early this morning, as we were sleeping, the phone rang.
it’s a sound we’ve heard all our lives, but over the past month or so it’s tone has changed. the feelings of joy and eager anticipation it once stirred have been replaced with anxiety and worry, especially when the ring comes at a time when most people are safely, soundly, asleep in their beds.
early this morning, as we were sleeping, the phone rang.
for all the years i’ve known him, pops has gotten up at 0-dark-thirty every morning, drank a cup of some black tar-like substance that he calls coffee, and ridden his bike around miramar lake a few times. from day one of april’s tryouts to rain’s last game of winterball, he has been out on the field at every practice and every softball game that april and rain have. pops has always been very active and generally healthy.
early this morning, as we were sleeping, the phone rang.
just as we feared, the news was not good. it was kim’s mom telling us dad was having trouble breathing and they were taking him to the hospital, again.
in the past 60 days he has taken more “bus” rides than anyone should in their entire lifetime.
i am scared for him. we all are. his body has already gone through trials that have taken the life right out of others.
when he was young, hollywood made smoking look cool. movie stars, celebrities, and all the “in” people were doing it. wanting to be one of the cool kids, he started smoking, at age 15. for decades he smoked the strongest cigarette available, camel brand unfiltered. when she was a little girl, kim would sneak into his room and throw packs of his cigarettes away. he would just buy more. incredibly, his 3 pack a day habit ended the day april was born. he just quit, cold turkey, and never touched another cigarette. good thing kim was so young when she had april :)
he is one of the 1-2 people out of every 100,000 that have contracted guillain–barré syndrome. it knocked him down, but not out.
he has previously survived 2 heart attacks, and now lives with an implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD).
all of this, and he was still leading a pretty normal life. resiliency is his middle name.
life has changed drastically for pops in the past 60 days.
as 2009 wound down so did his health. in all the years i had known him i never once saw him in pain. he is one tough hombre. his threshold for pain exceeds that of anyone else i know, which is why i began to worry when i noticed him staying at home almost every day and having difficulty walking. i’m not sure if it was our pleas, the memory of his mom whose own stubbornness prevented her from doing it and ultimately was the reason she had a fatal fall, or maybe it was simply the immense pain he was in, but he put his pride up on the shelf and began using a walker to help him get around. there’s no shame in accepting help, only in sinful pride.
that was november.
in mid december he received a diagnosis that would test the strongest of spirits, stage 4 prostate cancer.
those words came off the doctor’s tongue like a garrote.
pops said very little.
we visited him at his home later. tiny orange plastic bottles filled with life-sustaining chemical coctail littered his nightstand. they were a vibrant vision into a baneful future many of us will share.
2009 could not end fast enough, but as we waited for the ball to drop on new year’s eve our phone rang. on the other end of the line was kim’s mom. her frantic scattered thoughts barely permitted her to speak. a broken sentence advised us that dad was having another heart attack.
we rushed to their home and arrived just as the ambulance was preparing to take dad to the hospital. we followed, and waited.
our family rang in the new year together, near dad, in the icu lobby at ucsd medical center.
God allowed him to make it through that night. nearly a week would pass before the doctors allowed me to bring him home.
minutes after i dropped him off my phone rang. it was dad asking me to take him back to the hospital.
he had an echocardiogram done just before he was released that morning. a doctor read the results after we left the hospital and immediately called to request he come right back. we hurried back to the hospital, a blood clot in dad’s heart and the fear of God in mine. again they kept him a couple days.
the reasons are many, why i woke this morning fearful to answer my ringing phone.
we just returned home tonight, sunday, to hear that dad needs surgery tomorrow.
it’s a catch 22 roll of the dice. if he doesn’t have it, he may not survive much longer.
however, if he has the surgery, his weakened heart and body may give up under the strain.
he’s fought through so much already, but i know there is plenty more fight left in him.
i wish his heart could just be as strong as it once was.
i wish he could leave the hospital.
i wish this was all just a bad dream.
we pray that he is still strong enough to make it through this.
we are all not ready to lose him.
we never will be.
get well and come home soon pops.
tomorrow and, God willing, the days that follow, we will be by dad’s side. it is the least we can do for him. during this trying time our blog may be silent for a while. we appreciate the support you have all given us. i know many of you will be praying for pops with us, so i will try to keep you posted.
due to the h1n1 virus the hospital is not allowing anyone under 14 to go in. that means rain is unable to see grandpa. she wrote this note to him:
dear grandpa, you should know that i loved when you would play war with me and you would always win. mostly. it was fun when i would sit with you on your bed and watch ncis and csi new york and cover my eyes in your shoulder when it was scary. i liked especially when you would watch me play softball and i would tell you about when i hit the ball really good. now you have to sit and look out a hospital window. i wish i could see you. curse the stupid h1n1! i should be able to see my favorite grandpa. get well soon grandpa. i love you! – rain
april is away right now and may not be able to come home, so she wrote this:
Steadfast, hardworking, ridiculously intelligent, and one of the funniest people I know, my grandpa has always been someone that I greatly admire and strive to be like. I have always been in awe of him. Many a day in my childhood I would sit with him in his squeaky old pink rocking recliner playing with his earlobe as he would rock back and forth. The small grandfather clock above the television would tick tock in the backround along with the gentle squeak of the rocker and my grandpa would answer the question on Jeopardy before Alex even finished the question. He was always right too. I knew I wanted to learn everything I could just so I could be half as smart, or even smarter, (Still not smarter. Slowly working on it.) He had a large collection of animal encyclopedias, huge binders with slick fold out pages on snow leopards, lizards, bears, you name it animal, fish or insect it was probably in there. I would sit and thumb through them reading all animal facts and oogling all the amazing pictures. He would read them with me sometimes and throw in his own two cents on what he heard about the animals. My grandpa also had a set of dinosaur books which I loved. I read and memorized all the scientific names for the dinosaurs, drew pictures of them, and played in the backyard digging up dinosaur bones. I wanted very much to become a paleontologist and he fed my interests in the sweetest ways. My grandpa would take me to the museums in balboa park when they had dinosaur exhibits and he would always take me to the Wild Animal Park when they had dino mountain, which was a trail where they placed animatronics of all the different dinosaurs, they moved, roared, and hatched baby eggs. He would read the signs to me and talk to me about the dinosaurs as we walked hand in hand around the park. He always supports me and my interests no matter what they are, driving me to school and practice for soccer and softball. Both of which I hardly ever missed, my track record good, though not nearly as amazing as my grandpas who has never taken a sick day, and has never missed a day of work in his entire life. Though he never finished High School, (Joining the Navy after the first semester of his senior year) He still got his GED passing the test with flying colors without study and went about his Navy business fixing planes and radios. He was always handy with anything mechanical. He would work on cars and garage doors and just about anything that needed fixing, his large hands were always covered in some form of grease or another when he was in the garage. I was always with him, playing with my action figures or trying to be like him by building something with wood, or rather not so much building as hammering a nail into a scrap of pine and calling it a successful display of carpentry. I distinctly remember the creamy orange smelling goo that he would squirt out of an industrial sized tub which did an amazing job at cleaning the gunk from his hands. Though really the thing I loved most and most treasured moments of my childhood is just sitting on his lap in that squishy rocking chair while grandma quietly flitted about the kitchen. It was always warm and toasty in my grandpas house, the clock monotonously ticking and the television a soft buzz in the backround. Sometimes he even had a large popcorn tin and we ate carmelized and cheesy popcorn the crumbs getting all over us. Then he would put me to bed, tucking me in and playing a mix cd he made of slow ballads of his favorite old country songs. While I don’t necessarily enjoy country whenever I hear a song from that cd it strangely brings me right back to my childhood and my grandpa’s warm house and even warmer hands as he tucked me in with a “Goodnight Sweetheart” and I smile and feel at home.
i love you papa.
kim is having difficulty finding words right now. she quietly said “i love you dad. you are my hero.”
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oh my, you guys, as soon as i read your title "pops" my eyes began to water–that's what we call my dad at times. my prayers continue to be with your family. reading rain's note–the tears began to roll, then starting april's–the tears welled up too much that i couldn't finish, i need to go back and finish it. i used to dread the day i would be without my parents from a young age, i don't know why. reading this reminds me to be thankful for all the time we have together and to make the most of it–thank you for sharing.
I spent April and May at the hospital with my dad as he underwent 5 bypasses…my heart in my throat the whole time. Now my daughter's dad is in the hospital for a spinal cord injury and has been there two weeks. I feel for you and your entire family. I will be praying for all of those that take care of him and want you to know you are surrounded by many people praying for you. If you need anything…we are in La Jolla at the hospital often and can bring you anything you need. God bless.
Dave, Kimi and the rest of the fam, this is such a hard and trying time for you all, and as i read the post and see teh words all you have expressed for him, my heart goes out to you ALL!!! I know what its like to go through a time like this and I had to witness the whole thing from beginning to end. Stay strong and keep your spirits hig as hard as that may seem. God knows what your going through and will continue to be with you all through this time. We are always praying for you guys and are on our hearts non stop. I wish we lived closer to each other cause Jen and I and the kids would be over there with you guys helping out with whatever you need, even if that means a hug and someone to talk to. WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!!
We will definitely continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers. This was so beautifully written. I pray that God just pours out His love and comfort for you and your family during this difficult time. *hugs*
Such a beautifully written post for what sounds like an amazing amazing person. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time – sending lots of love and positive vibes your way.
My families thoughts and prayers go out to yours. I wish you all strength and positive energy during these times.
….words are not coming to me right now. I've been in your shoes. Know that you're now in my heart and prayers through this..
praying for you and your family
My prayers go out to your family. Love and comfort to you.
Praying for Kim's dad and your entire family. The waiting is tough, the fear of those phone calls is awful. I'm sorry! Love him, love him, and love him some more!
We are so sorry to hear of your health problems the last little while. I guess we are all plagued with them. We just want you to know that you have een in our prayers and hope that all goes well with your surgery. I"m so glad that Kim has kept us up to date on your family. E-mail is wonderful when we are so far apart.
Love, Shirlee and Gary
I wish I had words to comfort you. I feel so extremely blessed that you took this time to share a part of him with us. What an incredible man, father, and grandfather. My heart hurts for you, you have my continued prayers and love.
Kim, David, All the Family (Ross & Baxter)… Your dad is someone who has always amazed me! Stern and tough, but with a smile and gentleness that would melt away your fears. I used to laugh with amazement how he would ride 10 miles around Miramar Lake every day and then come home and have a big helping of sausage! I remember talking with him about blue grass music when I first found Allison Krause. Please tell him that I love him and am praying for him! I am praying for all of you! All my love!
Think of you all and I will be praying!!
Wow David. I am literally sitting here barely able to type through the tears.
I am so sorry that you and the family are going through this…
You guys are at the very center of our prayers bro.
This is such a touching post. Wow it really shows in all your words that you love your dad very much. He seems like such a tough guy, I know and feel that he will be back and riding and doing what he loves to do soon! Our prayers are with your dad and your family.
I'm crying right now. My Gpa was the WORLD to me! My everything. I send hugs to you all. And to pops.
I'm so sorry to hear about Don. Please say hello to him for me. Our prayers are with at this time.
Hi Kim,David and family,
Mom is with me and read to her the thoughts you all left here on your blog. She is really worried about Donald, and would like to talk with him is there a number she can call?
Was Uncle Donald operated on today and was everything ok? He is certainly remembered in our thoughts and prayers. We hope that he made it through surgery. Please keep us updated on his progress.
Love to you all,
Barb and Juanita
Wow. Such amazing words.
Hello – My name is Susan. Rene and I are dear friends of your Dad's – – You could call us coffee and lake buddies! We hadn't heard from Don and wanted him to reply to our emails – but he did only once, and didn't provide us with much to go on. It sounded bad back then – and he did not keep us posted. Thank you for sharing with us what is happening with him.
Please tell Don we are praying & pulling for him! We are very sorry to hear all of this bad news. We miss him – the lake & coffee times are just not the same!!
Please do keep us posted – I am in MN currently, or I would come to visit him in the hospital. Give Don our best & a big hug!
Best Regards & Wishes,
Susan & Rene
i will keep Pops in my prayers.
Stay strong for him! That's the best you can do for now. I'm sending some healing & comforting thoughts for your entire family.
What an exceptional and strong man your pops is. Such a blessing he must be. Our prayers and thoughts are with him and your family for a speedy recovery, and reading about all he's been through I have faith that he will.
My heart aches for you all right now. I teared up reading what your girls wrote and knowing how awful this must be for all of you, especially Kim. I will keep praying for you all that he recovers quickly and that no matter the outcome your family will have peace. Much love to all of you.
I'm tearing, heartbroken. I'm reading your post and hoping I'm in a fiction novel. I am so sorry for pop and for all of you who need to be strong by his side. I'm sending prayers to you all. Big (((HUGS)))
:( I'm sooooo sorry guys. I know that these are just words and I feel helpless to help but know that you guys are in our hearts and prayers and if you do need ANYTHING you can call on us ANYTIME!
xo, Becka and Nate
Ohanas!!!! Just wishing you all STRENGTH through this tough time. My eyes are filled with tears, because I know from experience, what you guys are going through. Chanting [praying in our religion] for ALL of you. And THANK YOU for sharing such a BEAUTIFUL story with us ALL>
MANY MANY PRAYERS…MUCH MUCH LOVE…coming to you guys.
my thoughts and prayers are with your family.
I AM FLUMMOXED TO HEAR YOUR FATHER IS SO SICK. WHEN I WAS IN SAN DIEGO TAKING CARE OF MY FATHER , DON WAS SUCH A RAY OF SUNSHINE IN OUR LIVES. HE WOULD COME OVER AND CHAT WITH ME AND DAD, AND I ALWAYS FELT CHEERFUL WHEN HE LEFT TO GO WALK. PLEASE E MAIL ME AND TELL ME ALL IS WELL NOW.
I'm so sorry to hear about this awful news. :( I'll keep your family in prayers.
You know I mean it when I say I'm praying for you guys..
Please let me know if there is anything the Tolson's can do for you.. :(
I cried..i couldn't help it. We are praying for your father Kim. May your family be blessed with God's greatest gifts during this tough time.
I am thinking about and praying for all of you.
Prayers to you all. Know that you are surrounded by love in this difficult time.
my thoughts and prayers are with you all right now.. reading your words I know "Pops" is a fighter and he wont give up easily..and neither will you guys.. stay strong.. stay positive. keep us posted.
Praying in Jersey.
I will keep your family in prayer. All of you.
Such beautiful, touching words.. I'm so sorry that you and your family are having to go through this. You guys are in my thoughts. ♥
Sending lots of good love your way. Thinking of you.
Dear Baxter Ohana, we are keeping you in our thoughts.
We are thinking of you all during these tough times… big virtual hugs to you!
My heart goes out to you and the family. Following you on twitter i know how many times you all have been back and forth to the hospital and it must be so difficult each and every time. I will continue to keep Kims dad in my prayers!
I've been off the radar a while and just seeing this news. This update was a tough read, and I hope it is of comfort to know that I, and everyone else out there, are thinking of you and your family during this time. Take time for yourself now, and be well.
I'm so sorry. Rain's words were very sweet.
Hey David and Ohana, you all are in our thoughts and prayers. If you need someone to talk with just give me a call. We are praying for the man your family calls "pops" and hope he is able to make it through one more fight!
[…] after our anniversary we were told that kim’s dad, who had battling cancer and an ever weakening heart, was given only weeks to live. we literally […]
Bless you Don. May you go with God.
WOW. This brought me to tears. Your family is full of amazing writers. So touching. May your pop rest in peace.