrote for your dad, but we both will always have our special memories.

You're welcome Mom. Many thanks to both you and Dad for putting up with all of us and doing your best to keep us on the high road through life. Love you back!

Thank you kayceebeebee.

Thanks for you love, hugs and kind words Jayne.

Thanks for your kind words Martie. I think in another life we might have been twins.....I notice we've seemed to share each other's thoughts on more than one occasion.

Thanks Philip. It actually was easier than I thought it would be once I got going -- although it's alot harder to type correctly with tears streaming down my face and dripping on the keyboard! We knew you were with us in spirit and looking forward to seeing you in person soon!

Thank you for the kind words Donna. As I write something like this I always think of Dad and you and all other dedicated teachers who have spent their lives influencing and educating the students who pass through their classrooms every year. Where would we all be if it weren't for them?

Thank you for your kind words Meggie.

Gaelyn said...

A beautiful tribute Ruthie. He should be as proud of you as is obvious you are of him. I am sorry for your loss, yet happy you had so many wonderful years and great memories.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks for your kinds words and hugs Sara.

RuthieJ said...

Thank you Gaelyn.

Ruth said...

I am fortunate to still have both parents who are the same age as yours. As I get older I appreciate them more. I am sorry for your loss but it is wonderful that you can express honest affection and respect for your dad. Wishing you and your family peace during the days and weeks ahead.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute to your dad. A very special man for sure.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruthie - What a beautiful tribute to Dad, thanks for sharing it (and the pics. too). I think that the biggest gift Dad gave me was his encouragement & support when I decided to pursue an education in fine art. He was my biggest booster, and proud of any success I enjoyed, always pleased to share in whatever happiness it brought me. Although I didn't end up as a fine artist, I always felt that he was proud of what I did as an illustrator and graphic artist, even if it was only a Christmas card design. I think he was a most excellent Dad, and I'll miss him too. Lots of love, David

Mollie said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Ruth, and my deepest condolences to the rest of your family also. What a fine tribute you wrote for your Dad. He sounded like a very special person who gave his children the freedom to grow in the direction they found their "sun". Peace be to all.

Kelly said...

...Ruthie...a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I'm so sorry for your loss. You Dad sounded like a very special heart goes out to you.

Dave Dorsey said...

Sorry for the loss of your dad. You wrote a fine tribute. The stories are wonderful!

stephen said...

My sincerest and heartfelt condolences.
Thank you for sharing with us some of your wonderful experiences with your Father.