Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lionel Kenneth Harris Jr. (My Dad)

We all say that time flies and I have a lot moments where that has happened in my life, but today one has stuck out in my mind. Today marks 18 years since my dad passed away from an inoperable brain tumor. I was 13 when he passed away and so I was very young but I have great memories to last a lifetime. A lot of the next part might be a random mesh of things thrown together but it's how it came out of my head today. I hope that you will take the time to read my thoughts.
Grandpa Lionel, Ken (my dad) and Lorna
My dad was born and raised in Sacramento, California and although he moved quite a bit he never went too far from where he was raised. I remember him teaching me how to play tennis, I still love to play just don't get out there as much as I should. We were always at the park, he would even go down the big twisty slide with me sometimes. He was definitely a people person, a salesman at heart and what he also did for a living. I remember fighting with my brother Robert who would get to ride on the armrest in the front seat on the way to dad's house, (it was easier then and legal) and a game of Herbie aka slug bug (although we didn't hit each other we just counted to see who get get the most) on the ride there as well.

My dad as a teenager. My bro. Ken totally looks like dad here.
My dad was great. He always made it a point to be at as many events that his kids participated in as possible. Soccer, baseball, football, basketball, award banquets, church functions, even coming to the hospital in the middle of the night to be with Robert, you name it he was there. You always knew when my dad was at a game cause he was usually yelling at a referee, taking pictures or video taping. Even when he was very sick he would have my brother John come to the house and get him in the car just so he could go the game. He wouldn't be able to even get out of the car, we got special permission to park on the side of the track by the ambulance just so he could be there. I think of special moments of sitting with my dad and cheering from the car even when John was only in for brief moments and even getting to drive on the track one time, that was fun.

Me and my dad 1977
Of course the memories that I remember the most are from when he was sick. They are the most recent and when I was older. I am so grateful that I never saw my parents fight. They were divorced when I was very young and I'm sure they had disagreements and arguments but how grateful I am for them keeping us out of them, especially since my dad was not with us for much of my life. I am so glad that my mom made it a priority for us to see my dad every chance we had when he got sick. If she was going to Sacramento she made sure we were going too. We would often spend Friday night come home on Saturday and head back down on Sunday after church. I really appreciate the extra time my mom gave to us to strength that bond. My dad had lots of friends and his family was close by in Sacramento so he had quite a few visitors that would come and go.
My dad so handsome even with wild hair.
I remember the times that we would have to visit him in the hospital and how hard that was for me. I was young and I didn't really understand a lot of what was going on around me. Sometimes I would take the chance to just lay down next to my dad and just be there, sometimes that is all I could do. For me the hardest part was seeing my dad go from strong to slowly getting weaker and weaker. He lived in a townhouse the last couple of years of his life and so it went from being able to go up and down the stairs easily to having a hospital room in the living room downstairs. I think now that was the hardest part was seeing someone I used to run and play with not being able to use the right side of his body. I remember Christmas of 1990 my dad gave me a dual cassette stereo that had plugs to hook up a cd player and a 35mm Vivitar camera, I thought I was so cool. I still have those things just as simply a reminder, but of course it is not the things that I cherish but moments, the time, the love that everyone felt from him.
My dad working at Value Giant.
Near the end of his life in January 1991 someone had come for a visit and the Christmas tree was still up and decorated they told my dad's girlfriend that she should take it down cause Christmas was over. She told them no that Ken's favorite holiday was Christmas and so she was leaving it up as long as she could. When the same person came for a visit on February 23rd they told her that the tree was now dying and it was time to take it down. My dad was in a coma by this time and they said, Ken won't notice if the tree is there or not. So she took down the tree on a Saturday and on Monday my dad passed away. We tease now that in his mind he said, "if the tree goes I go." I like that because that is exactly the way he would have said it too. I remember that Monday I stayed home from school cause I wasn't feeling good that morning, that afternoon Robert and I were playing the Nintendo secretly in the back bedroom. My mom came into talk to us and told us that dad had passed, I don't remember how I felt at the moment but I know I ran out of the house and went to my friend Ali's. Maybe I thought if I left then what she was saying wouldn't be true. We had been prepared for the moment for a long time we had more time than we had hoped for with my dad but nothing prepares you for death. Even with the anticipation there was still the stinging hurt that he was now gone. I remember that night getting a few moments in the living room by myself and just touching his head and how cold it was. I was grateful for it though it gave me the closure that I needed. It has definitely been the gospel that has strenghtned me when times have been tough. It's hard when a parent isn't there for key moments and life changing experiences.

December 1990 right before he died.
Life today. As so many years have passed I truly am grateful I was able to build a relationship with my dad in the short time that we were on earth together. I know that he is needed on the other side and that one day I will see him again. What peace that brings to my heart and soul. It amazes me the connection that my son Dane has with my dad. Almost 2 years ago my mom brought me a box of things when she had come for a visit and inside was a bear that somehow I had ended up with, it was given to my dad when he was sick. Dane loves this bear in fact as I write this the bear is in need of repair and Dane is very sad that he can't have the bear with him at night. On my fridge I have a picture of my dad and one day when I was moving things around on the front of the fridge I realized I had never really talked to Dane about my dad. So I brought Dane over and I showed him the picture and said Dane this is my dad Ken and that his nickname was Butch. He promptly told me that he knew that and that it was his grandpa. I was a little shocked but thought maybe someone else had pointed it out to him. Soon after that he couldn't stop talking about his grandpa Butch. He would talk about how he used to play with grandpa and how he taught him golf and that his favorite color was blue and just plain weird things that he would just share randomly, but all things my dad loved. I don't remember the pre-existance but maybe they do golf there. I just know that Dane feels this incredible connection to him, it amazes me and brings me comfort as well. He even told us for awhile that his middle name was Butch. We would remind him that it is Michael but he woul tell us it was not. He wasn't giving it up so he said his name was Dane Michael Butch Hansen. Sometimes now he will just walk up to me and say mom I miss grandpa Butch. So we sit down and talk about it, what he misses the most and then I remind him that he will see him again but that grandpa Butch had to go live with Heavenly Father.
Cranium Crusade 2008
In the last couple of years I have felt the need to do something for brain cancer research and last year my friend Heather, who had a sister who passed away from a brain tumor as well found out they have a a brain cancer walk here in Seattle. Last year we walked but did not get to raise any money this year we want to walk and have others walk with us and raise money. It is the 2nd annual walk and we just found out that it will be on May 30th at Mercer Island HS again, so mark your calenders. We didn't get to raise money last year cause we found out about it too late but this year we want it to be different. This is new for us and so if you have any ideas on raising money or if you want to walk with us we would love it and could use the help, like I said we are new to this.

I am so glad that we have blogs now where we can just ramble on however we want cause it is our own little place in the world to do so. Thank you for all the family and friends who have been there for me now and through the last 18 years and have lended support in my time of need I truly know that you are angels sent my way.


Ali said...

Wow Amy, I can't believe it has been 18 years. I will always remember that day too. I loved reading all the things you wrote. It is awesome to hear what Dane has to say, and wonderful that he can feel that connection to Grandpa. I love you!

Ryan said...

I also remember the day I found out your Dad had passed away. I was in the 6th grade and my teacher knew that Robert and I were good friends and took Ricky Pirello and I aside during class and told us. I felt a great sadness although I didn't know your father much. I had memories of visiting him with Robert when he was sick. He was a kind man from what I remember. I remember not having the slightest idea about what to do or say to Robert about the situation. Then again I was only 11 at the time. A few years later Ben, Robert, and I talked about it one late night at Camp Winton. It was a life changing conversation for me. Robert emphasized to Ben and I to not complain about our fathers so much and just enjoy the fact that we still have them around. We each shed a few tears that night. I can't say I don't poke fun at my Dad every now and then, but whenever I feel I am taking him for granted I think back to that conversation the three of us had many years back and I try to enjoy the time with him the best I can. Amy, thanks so much for the post and the perspective.

- Ryan (Skinner)

Brenda Dickerson said...

Thank you for sharing with us your Dad. He must have been an awesome person, he created such an awesome daughter!

Hansen Family said...

How blessed I have been in my life to have such wonderful friends. I really believe that key people are put into your life and certain times. Thanks Ali for just being there, I will always remember that. I also remember a picture of us visiting my dad and taking a picture sitting in his hospital bed. Not sure where it is but I remember seeing it so long ago. I love you to Ali.
Ryan I'm actually glad to hear that Robert has talked about it to someone even if it was so long ago. We just don't talk about it, not sure why but it's amazing the things we can learn from life's experiences even if it is through someone else.
Brenda you are too kind. Thanks for being such an good friend, I already miss you.

Carrie said...

Thanks for sharing, I love blogs too, just because we get to see a different side of friends that we don't often talk about. I think Dane's relationship with your dad is so sweet!

I'm in on the walk! I will help in any way you need! :) A great cause, and I love that it is so dear to yours and Heather's hearts.

Ali Hawkins said...

Amy I loved this post! I really like that Dane has such a strong connection with him. My niece and nephew where much younger when there dad died (3 and 1) but they do alot of that stuff to. They are connected. I think that is sweet! I am happy to see that it is possible for someone to turn into such a great woman after going through such a truamatic event.

Heath694 said...

Amy, I'm glad you blogged about your dad. I remember you telling me these stories at the CC and I thought it was great to be able to swap stories. I think your dad looks very handsome and a lot like you. I bet he was an extraordinary man. I'm convinced we choose some of our difficulties in the preexistence and to know my sister chose this and your dad too, means that they are amazing people. How wonderful Dane feels a connection. How very wonderful. If you ever want to fix your bear take it to Build a Bear. I've had many a stuffed friend refilled with stuffing and sewn up there. They know how special those things are...not just toys. I'm so looking forward to May 30. Let's get raising money!! Go team "Lynch the Harris'!"

Betsey said...

What a wonderful man!! I loved reading your thoughts and memories. I'm so thankful Heavenly Father has blessed you to remember all these special times with your Dad and that you are able to teach Dane about his amazing posterity. I know your Dad is very proud of the woman you are today. Love you!!

staceygriff said...

I loved reading more about your dad and seeing more photo's of him. I've just seen the one on your fridge. I really appreciate this post and your honesty and openness. I would love to do the walk with you and Heather. Count me in. I think it's a great way to show your love to those that you lost and then respect to those that are suffering now. Loved this post.

Harris Family said...

Wow Amy- what a great tribute- You and Ryan Skinner make me cry. I cant wait to meet your dad someday. You are a good daughter and I am sure he is proud.

When we lived in Fair Oaks we would jog to the cemetary just a few blocks away and I would make robert sit and tell me stories. he thought I was creepy to want to got here and he said that his dad is not "there" but I liked to go and wanted to know more about him. We tried to find all the house that he lived in - Im so glad I lived in Cali to get a piece of history on the lionel harris fam.

Love you- Apes