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Who Inspires You?

October 22, 2020

He was dying. We both knew that. It wasn’t something we discussed. He’d been dying for years, but this was different. It was the ending. But, like I said, we didn’t discuss it.

To the others in the airport he didn’t look like he was dying. He looked good in fact. Sure, he was in a wheelchair, but he was dressed to the nines. Starched shirt. Suspenders. Pressed slacks. I think he even wore cufflinks, although I can’t be sure. I do know he wasn’t wearing a watch. But, more about that later.

We were in Denver. Neither he nor I lived in Denver. He had traveled to Denver from his home in Olympia to reconnect with a long estranged daughter. The travel and the change in altitude was too much for him. His 72 years had included some pretty tough years, accidents, smoking for much of his life.

He ended up in the hospital in Denver.

Ilived then, as I do now, in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Utah and Colorado are next to each other, but that doesn’t mean that Pleasant Grove and Denver are. In fact, they are about eight hours by car. Or, in my case, Suburban.

Hey Mom. I think I’ll come to Denver. Sounds like you guys could use some help.

Oh no. That’s not neccessary. We’re only going to be here for a couple more days, I think.

Well, that’s perfect. I have to be back at work on Monday. I’ll see you Saturday morning.

It was Memorial Day weekend, 2009. My mother doesn’t like to ask for help. She doesn’t easily accept help. That’s why I didn’t ask her.

I left Pleasant Grove after work on Friday. I spent the night sleeping on my backseat at a rest stop off I-70 somewhere East of Denver. I pulled into the hotel Saturday morning just as my dear mother was headed to the hospital.

There were details to take care of. I talked to my dad a bit. And offered mild suggestions to mother on how to wrap up his unintended visit.

And that’s how we found ourselves having a pleasant lunch at DIA while we waited for their plane to board. My father was a brilliant conversationalist. He knew a little bit about everything and a lot about many things. Our relationship had been rocky at times, but that was behind us. I enjoyed his company. His sense of humor was often misunderstood by those who didn’t know him well.

My dear mother had packed his watch. It was one of those large clunky ones and she didn’t want him to have to deal with it through security and during the trip.

He, of course, kept insisting that she’d stolen it from him. And by “kept insisting” I mean he brought it up multiple times during lunch. Finally, my dear mother, who did still have her watch announced,

Well, it’s probably about time to head to the gate. Our plane leaves in a little over an hour.

I pushed the wheelchair while Mom handled the carry-ons. As we approached the gate location it was apparent that we were earlier than we expected. The gate area was empty except for a airline attendant standing next to an open door.

Are you the Blisses?


Oh good. We’ve been waiting for you, but we were just about to shut the cabin door.

My father started to laugh.

She stole my watch!

Olympia, Washington where my parents lived, is in the Pacific Time Zone. Denver is in the Mountain Time Zone, an hour later than Pacific Time.

After working to arrange for their escape out of Denver, my dear mother nearly missed the flight because she forgot to reset her watch.

My last view of my father was as he rose from the wheelchair and made his way down the jetway. He might have thrown me a backhanded wave, I don’t remember. I do remember he was very well dressed and laughing at his stolen watch joke.

He looked good.

My father never went home. After he arrived in Olympia he went into hospice care. He never recovered from the trip. When the doctors told us that it really was the end, my dear mother called me.

Do you want to come and say goodbye?

No. We had that opportunity in Denver. I’ll come for the funeral.

My father passed away on June 12, 2009. His final words, spoken to my brother, was

I am a handsome devil

And he was smiling when he said it. Even now, eleven years later, he still inspires me.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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