Before my dad died, I sat down with him on a few occasions and interviewed him. I have about 2 hours of him sharing stories and advice on video. My family and I will forever cherish these videos. I took out this little snippet to share with all of you. Enjoy.

-Casey

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I have been avoiding this blog for a few weeks. Mostly because what I need to say first is not easy, even if I’m just typing it. My dad, Derek Aldridge, the creator and author of this blog, passed away on December 6th. His battle with pancreatic cancer ended as peacefully and painlessly as possible. My mother, brother and I were by his side. As a family, we want to thank everyone who sent condolences, flowers and food. We appreciate all of your support and love during this time.

I would be foolish to say that my dad now only exists in photos and memories. He lives on in everything I say and do. While Rick, Grayson and I rushed around the grocery store this morning, I saw a man holding his elderly father’s hand and guiding him through the aisles, walking slowly and letting his dad set their pace. My family was rushing through the aisles, trying to get out of there as quickly as possible. But then I saw this pair. I was instantly reminded of my dad- of all the times we’d go out with his walker or cane and we’d noticeably move a little slower than everyone else. My dad use to say that the longer it took us to get somewhere, the more time we got to spend together. Then he’d smile and remind me that cancer brought many blessings. I suddenly noticed myself pushing the grocery cart a little slower through the store, my impatience with the holiday crowd faded and I found myself singing Christmas carols with Grayson. My dad’s presence influenced who I was and his absence will influence who I am.

I initially wanted to write this blog about how my dad’s love has changed me. There are far too many examples of what he taught me just by loving me. When I sat down to write, I noticed myself beginning to think of all the ways my dad was like my Heavenly Father. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say my dad was a god. He was far from it! But, he loved me unconditionally, he valued me, he taught me, he protected me…. should I keep going? I think the reason it is so easy for me to believe in a loving God is because I had such a great example of what a father figure should be. I always wanted to spend time with my dad; I wanted to learn from him, study him, imitate him. Isn’t that what we should all want to do with our Heavenly Father also? Perhaps the role of our earthly fathers is to provide a godly example of love. When I was little, I took a rock to his Subaru. I scratched his bumper and left him with copious amount of damage. His love for me never changed. When I was a little bit older, I snuck out of the house on New Years Eve. His love for me never changed. I crashed the first two cars my parents gave me. His love for me never changed. I am imperfect, but my dad loved me no matter what. Our Heavenly Father’s love for us will never change, it is a constant. Whether you are feeling happy, sad, discouraged, hopeful or deserving, a father’s love is always there.

For the past few weeks, I have been walking around with an emptiness inside of me, a void that I thought would never be filled. I felt as if no one could possibly love me the way that my dad loved me. I worried that I would never feel that pure, unconditional, strong love again. (Sidetrack: I can just picture my mom reading this and saying, “What am I, chopped liver?” No, Mom, you’re much more than chopped liver.🙂 You provide me a pure, unconditional, strong love, but it’s different. It’s a motherly love. I don’t know how to explain the difference, but it’s different. And that’s ok!) One night, as I tossed and turned in bed, letting the void consume me, I grabbed my phone and pulled open my Bible app. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I started by searching “Father’s Love.” I don’t know why, but I was surprised by how many bible verses there are about the type of love that I was so desperately missing. Here I was stricken by grief, feeling alone and missing my dad’s one of a kind love when a sense of comfort that I had not felt in a long time rushed over me. God’s love will fill any void. I’m still grieving my dad’s passing, but I know that I will be ok. I know that I’m loved, valued and protected.

With Christmas just a few days away, my hope is that all of you enjoy some quiet time with your Father. Reflect and rejoice in His promises to you.

Merry Christmas and God Bless,

Casey

 

Today was a good day. My dad managed to get out of bed and lay on the couch. He spent hours awake, visiting with my mom, Rick, Grayson and myself. There were moments of confusion, but for the most part he was alert and himself. Some days the twinkle is gone from his eyes, but it was there today. Today was a good day.

I sat at the end of the couch and offered to rub his feet. My dad has never turned down a foot rub. We sat in silence, mostly because I was paying close attention to avoid the bed sores that have started to form on his heel and big toe. Then the question came, “Can I ask you something, Lou?” Now, normally, this is followed by a profound question that leads to an insightful conversation. However, moments earlier he had started with this question and then asked, “Do you think I should get a cat?” (We are very much DOG people!) So I had prepared myself for another silly question, but instead this conversation happened…
Derek: “Do you think I’ve done enough?”
Casey: “What do you mean?”
Derek: “With my life. Have I done enough?”
Casey: “Yeah, Dad, I’d say so.”
He nodded and closed his eyes.
Casey: “You’ve done enough for me.”

Hours later, this question is still haunting me. What is enough? How does one measure what is enough? Is enough different for each individual? I can only assume that this is a question commonly asked at the end of life. Were there places my dad had wished to travel to, but didn’t? Yes. Were there regrets that he had? Yes. Were there goals he left unmet? Yes. Does that mean he didn’t do enough? No. Not by any means. Not in my opinion.

I know my dad isn’t perfect. I know he’s made mistakes, just like we all have. I know he has regrets and things he wishes he had done differently. But he was always enough for me. When I reflect on my childhood, I don’t remember him traveling for work or missing a softball game. I remember the games he went to, the nights he was home. I remember the times we had together.

I’m pretty new at this parenting gig; 9 months doesn’t compare to the 38 years my dad has put in. But I do know that there’s nothing sweeter than my daughter’s smile, and her laugh is pure magic. I don’t always do everything right and I know I have lots more mistakes to make, but when I look at her, I know I’m enough. I am confident that my dad feels that way about each of his children also.

So dad, rest peacefully. You have done enough. You are enough. We love you just the way you are.

 

-Casey

JD has to work on Thursday in Ft. Worth and Rick and I are headed to see his family this weekend, so the Aldridges had our feast yesterday. Today, we will decorate the Christmas tree together. We continue to try to find a sense of normalcy, although our lives are anything but.

A quick update on Dad: Hospice brought in a hospital bed and oxygen, so he’s sleeping better at night. The referred pain comes and goes, but seems to be getting worse. We’ve doubled his pain medications but may be switching to morphine soon. Yesterday, when my mom told him the kids were coming over, he asked, “who?” She repeated, but he still didn’t seem to know who we were. Eventually he remembered and by the time we arrived he was happy to see us. He is in a bit of a brain fog. He is slow to speak when conversing, he has a hard time finding the word he wants and his memory has been slipping. He tends to withdraw because of this. We’ve been told that this is all very normal with liver failure. This is our new normal.

While sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, we went around the table to say what we are thankful for. Dad said that he is thankful the pain is not far worse than it is. He is also thankful that the cancer brought him closer to and strengthened his relationship with God.

It is safe to say that every day is an emotional roller coaster for me. But as I sit here, in a house full of family, with dad’s oxygen machine humming in the background, I am overwhelmed by gratitude. How wonderful is it that I have such an inspiring, loving, devoted father that makes saying goodbye so hard?

The Aldridge family hopes each of you enjoy Thanksgiving with your families. As you sit down for dinner and bow your heads, please say a prayer of thanks for Derek.

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aldridge-161My dad has always had a way with words. His fingers float across the keyboard and effortlessly he writes a compelling, illustrative blog post. It isn’t as easy for me, so please bear with me.

When my dad first started this blog, his intention was to keep everyone updated on his journey through cancerland. Unfortunately, this is where the bus stops and he gets off.

Several weeks ago, the doctor first mentioned hospice to my family. We shrugged it off, knowing dad wasn’t ready. However, at that appointment we were informed that the current treatment was no longer containing the cancer; the tumors were growing. The side effects from chemo had become intrusive and dad was having more bad days than good. The question of quantity vs. quality of life was presented. Dad chose to stop treatments. For 5 years we have placed this fight in God’s hands and now is no different. God has a reason for allowing things to happen. We may never understand His wisdom, but we simply have to trust His will.

When stopping chemotherapy, the hope was that dad may get a boost in his quality of life. This didn’t happen. Without the chemo, the tumors continued to grow and his quality of life started to diminish. All of the treatments and weight loss have left him with very little muscle mass. Because of this, he is prone to fall. Sometimes his blood pressure drops so fast and he blacks out and falls. Either way, he was taking more and more falls. My mom does everything she can to help my dad, but she can’t be with him 24/7. She needs to run errands and get groceries and pick up his medicines. JD and I were starting to think hospice may be necessary, so my mom could get help. My dad had been on hospice 3 years ago, for a brief amount of time, so we knew they offer help for caregivers. We had a family dinner and talked to dad about what was on our hearts. I have 28 years of experience in getting what I want from my dad, but asking for this wasn’t easy. We brought it up casually, and talked about how much help it could be for mom. We then dismissed it; he had not said a word during the entire conversation. The next morning, my mom called to say that dad had decided we were right and they were calling Hospice Austin. My dad was hesitant. He had been on hospice before and came back from it, but he knew that this time was different. He knew that hospice was one step closer to death. We could all tell that this was weighing him down. He doesn’t want anyone to think he is giving up. We look at it like this: he has fought so hard for so long, that now he deserves to rest.

My dad is my hero. He finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Every morning, he wakes up and gets dressed. He’s trying to keep his life as normal as possible, but that’s getting harder by the day. He has been pain-free for 5 years, one blessing we continue to thank God for. Just this week he started having referred pain in his shoulder. Organs don’t have nerve endings, so they can’t physically hurt, but they can cause other places in your body to be in pain. My dad is experiencing this across his back and into his shoulders, caused by the liver shutting down. My dad is dying from liver failure, which is the less painful way to go. Once again, we count our blessings.

Hospice Austin has suggested that we plan our Christmas early. They don’t believe he will make it to the new year. No one knows how much time my dad has left, so all we can do is make every day count. My dad is very tired and very weak. Most days are spent napping and he struggles to find things to smile about. We are all scared, anxious and hurting. It is extremely painful to be helpless in the face of a loved one’s suffering. We all remain steadfast in our faith and look to Him for guidance through this difficult time. Please raise our family up in prayer, that we may all find comfort and peace.

Casey

 

Tuesday was a sad day. They laid Yogi Berra to rest.

Yogi — multiple award-winning baseball player, philosopher, coach, Jersey boy and Yankee through and through.

The noble Yankee -- Yogi Berra.

The noble Yankee — Yogi Berra.

He was buried in a private ceremony near his home in Montclair, N.J. He was 90 and, seemingly, loved by everyone he met. Many current and former Yankees attended the ceremony. Fans who stood outside the ceremony talked mostly how he was such a great Jersey boy and neighbor.

When I was a child I lived in some really obscure places: Bowlegs, Oklahoma; Tatum, New Mexico; Lovington, New Mexico. TV was pretty much in its infancy, but we still got a chance to watch baseball in black and white, while living in these out-of-the-way places. It seemed like it was always a Yankee game with Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese as the sportscasters. I loved these broadcasts and it’s how I learned some of the basics of baseball. This was the late 50s and I loved Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Joe Pepitone, Bobby Richardson and, of course, Yogi.

I watched any game I could watch and my Dad and I would play catch whenever he was free. My first Little League team, playing on fields of sand, tumbleweeds and dust devils in the New Mexico desert was the Yanks.

I was hooked on baseball for the rest of my life. Sooner or later, B&W became color and places where we moved would allow us to watch lots of other baseball teams. But there was always the Yankees.

Fast forward to adulthood — college, working, earning a living, providing for a family, raising kids …

I was very fortunate that my son, JD, picked up on my love of baseball and it became dear to him. He loved other sports, too, but, like his dad, baseball was king. We would go to Cleveland Indians games while he learned to play. And, even as a young boy, he played a lot. He played a lot of positions, but he liked playing catcher more than any other position.

When he was 11, Patti and I decided it was about time for me to have “the talk” about sex and girls and relationships with JD.

He was in the middle of doing a research paper for school on Yogi, so I suggested we take a weekend and drive to Montclair to see Yogi’s museum, which meant driving across east Ohio, all of Pennsylvania and some part of New Jersey to get to the museum, but we set out any way. JD, red hair flowing, wore his baseball team’s cap and he was excited. Across eastern Ohio and a good portion of Pennsylvania, Dad and son shot the breeze about any and everything, but “the talk”  — even if there was just the two of us in the car.

JD at Wrigley Field

JD at Wrigley Field

Shortly before we approached New Jersey, we stopped at McDonald’s and ordered breakfast. I purposefully picked a booth in the restaurant where nobody was seated — and I mean nobody.

We laid down our trays, took a seat and began eating. At one point, I said, “JD, Mom and I have talked and you and I need to have a little talk.”

At first, his eyes showed a curious look, but it was just a moment of two when it dawned on him I was trying to start “the talk” with him. He pulled his cap down on his head, looked around, tried to chew his scrambled eggs and biscuit, while bursting out with “Dad, NOT HERE. There are too many people and I don’t wanna talk about this right now.”

I looked around and there were only two other people in the entire restaurant — no one near us anywhere. He buried his head deeper into his tray and with the next bite took double the amount of breakfast and put it in his mouth to chew. He stared across the booth at me, ready to cut me off if I continued trying to have that talk.

I didn’t.

We finished eating and when he settled into the car for the rest of the drive, I could see him rest his shoulders, relieved.

Soon, we got lost on some of the spaghetti-like unmarked New Jersey roads, but we finally made it to Montclair and to Yogi’s museum.

We thoroughly enjoyed the museum, especially looking at all of Yogi’s World Series rings and all the other memorabilia. JD loved every minute we spent there. As we walked through the museum, and I looked at all Yogi’s achievements and memories, I thought a lot had changed over the years for the little boy who started out with the Yanks as well as the man who was a Yankee mainstay for most of his life and I admired from afar. I looked at my son and saw complete wonder in his eyes as he looked at Yogi’s uniforms, and, particularly, his rings. They were very impressive. A talk about sex can wait.

We thoroughly enjoyed the museum, and as we were leaving, I could see the skyline of Manhattan not too far in the distance. We were both smiling as we got into the car and started our way back home to Ohio.

Along the way back, we stopped in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for JD to see the field and the museum for the Little League. We both enjoyed that little side trip.

Somewhere as we were on the road, I said, “I won’t force you to have that talk, but if you ever have any questions, you can always come ask me and I will make sure we are alone and answer quietly for you.” He nodded.

I am now 65 and JD is 25. He has never asked me a question about sex.

I love you son, now and forever. You make me so proud of you.

Why? You ask.

Well, it’s 5 and 1 day.

It’s the fifth anniversary of my diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer. And, according to some statisticians, that means I am now a member of the 1 percent club — those who are still ticking five years after their diagnosis. I’ve never been a member of a one percent of anything.

God has blessed me, for whatever reason.

It's 5 and 1 day

It’s 5 and 1 day

When I was diagnosed in 2010, I saw five oncologists. One said three months. One said nine months. I even went for a second opinion to MDAnderson, a cancer center of excellence in Houston. The doctor there was very smug and suggested nine months.

I have been blessed to have some wonderful doctors. Dr Alan in Dallas and Dr. Jerry here in Austin have been a real blessing to me. Their nurses (Jean, Colleen, Anna, Thomas and Hannah)  have made me feel like family, and who can turn down a warm blanket?

So, over five years, I have been blessed to walk my daughter down the aisle to marry Rick. Along with Patti, I’ve been there to welcome Grayson, Rick and Casey’s baby girl. I got to see my son return to college. I celebrated my 65th birthday, even though no male member of the Aldridge family over three generations celebrated their 57th birthday. Patti and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. I got to enjoy time with Patti’s father and my mother before they passed. I get to enjoy life with friends and family.

Most importantly, I got reacquainted with my spiritual beliefs. I have no doubt been blessed by God, and I celebrate His presence every day. Our God is a loving god and I have been fortunate to be surrounded by his protective feathers (Psalm 91). He is the reason I am still here, I am convinced. I try to thank Him every day with praise and prayers of thanks/gratitude. He helps me smile every day. Thank you, Lord.

*****

The picture you see here is a celebratory one. For the 5 and 1 anniversary, Casey and Rick arranged for the state flag to be flown over the Texas Capitol in my honor. Brought me to tears. What an overwhelming gift.

To all my friends and family, I thank you for your prayers and wishes of well being. I hope you enjoy God’s love as I have and it brings joy to your hearts. God bless you all.

Grayson gets me to smile every time I see her.

Grayson gets me to smile every time I see her.

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