Happy Birthday Harold


Pamala & Harold, Christmas 2007 (2006?)

I really like this picture of mom and Harold. It was a time for genuine smiles … a time before death came to visit our family not just once, but twice. None of us were prepared for that. I suppose no one ever is.

Today is Harold’s birthday. I wish we could have gotten a cake from Haydel’s for him. I wasn’t usually there for his birthday. We would have just visited at Christmas time and you know how busy we can all be. Just think if we only knew how short our time with our family really is … a lot of that busy-ness would disappear. But that’s not how we live. I would have called Harold and wished him a Happy Birthday. I often thanked him for being a good Stepdad. He would have told me that he loved us. Then he would ask about the rest of the family.

Stepdads are funny creatures. I know, because I are one. It’s hard to measure how much love to offer … how much risk to take … guage how much is wanted by the other. Having been a stepdad and a stepson, I don’t think I can label either one as easier than the other. Across 28 years we never doubted that Harold loved us. He was always interested in us. He shared his daughters with us … sisters we never would have had.

You never had to wonder what was on Harold’s mind. He verbalized his thoughts whether they agreed with your perspective or not. He was not mean, but I think he enjoyed pretending to be grumpy. He loved to slide in a sarcasm or a smart remark whenever he had a chance. He especially liked it if we laughed. He wasn’t boring, to say the least.

The last months of Harold’s life were difficult. Mother was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. His health was failing as mesothelioma did it’s deadly work in his lungs. He was unable to work or take care of the simplest things as he would have liked to do.  Most of those last months he was tethered to an oxygen machine. He would lose his breath just walking across the room. There were times when just laying still he would lose his breath. We tried to get down to see him more often than normal.

After a hospital stay that I thought would be his last, he was able to come home. Just Harold and I were sitting at the table. He said three things that meant a lot to me. He said that he missed John Robert like crazy, but he didn’t know if he should say it or not … he didn’t want me to think that he was ignoring that loss. I knew he wasn’t. He and mother came over for John Robert’s funeral when they were unable to travel. It was all they could do physically to be there. He said he wanted to live long enough to see my mother through her cancer. I told him that he had succeeded in doing that. And he told me that he really wanted to go fishing just one more time. Knowing that wasn’t going to happen, he said perhaps he and John Robert would fish together on the other side. I hope that’s just what they’re doing right now.

On that last hospital stay he said that he would never come out of the hospital alive. And he didn’t.

Well, this doesn’t sound like much of a Happy Birthday post does it? I guess this year it’s just too soon after he is gone to be sentimental yet. It still hurts. I’m mindful of my mom, who has been very sick the past week… and I’m feeling foolish that I didn’t arrange to be there to share this day with her. She’s still trying to get her bearings in the wake of this loss. I’m mindful of my sisters. As much as I miss Harold, they have a deeper and different love for him. They are hurting too. I’m sure other family members will all think of him on this day with some sadness.

And perhaps Harold is having an outstanding birthday. I do not believe he is alone or sad. We’re the ones still walking in the valley of tears. Out here, hope remains.

Happy Birthday Harold. We loved you. We miss you so much.


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