Saying goodbye to dad ~ one teardrop at a time

Richard Jerrold (Mac) McGarrigle, USN Retired

Richard Jerrold (Mac) McGarrigle ~ March 22, 1924 – October 2, 2008

I’m sad to say that my dad Richard “Mac” McGarrigle lost his long battle with Cancer yesterday morning, October 2nd at 0630 hours (That’s 6:30 am for non-military types).  I was blessed to have dad living with me for the past 8 years.  He brought me so much joy and my heart aches at the sight of his empty chair.

I posted a tribute to dad in June titled “How do you “celebrate” the last father’s day?” but miraculously, dad’s Cancer didn’t get the best of him until the very end.  His giggle and joy of life continued as Hospice visited us weekly.  He had stopped golfing about 2 months ago as he became increasingly weak, but thankfully pretty pain free.

5 days ago, he told me he was going to take his golf cart out and ride along with all his old golf buddies.  I shared my concerns with him that he wasn’t strong enough to handle the cart but he argued that he “wasn’t feeble”.  Sunday morning about an hour before the 8:10 tee time, I suggested he take me for a spin around the block before he went to the course.  He was none too happy that I didn’t “trust” his abilities.  So, like a 15 year old, he snuck out of the house about 45 minutes early and for one final moment was independent and on the links with his buds.Dad on one of his ships I had an inkling he was saying “good-bye”.

Dad had a wonderful, adventurous life.  Born in Van Buren, Maine.  He joined the US Navy in 1941 at the tender age of 17.  One year later he was aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown CV5 in June of 1942 when it was sunk at the Battle of Midway.  He was working in the boiler room when the Yorktown took a bomb to the stack and he & his group were the last off the ship.  The next 2 subsequent ships/aircraft carriers he was on were sunk as well.  (I asked dad if anyone ever asked that they not be placed on a ship he was assigned to?) He spent all his time on ships all over the world during WWII including (but not limited to) the U.S.S. Thomaston LSD-28, the U.S.S. West (By God) Virginia BB-48 and the U.S.S. Nantahala AO-60 just to name a few.  Dad retired from the Navy in 1961 and up until just a year ago, enjoyed attending his ships’ reunions.  Dad worked at the water treatment plant at Great Lakes Naval Training for another 20 years before finally retiring for good in 1981.

We lived in Waukegan, IL until my mom passed away 8 years ago and I asked dad to move in with me.  He loved to golf and hated snow so it was an easy decision to move to the Chandler/Sun Lakes area where I built a house with a casita for dad.  He had his own golf cart and golfed 5 days a week for almost 7 years.

Yes, he loved golf, playing cribbage and watching sports on TV (and I mean ANY sports. If there wasn’t a live game..he watched reruns).  He also loved his “Laugh-In”, “Hee-Haw”, and “Benny Hill” DVDs. That’s about it for hobbies.  Oh wait…crossword puzzles.  He was amazing at crossword puzzles, oh…and the weather. He loved to tell you what the temperature was…in the shade of course.

He was proud of the moment he received an honorary diploma in June of 2007 from Hamilton High School in Chandler (see the video of dad’s graduation).  A program that recognizes veterans who graduated but were not able to attend their high school graduations when they joined the military.

Dad loved bananas, avocados and peanut butter sandwiches which he ate every day at 11:00 am….unless he was golfing. Dad had “chores” like emptying the dishwasher, getting and sorting the mail, putting the garbage cans out on trash day…and don’t bother him on Thursday…that was laundry day.

Ladies loved dad.  Waitresses, Nurses, ladies in elevators…they all loved dad.  He always had a little joke and he was just plain lovable.

Dad always had many a story to tell…like the one when he was 23 and he & a group of about 15 of his shipmates volunteered to be circumcised because one of the guys on the ship was studying to be a pediatrician.  I asked him if this was the group of sailors who rode the short yellow bus when they had shore leave?  He giggled.  No, he said they were stuck on the ship for 3 months with no shore leave…so why not?  That was dad…always there to help a guy out.

Dad had a million and one little sayings and we heard them all a million and one times.  But each time we heard them we acted like it was the first…sortof.  I polled the family to get their recollections of “Grampaisms” and came up with the following list.  Feel free to use them in your daily conversation.  They will make you smile.

  • Fair to Middlin  (his response to How ya doin?)
  • You are without a doubt…”fill-in your name”
  • Cheap at half the price (no matter what it cost)
  • You dropped the set out of your ring (whenever you dropped something)
  • Take all you want, but eat all you take (at almost every meal)
  • I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in (another response to How ya doin?)
  • we don’t sweat that nickle, dime stuff
  • I’ve got money that’s never been spent
  • It’s all muscle (while patting his stomach)
  • “Won’t be as long as it has been” said the monkey when his tail got caught in the lawnmower.
  • I’m off to do my morning ablutions (every morning when he went to shower)
  • Take two, they’re small
  • Whatever flips your wig
  • We’re off like a herd of turtles
  • You’re just so good to me since the baby came (Much more fun than a simple “thank you”)
  • You know why that’s hot?  It was cooked with fire. (when you burned your mouth on hot food)
  • Your a mere shadow of your former self
  • That’s enough to drive a man to drink
  • E Tai (a random exclamation)
  • Doesn’t that just test your frosticles
  • God willing and the creek don’t rise
  • Not tomorrow, but soon (his answer to “when?”)
  • “We’ll have good fun on the bayou” (always sung with a twang)
  • Hey diddle, diddle, right down the middle
  • Ship shape and water tight
  • “I got tears in my ears, from lying on my back, crying over you” (Also always sung with a twang)
  • “You always hurt the ones you love.  Who put the sand in the Vaseline?” (that had to be a Navy thing)
  • “Up a lazy river by the old mill stream”( sung in perfect pitch).
  • It’s ‘ol Skip-along-hopity (his name for Grandson, Ethan)
  • It’s the Gold Dust Twins (announcing the arrival of any group of 2)
  • “There she is “Miss America” (sung anytime a female family member entered the room)
  • Domo Arigato
  • Tom demo nai odji huan (spelled phonetically and I hope this isnt’ cussing?)
  • E peter dooner, e peter dow, e peter ring dang ding bu how. (yes, this was a song he often sung & I hope this isn’t cussing either)
  • Don’t let your eyes get bigger than your stomach (at many a dinner table)
  • See ya later gator, when your legs are straighter
  • Hasty Lombago
  • Hasty bananas (a derivative of the former)
  • Hasta la bye bye
  • No sense having lead in your pencil if you’ve got no one to write to (his response when I told him to hang a sock on the door if he ever started dating
  • Just what I’d order downtown (spoken with every meal)
  • Not tomorrow, but soon
  • Off to the salt mines (whenever someone left for work)
  • I’ll do the best I can with the tools I’ve got to work with
  • Nevah hatchee (a variable of “never happen”…I think)
  • See you in the spring if I make it through the mattress (a frequent farewell)
  • And hundreds of others (many from his Navy days and not suitable for print)

Dad just giggled when the Drs gave him 4-6 months to live…3 years ago.  He was so proud of his new walker my husband TJ (who has been an exceptionally supportive son-in-law for the past 4 years and who was always greeted by dad with “How ya doin, buddy?”) bought for him because the one Hospice brought was hard for dad to handle and quite frankly, just wasn’t cool enough.   But 4 days ago the giggling stopped when dad took a turn for the worse.  Just like a like switch had been flipped or he’d jumped off a cliff. His decline was rapid.  You could see a change just about every couple hours (though he still sang a little Navy ditty when his “ship

mate, comrade friend”, Brian stopped by to visit).  Every ounce of my being ached when dad started to cry out “Please help me” as the pain increased.  Hospice of the Valley was wonderfully caring and his pain was quickly managed except for a few breakthrough pain moments. (Thank you Linda, Barb, Christy & Carol)

Then yesterday morning, TJ, my daughter Lerie & I held dad as his pulse weakened.  I told him he had taught us to be strong and we would all be ok.  It was ok to go.  I said “see the light, daddy? Jesus is in that light and he’s waiting to take all your pain away.  And, Daddy, right behind Jesus is mom…waiting to ask you “what the heck took you so long”.  10 seconds later, we all held on to him as he took his last breath.  Peacefully, quietly and surrounded by love.  20 seconds after his last breath, dad squeezed Lerie’s hand which I’m sure was his “See ya later gator”.

I can hear the clock ticking in our house that is hauntingly quiet without the sound of a dad’s beloved baseball, football or golf games on the TV and everywhere I turn I see him. His glasses, his crossword puzzle books, his little notes he wrote to himself to remind him of things and of course, his beloved chair.

Last night, TJ looked over and asked if he could bring me anything else.. as I sat in dad’s chair, wrapped in his robe and holding his sweater and the pillow from his bed that all smelled like him.  Is that weird?  I really don’t care if it is.

The tears are coming a little less frequently today, though like a wave~  a crying jag will overtake me at the site of one of his throat lozenge wrappers lying under his chair or when I walk in the door and no one yells “Who Dat?”

Dad was the perfect little leprechaun, the perfect little daddy.  His smiling Irish eyes, his amazing positive outlook on life and his Popeye giggle will always be remembered and missed by all including his 2 other daughters, Liz in California & Lou in Wisconsin along with dozens and dozens of grandchildren & great grandchildren.

He’s taken his final shore leave and I’m sure he’s golfing and giggling on God’s most wonderful fairway.  I’m saying goodbye to dad ~ one teardrop at a time.

I love you, daddy.  I’ll see you in the spring if I make it through the mattress.

  *Dad really hated going to memorial services so we will celebrate his life not in one day, but every day. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to Hospice of the Valley or your favorite veteran’s charity in dad’s memory.

Comments

  1. Wow, Amy. I’m really sorry to hear about your father passing away. This was an absolutely wonderfully written post. I can tell you loved him very much. I wish you and your family all the best in coping with the loss of such a wonderful person, loving father, and patriot.

    Though he’s no longer with us, I’d like to wish your father “Fair Winds and Following Seas.” (It’s a Navy thing, I’m sure he’d like it). I joined the Navy fresh out of high school at the tender age of 17, too… I know what that’s like.

    Goodness, I just decided to stop by your blog on a whim and had no idea what was in store for me. I realize that it’s impossible to tell the entire story of a person in a single blog post; but you’ve done as good a job as anyone could ever hope to. Though I’ve never met your father, I’m holding back a couple tears over here. Those Grandpaisms really got me… Take care, Amy.

    God bless you and yours,

    Dominique

    P.S. Here’s another Navy thing he might have liked (you may have heard it before actually):

    “The Watch”

    For twenty years
    This sailor has stood the watch

    While some of us were in our bunks at night
    This sailor stood the watch

    While some of us were in school learning our trade
    This shipmate stood the watch

    Yes.. even before some of us were born into this world
    This shipmate stood the watch

    In those years when the storm clouds of war were seen brewing on the horizon of history
    This shipmate stood the watch

    Many times he would cast an eye ashore and see his family standing there
    Needing his guidance and help

    Needing that hand to hold during those hard times
    But he still stood the watch

    He stood the watch for twenty years
    He stood the watch so that we, our families and
    Our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety, Each and every night
    Knowing that a sailor stood the watch

    Today we are here to say
    ‘Shipmate… the watch stands relieved

    Relieved by those You have trained ,Guided, and Lead
    Shipmate you stand relieved.. we have the watch…”

    “Boatswain..Standby to pipe the side…Shipmate’s going Ashore..”

    —Your father’s watch is over. He stands relieved. I pray that he gets some wonderful R&R up in Heaven. :-)

  2. Oh, Dominique, that you for that beautiful tribute. I can feel daddy smiling.

  3. Sue Ratliff says:

    Hi, Amy. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like he was a great guy, and you have many wonderful memories. And you were a wonderful daughter, loving and caring for him, right up until the end. Thank you for sharing this with me, and please know you and your family continue to be in my prayers.

  4. Amy, what a warm and moving tribute to your Dad. He sounds like a wonderful man. He’s with your Mom now and will never miss another 3 foot putt. Godspeed Mac.

  5. Judy Manning says:

    Dear Amy…
    I feel your pain. You are living my biggest fear. This morning I went to the postoffice to mail my Dad’s birthday box. He will be 84 on Wed the 8th. He is about the same size and they sound like they could be brothers.
    I wish I could do somthing for that hole in your heart… Lean into the arms of Jesus… He is collecting each tear… and know that you had a short time here but will have an eternity with your Dad and Mom. You and your family are in my prayers.

  6. Thanks Sue, Jay & Judy. Your words mean so much to me. Oh…and Judy, spend as much time as you can with your dad. You won’t get this time back.

    Hugs to you all~

  7. I’m new to your blog. When I read things online I have a bad habbit of scanning things too quickly, never finishing much, unless I’m really interested. I read about your father twice, every word.

    I’ve never met your father but feel the loss of a fine man… in a world with fewer and fewer “fine men”.

    God Bless

  8. Steve Schmidt says:

    Thanks for a very moving tribute to your Dad. From what you have said in the past and even more from your tribute, I can see how close you were to him. He was obviously a very loving and caring father. It is comforting to know he is pain free and at complete peace with the Lord now.

    Peace of Christ be with you all,
    Steve and Donna

  9. I miss you Great Grandpa Mac.

    “Face down, ass up, follow through, Little Bit.”

  10. Amy, the Grampaism’s are amazing. And you’re right… a lot of them aren’t suitable for print. I can think of about twenty off the top of my head. This is a beautiful blog though. Absolutely beautiful. I hope you are well and I am going to assault you in hugs next time I see you.

  11. Dee Bertsch says:

    Dear Amy.

    Just finished reading about “Mac” (with many tears in my eyes)…..
    Ray and I are so glad that we got to have the pleasure of talking to him at your parties. He was a fun man to listen too and we enjoyed his stories about the ships he was on going down. We remember teasing him about how did his shipmates feel about that and he just ‘GIGGLED”.
    Thanks for sharing your special Dad with all of us. We are all a bit
    better for having known him.
    God’s Blessings,
    Ray and Dee

  12. Marion Spagnolo says:

    Amy,
    I’m truly sorry about your Dad’s passing, he was such a beautiful man. I only knew him for a short period of time, but I could tell how special he was. Not only to you but to your entire family. He always had a smile on his face and was always in a happy mood. He always had a story and ALWAYS accepted a pretty girls kiss. You can see in all the videos that he meant the world to you, but most of all you can tell you meant the world to him.
    God Bless you and your family

  13. Thanks so much to each and every one of you. Your comforting words mean so much. I have had so many praying for my comfort and I’m feeling much better today. The ache in my heart has been replaced by the peace of knowing Daddy is painfree and has seen Jesus’s face. What could be better than that? God bless you all.

  14. Amy,

    You wrote a wonderful tribute to your dad–I am still wiping the tears from my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Doug McVinua says:

    Amy and TJ,

    So sorry to read of your loss. I’m sure he is very proud of you and out on the golf course in heaven bragging about all that you mean to him. Our prayers are with you.

  16. Thank you Kara & Doug,
    Life does go on, doesn’t it? Maybe just a little less bright in this world, but knowing where we are going just got a little brighter. Thanks for your kind words and especially your prayers.

  17. Genie Campbell says:

    Dearest Amy,

    I am devastated at the loss of my Grandfather and have put off reading your tribute until this moment. I was afraid of breaking down, which of course is now happening. Charlie still talks about his visit with “Great Grandpa” in Chandler and I know he as well as the rest of us will miss our beloved Grandpa Mac dearly.

    Grandpa Mac is a very special individual and has the ability to make you smile, especially when you think you are at rock bottom. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I grew up not really knowing you or getting to spend countless hours with my Grandfather. This is truly my loss. But this is not about me.

    Grandpa Mac is one of the most wonderful men I have ever known. Not only because he is my Grandfather, but because he is truly a genuine human being. I can not recall a time when I have ever seen him angry or out of sorts. He has always been patient and loving and always displayed morality and kindness and always did so with a smile.

    Grandpa Mac does have a million and one sayings and you are right when you say most of them are not suitable for print! I love you Grandpa Mac! You are the best!!

    You wrote an awesome tribute. But more importantly you wrote an awesome tribute filled with fond memories and LOVE. As humble of a person that you are, God has truly blessed you as a lot of Grandpa Mac is still alive in you today. You truly are his daughter, and I am grateful that he is surrounded by so much love. My heart goes out for you and your family in this time of sorrow. But rest assured Grandpa Mac is in a better place still surrounded by love.

    I keep you and your family in our prayers and I hope that this is not good bye. Amy you too are truly an awesome human being. May God bless you and be with you during this difficult time.

    Genie, Charlie, Jelly, Noah and Gabby.

  18. We have known Mac because of the Yorktown CV5 reunions. He and Vic Yost were golfing when they could. He was always laughing best I remember. Your loss is heart felt. I cried nearly all the way through your tribute and all the other letters you received. Bless you and your family. You have to know your Dad loved you. Jan Yost told us about the article by you. Sincerely, Joe & Virginia

  19. Thanks Genie. Grampa did love all his grandchildren!

    Joe & Virginia It’s great to hear from some of dad’s shipmates. That was his life. He truly enjoyed all the ships reunions and was sad that he could attend them anymore over the last couple years.

    God bless you all.

    Amy

Trackbacks

  1. […] Dad came home today exactly 50 days after we said good-bye.  He came home by special delivery…in a little black box.  […]

  2. […] Last year I wrote a post entitled “How do you celebrate the last father’s day“.  Deep in my heart I hoped that the Drs. were wrong as they’d often been and that dad would still be around for father’s day this year.  Sadly, it wasn’t to be as dad lost his 14 year battle with Cancer on October 2, 2008. […]

  3. […] I passed the Father’s Day cards display this year…the second Father’s Day since my dad died on October 2, 2008, but I still felt that familiar lump in my throat. That same lump I feel whenever I see a little […]

  4. […] Dad , Richard McGarrigle, came home today exactly 50 days after we said good-bye.  He came home by […]