A TALE OF TWO TOMS

We asked Tom Nickler for permission to repost his beautiful story of coming home to see his Dad one more time.  Coming home, any time, is the vision and mission of HMI.  If you lived here in the past, if you love Emporium and Cameron County, if you still live there, you are a hometown mentor.

Thank you for this awesome picture in words, Tom.

 

By Thomas Nickler

     Thinking about my dad this morning as I was preparing information for his final tax return. Yes, even after death one must pay their taxes.
     My thoughts traveled back to last November 2020. I had not physically seen my dad since September 2019. We talked several times a week via phone but not quite the same as actually seeing one another, having a chat and a hug. It became impossible to see him after March 2020.
     Early September 2020, I decided to make a trip to Emporium, PA and visit my dad. Called the assisted living facility and talked with them about what the current PA rules were for the virus.
     At that time, those living in this facility were not even permitted to go outside. They were confined to their rooms for everything except a relaxation on group meals. Not much of a life for a man who was 99 years old and totally independent two years prior.
     I informed the staff of my planned trip in early November and wanted cooperation to be able to see my dad and take him out for a ride. They were excellent in helping. A separate room was set up for us to meet and talk. I took him for a three hour ride, in my truck, up into the hills of Cameron County.
     The day we took the ride was miserable. Rain, sleet and snow flurries. Asked him if he still wanted to go and he was already dressed for the weather.
     We travelled through an area called Salt Run. We turned onto a winding dirt/mud road up through Wheatfield Hollow and to the top of Salt Run. On the way to the top we passed by the area my dad killed a beautiful 8 point buck. He still remembers the exact spot he first saw that deer.
     We passed the Emporium Water Company reservoir that we have passed countless times hunting this area. We saw a nice old buck cross the road. A small flock of turkeys scurried through a corn filed to avoid us. It was a place my dad hunted and fished with his dad and uncles.
     It is the same place my dad, my brother and I hunted and fished with our grandfather and dad’s uncles. It is the place my dad and I spent time together on the last time he hunted.
     Except for my brother those family members are now all gone.
     We had a great day traveling through areas we have hiked countless times and still remember every ridge, valley and tree.
     At one point dad asked me where those big pines were we use to meet for lunch when out hunting. Those trees still exist. We often separated when hunting but always met for lunch at a certain location we all knew. The big pines were one of those spots.
     We had many camp fires at this spot on a cold winter day of hunting. Sandwiches were consumed which dad made early in the morning before we were even out of bed. He always used butter on his sandwiches.
     He would ask, “Do you want butter on your bologna sandwich?” It did not matter what your answer was, you got butter.
     There was always a Mounds candy bar in our brown lunch sack. He loved Mounds.
     There was always something to drink but no plastic water bottles in those days. Many times hot coffee in a thermos.
     Now, I will travel those areas alone for a few more years but those memories will always remain.
     When we returned to the facility, he was tired but enjoyed the day.
     We were not supposed to hug but broke all the rules and did anyway.
     Told him I would spend some time the next morning with him before heading back to Florida. Always had that thought this may be the last time I see him.
     That thought unfortunately came true this time.
     Yesterday my wife and I heard a morning news reporter lament about not be able to hug her daughter at the daughter’s wedding because of the virus. We both thought how sad a comment and how stupid we are being.
     My suggestion is you better take the limited time one has left to visit you elderly parents.
     Take time to hug a family member. Stop listening to every new fear related to this virus and begin to enjoy life.
     Start living and stop using the words new normal. These times are not normal and we had better realize it will be a social disaster to except this as normal for the future.
     Thankfully, my trip in November took place because there will be no more chats or rides from now on with dad.

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