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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
Speaking Information at (727) 467-0202 or e-mail info@fawngermer.com

Goodbye to My Precious Father, Alfred “Fred” Germer. 1927-2013

It is as it should be. It is perfect. It hurts, but this is the happiest ending to the most beautiful love story.

As my Mom was dying in January, I caught Daddy leaning into her and saying, “I’ll be with you shortly.”

“Daddy, we aren’t having a two-fer here,” I told him. But, I knew we were. This is the most inevitable crisis of my life. They had to die, and they had to die together. Daddy stayed for us for just under three months – long enough to make sure we were ready. Now Fred is dancing with his Betty, who is now healthy and strong. Dancing in a beautiful ballroom. Laughing.

I am so happy for them.

As a family, we faced unusual hardships. He was shot in a holdup at his drugstore. He later got caught in the midst of a huge robbery that involved a shootout. Mom took charge and moved us to Florida when they were just 50 years old. Most people wait to do that until they retire because that is when they plan to really live their lives. Thank God Mom and Dad didn’t wait for anything. They lived, they loved.

When Mom suffered her paralyzing stroke at age 66, Dad stood up and cared for her in a way that all of us want, but few of us get. Mom was always, always, always grateful. She never, ever complained.

Through her stroke recovery and then the Alzheimer’s, Daddy protected his Betty like a soldier guarding the Queen.

I cannot overstate the difficulty Daddy faced taking care of Mom at home. It was backbreaking work. Backbreaking. He was offended if it was suggested that he’d made great sacrifice to care for her. He always said, “It is an honor and a privilege.” To him, it was.

It crushed him when the day came that Mom could not help to lift herself and the doctor insisted that it was time to put her in a nursing home. Dad never wanted that for his Betty, but he’d already destroyed his back in the caregiving process. He had no choice but to let her go to Freedom Village. Once he did, he visited her every single day, at least three times, often four.

On the surface, Dad and Mom had an existence that was bleak and depressing. But, looking at it now, I realize how much more they had than most of us will ever have. They had raw, pure, love. Big love. Forever love. She’d wait for his visits and brighten up at the sight of him –as he did for her.

Daddy loved me, too. In that big way, without condition. With absolute support. He was always, always in my corner.

Dad’s work was not about pharmaceuticals, it was about people. He loved his customers. He mentored so many young people to enter the profession.

I once acknowledged Dad in the audience at a large event where I was speaking in Tampa. Afterwards, Walmart’s senior vice president in charge of all their pharmacies came over. “Fred, I don’t know if you remember me,” he said. “But I worked for you when I was in college and you convinced me to become a pharmacist.”

Dad worked at Vanguard Advanced Pharmacy Systems until December of 2012, when a heart issue quickly robbed him of his independence. He was beloved to those people and I would take him back to visit. There was always a chorus of “Mr. Fred! Mr. Fred!” And people would hug and kiss him and cry. I swear, I could have walked in with Brad Pitt and gotten less attention.

After Mom passed, it was evident Daddy was consciously drinking in every precious moment he had with us.

Eleven days before he died, he held me in his arms and said every wonderful thing he had to say to me. My friend Lisa was there and videotaped a small piece of it for me. His voice was loud and strong. “Look how good you are to me! Look how wonderful you treat me! Dear God, thank you for letting me have these wonderful visits! Dear God, keep an eye on my Fawn. I love her, I need her, I care about her. Day after day, hour after hour. I’m so happy.” He kissed me on my head many times as I cried in his arms. “My daughter, my daughter, my daughter! You are so good to me. So kind to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Dear God, keep an eye on my Fawn. My wonderful Fawn. I need her, I love her, I care about her. She is so loyal, so faithful…”

I knew he was wrapping things up.

“Dad,” I said, “It’s like your bag is packed and you are waiting for the bus.”

“That is exactly right,” he said. “My bag is packed and I am waiting for the bus.”

After that, I started climbing into bed beside him and holding him.

I wondered if it was inappropriate. Daughters don’t climb in bed with their dads, but for goodness sakes, why not? He was 85 years old and was dying. What could be wrong about holding your father as he prepared to die? He melted into my embrace and said, “Oh, this feels so good. Sooo good.” It hit me how long it had been since anyone could have held him tight like that. Decades.

Rebecca took a photo of me holding him. It will forever be the image that best captures the depth of my father’s love for me, and mine for him.

Dad made the decision to cut his meds and decline IV fluids. It was the decision to leave. He refused to consider morphine, which would have made the transition easy. He chose clarity over comfort. He savored every single moment with us.

I reminded him to watch over me.

“I am always in your corner,” he said. “Remember that. I am always in your corner. Always.”

At one point I asked, “What are you going to say to Mom when you see her?”

“Betty, I’m home!” he said.

That’s what he’d always say when he would come in through the garage after a long day at work.

My phone rang at 5:45 a.m. on Tuesday and Jim told me that the nurse at Freedom Village had called and said there was a change in Dad’s condition. I jumped in the shower and rushed down to Bradenton. Over the last sixteen years, I’ve driven that route at least once a week. My car drives itself.

When I got there, I climbed in bed beside him and pulled him to me again. He was barely coherent. I thought I had several days, that it would unfold like it had for Mom.

“Daddy, I am going to be with you until the end,” I told him. “I will only leave you to eat or go to the bathroom. But, I will be here for you until the end.”

He could barely talk. He mumbled, “I love you.”

I just held Daddy and kissed his head and cherished the warmth of his skin. I must have told him I loved him at least a hundred times.

After a couple of hours, he coughed up a little blood. That happened to Mom six days before she died, so I thought I had six more days.

I looked right at him and said very firmly, “Daddy, I want you to know that you are free to go whenever you are ready. You don’t have to be strong for us. We are ready. We are prepared. We will get through this. You can leave right now, right this minute if you want. We are ready.”

Two aides came to take his vitals and were trying to figure out how to get the blood pressure cuff on over the lines still in his arms when I said, “Is he even breathing?” I put my hand on his chest. “I don’t feel him breathing,” I said. They searched for a pulse. Someone brought a stethoscope and placed it on Daddy’s heart.

Mom, Daddy is home, I thought.

I stayed with him for quite awhile, but the time came to leave. I put my head to his chest and, through my tears, said the words he’d said to us so many times.

“I love you, I care about you, I appreciate you. Sooooo much.”

I will tell you that, if you knew my father, you were loved. You were cared for. And, you were appreciated.

My heart is shattered.

But, I had this larger-than-life father for fifty-two years! And I had the strong, resilient mother who raised me to carry on, regardless.

I will miss them with every breath I take, but I am so happy for them. They are together.

Always and forever.

 

 

 

6 Comments
  1. What a lovely story and it was so cute when your Dad said he would see your Mom soon. This must be heartbreaking for you and I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. Dear Fawn,

    I went to your Facebook page to tell you how much I enjoyed your book “Mermaid Mambo” only to find your heartfelt tribute to your father. What a beautiful piece it is. So very sorry for your most recent loss.

    Don’t know if you remember me; I taught at Bayshore High while you were there. I do remember you – seems Joe and Kathy Gilpin and I are the ones who remember everyone.

    When my “Ladies Day Out” group decided to go to Weeki Watchee in May to see the mermaids (we are a little like Ruby)and your book was passed to me to read, I was stunned to find I knew the author.

    I am anxious now to read your other books as I also do leadership training. After teaching and school admin. I became Director of Professional Development. In that capacity I was responsible for training for everyone from bus drivers and cafeteria workers to teachers, principals and Assistant Superintendents. Since retirement I have done consulting with USF and the David Anchin Center for Executive Leaders as well as other work. (My husband says I have failed retirement.)

    Regardless, I am looking forward to reading your other work. I did truly find Mermaid Mambo a wonderful capture of three strong women. Think I may even recommend it for my book club as among all the escapades are some great looks into personal introspection and self-worth – could be good discussion.

    Hope your memories of a wonderful father carry you through the immediate grief and loss. It was beautiful to watch your video – loving families are becoming rare these days.

    Best wishes,
    Judy Kreiling

  3. Fawn,

    BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL !!!

    It sounds to me like you and your daddy were equally blessed. It read to me as if I was talking about my daddy and the love we have for each other. I was just blessed, last week, as my daddy rode with me to my follow up appointment in Utah. Just this morning I called him and thanked him for going with me. That will be a cherished memory of time with just the two of us, 9 hours each way, on the road. I went right over to my Aunts house, where he was staying, after my Dr. apt. to show him my straight foot. I felt like a little girl “running” to her daddy’s arms after taking those first steps. It is a feeling I will never forget.
    My heart is with you my friend. God bless you and hold you tight. I hope to see you again someday soon.

    Jackie

  4. Jackie, I am so glad your foot surgery has given you this new life. God bless you, as well. You are such a lovely human being.

  5. Fawn, you’ve always had a way with words, being an amazing speaker and prolific author, but this add another dimension to your ability to express. I honor your vulnerability, your truth and your integrity to be as true as true can be to your values. The morning dove sings it’s graceful peace song every morning and through every mourning. May you always find more…

    Peace

    Ken

  6. Fawn,
    You have always been so transparent and even in this, that transparency is a blessing for the rest of us. It seems as if we all are going through or will soon go through this transition with our parents. But what I loved about this tribute was that I felt like I knew your father and who he was. And that’s probably the greatest tribute any child can give is to help keep their parents’ memory alive.
    As always whether near or far, love you,
    Patsy

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