I was sitting at my desk in the Indianapolis Star & News Metro North Bureau in Carmel, Ind., 18 years ago this afternoon when I got a call from St. Elizabeth Health Care Center in Delphi telling me my father had just died.
To say I was stunned would be a horrible understatement. I drove as fast as I could over snow-covered secondary roads to the nursing home where my mother was waiting in a state of shock.
Dad had been a patient there for several months after suffering a stroke that compromised his ability to swallow food, necessitating a feeding tube into his stomach. The nursing staff told me there was a problem with the tube and they were preparing to take him by ambulance to St. Elizabeth Hospital in nearby Lafayette to correct the problem when he checked out.
There is no doubt in my mind that he deliberately dropped his body rather than suffer any more such indignities.
My mother, who arrived at the nursing home after he died, swore that he stuck his tongue out at her when she walked into his room. Knowing his playful nature and the kind of relationship they had, I’m sure that’s what she saw.
The man who was born 87 years earlier on a farm in Carroll County, Ind., lived a rich, full and responsible life as a father, husband, independent insurance agent, Realtor; elder, deacon and choir member in the First Presbyterian Church, founding member of the Delphi Chamber of Commerce, and member and president of the Delphi-Deer Creek Consolidated School board at the time the present high school was planned and built.
My dad was a solid citizen and he and my mother gave me an idyllic stable Leave it to Beaver style childhood.
I miss him every day.
(The photo dates from 1968, when dad was 58 years old and Sean was about 18 months old.)