Memorial Day weekend was finally here. The car was packed and almost ready to go to Mom and Dad’s for the holiday. We’d leave early Friday morning driving to Donalsonville, Georgia, to spend a long Memorial Day weekend with the family.
I made a last-minute call to Mom to see if she needed anything special other than what I had not already picked up for them. Every time Dan and I would go to Donalsonville we’d take food, paper goods, and anything we thought they might need (the staples) and add special goodies too. Being retired, they lived on a small fixed income. It was the very least we could do as they had supported us, helped ($$) Dan through college, all those years ago. It was a no-brainer we would help them in their later years. Same as any family does.
Mom answered the phone telling me quickly Dad wasn’t doing well. The doctor had been called and had come over to give him a shot to ease his pain. (Our family doctor was a friend who made house calls, regularly. Small town ethics.)
“We’re on our way Mom. We’re leaving first thing in the morning. Is there anything you need, or Dad needs?” She turned away from the phone asking Dad, “Anything you want to tell Marylou?”
“Stop smoking,” he yelled.
“I heard him, Mom.”
We arrived midday Friday to find Dad slumped over the dining room table where he sat with the oxygen tube in his nose. He was in distress to say the least. His doctor had just left after giving him another shot of morphine. We moved him to his recliner where he spent most of his time lately. He was still smoking, even with the oxygen tubes in his nose. He could give up his Scotch, but he could not give up the cigarettes he had been smoking since 12 years of age.
He didn’t get better. The doctor ordered an ambulance to take him to the hospital in Dothan, Alabama. He didn’t want Dad to die at home as he knew Mom wouldn’t be able to handle that. I remember helping her move him into the bathroom so she could clean him a bit before the ambulance arrived. I had to chuckle as he was wearing a pair of red Christmas boxer shorts I had given him for Christmas a few months earlier. “Oh, Dad. I love you.” I was scared. He was going into a coma. He looked me straight in the eye, never saying a word.
Family was called. Everyone had arrived. It was Memorial Day, 27 May 1991. I had just made it back to the hospital after picking up my younger brother from the airport. Rushing into the room I went directly to him, hugging him as he died in my arms. I made it just in time the nurse said. My Dad, my sweet Dad was gone.
Being a hospital administrator, he knew the need of cadavers for medical students. He already had this set in place for his body to be donated to Emory University in Georgia, for medical research. His ashes would be sent to us when research was completed.
His memorial service was held on Herby’s (his first son) birthday, traditional Memorial Day, May 30. We knew Dad had finally found his son who had been missing in action in Vietnam for 21 years. It would be 16 years later his son’s remains finally made it home to American soil.
His last words to me, “stop smoking,” stuck in my mind for years. I heard them over and over again every time I lit a cigarette. Finally, in the year 2008, after attending a Rattler Firebird Reunion in Denver, I quit. The Rattlers and Firebirds were my brother’s comrades. Not sure why timing was then, but I knew it was time to quit. I finally took heed of his last words, two of most important words I have ever heard.
Today marks 25 years since my Dad, Herb Crosby, died. I miss him dearly every day. Yet, I celebrate his extraordinary life. Dad loved family, God, country, boating, hunting, and lived life to its fullest, most assuredly. He was deeply patriotic and a staunch Republican. He loved his children and grandchildren. Like any proud daughter would say, he was the best Dad ever!
P.S. Another coincidence of dates. Dad joined the Army Air Corps on January 10, 1941. His son, Capt. Herbert C Crosby, was listed MIA, and most probable died serving the Army on January 10, 1970.