Backword or is that Backward

It seems to me that every "foreword" deserves a "backword". Since the foreword sets the stage for the beginning, then the backword should do likewise for the ending. For now, having written some of my stories through my high school years, I shall take hiatus to begin collecting notes and recalling memories of the years that followed. There is however a collection of recent thoughts and feelings which I wish to relate now, lest they be lost with the passing of time.

I suppose it might be said that Dad died of a broken nose. A few weeks before he died, the Leisure Center Nursing Home had a scheduled fire drill. Dad, still quite agile, was first to the door and tried to push it open. He was pushing hard against it, not realizing that the door opened inward. It did open quite suddenly by someone on the outside. It struck Dad in the face and broke his nose. After that incident he seemed to go downhill pretty fast, and Joann alerted me that he was failing.

The first week of May 1991, Judy had been chosen to do some consulting work in Washington, D.C., and I was to be the traveling spouse. I decided to spend a day with Dad before our trip east, and drove to Caldwell on Tuesday and back to Lawrence that same day. His face was still badly bruised from the accident, but we laughed together, ate lunch together, and had some very special time, just the two of us. It was a fitting goodbye to the fine old "dutchman". It helped remove some of the great regret I've felt for not having the opportunity to share some last time with Mom. As I left, I was very aware that this might be our last time together.

On Sunday, May 5, we were flying home from Washington via Chicago. Dad was very much on my mind, and I intended to phone Joann from the Chicago airport. Our plane was late and our departing plane was on time, so I had no time to call. I phoned her from the airplane, something very unusual for me to do. She said that Dad was found dead, fully clothed on his bed, apparently of a heart attack. At that point phone service was interrupted and she was afraid our plane had crashed. I called her back, and we talked more about funerals and burials and timing and, we processed the loss we shared.

After the funeral Joann gave me a fishing tackle box and said, "Dad wanted you to have this." I've never been much of a fisherman, but it did mean a lot that Dad wanted me to have it. I never looked inside it, but put it on a shelf in my garage and left it. Many weeks, perhaps a year later, I looked inside to find that what I had mistaken for a fishing tackle box was instead, a toolbox! They were Dad's small tools, the special kind that require some extra care and keeping. I was so overwhelmed that I cried great sobbing tears right there in the garage. As a final gift, he had passed me his tools.

I have thought often of that experience and what it meant to me. I've thought, too, of the many tools that my parents tried to give me over the years: honesty, integrity, fairness, concern for others, decency, humor, love of life. I hope that I have learned to use them well, and that in some ways they've been passed on for others to use. For all the tools that you tried to give me, thanks, Mom, thanks, Dad.


Grace and Herman Niebaum - 1951

On to Ancestry

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