Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Jan. 23, 2003

Dad's diaries

A couple of weeks ago - when the temperature was 70+ and before we got our first real snow of the season - I watered the shrubs and rosebushes that were planted in October at my parents' home. I set aside an entire afternoon for the task so that I could give each plant a good soaking.

It was the kind of day when Dad would have insisted on sitting on the front porch to get some fresh air. But the last few weeks of his life he didn't have the strength to get outside much. Hand-holding became a big part of our connection during those days. I'd walk into the folks' house, say "Hi, kids," and go over to kiss Dad on the forehead and hold his hands.

"I love you," I'd say.

"I love you, too," he'd respond.

But this day I was the one on the front porch sitting, soaking up some sun - so rich-feeling in the dead of winter - and monitoring the progress of the watering.

I got out Dad's diaries to help pass the time and, more than anything, to feel close to Dad again. Dad religiously wrote in his diaries every day for as long as I can remember. He kept the last 20 years' worth in the bottom two drawers of the desk that had been his father's.

Dad didn't delve into anything deep in his diaries. Mostly, they were filled with the little things that seem to fill up the conversation of ordinary days - the high and low temperatures, the inches of rain or snow that fell, who called, where he and Mom went shopping, what they watched on TV, who came to visit, how many bushels of wheat they harvested.

On his brother's birthday in 1981, he wrote: "Tuesday. -14 low, 6 high. Stan's 58th birthday. Strong winds and blowing snow most of day until late p.m. 3-4 inches of snow. Not much drifting. A dirty snow. Took Edla to school. School dismissed at 11:00 a.m. Called Stans and Gaila in eve."

Even the entries on "red-letter" days such as my sister's wedding were matter-of-fact accounts:

June 22, 1985: "Saturday. 86. Fair. Gaila and Humberto's Wedding Day. We all got up early. Got chairs and tables from community bldg. and church to set up in yard in a.m. Women prepared food and drink for wedding in a.m. Muriel W. fixed flowers on arch at 2. Got everything ready to go. Wedding began at 4:00 p.m. Had it videotaped and photographed. Took a lot of pictures. It was a beautiful wedding."

On Feb. 17, 1986, two weeks after Jerome's death, Dad wrote: "Monday. 30, 60. Fair. Edla didn't go to school. We got up early and Edla went with Gloria to Manhattan. They got there towards late a.m. Gloria went to work. She is so sad about losing Jerome. Swept out car in a.m. and puttered. Watched Christmas tape again. It is so unbelievable that Jerome is gone. Washed car and puttered in p.m."

The May 11, 1997 entry was typical of a routine day: "Sunday. 40, 70. Pt. cloudy. We got up fairly early. We went up to Gloria's. Met Gloria, Mariya, Katie and Rita J at Chinese restaurant in Westloop. We all went out to Keats to Gloria's."

The only gaps in Dad's diaries that I noticed were when he and Mom were hospitalized with pneumonia in February 1998. There also were gaps in the fall of 2001. His last entry was in November of that year.

The night after reading Dad's diaries, I had a dream. He and Mom were back on the farm. Dad was on the couch, so I reached over and grabbed his hands and told him I loved him.

"I love you, too," he responded.

Dad recorded big and little events in his diaries through the years.

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