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Category: Dad (page 1 of 2)

My father, Robert A. Darrow, who passed away June 27th, 2005

Remembering Dad

My father died 8 years ago today, a little after 10am. I knew then that life will never be the same, and I have been right.

But that’s not a bad thing. And it’s not an entirely good thing either.

Life goes on. The pain of his death, for me, is gone. I have accepted it. Nevertheless, there is a feeling of missing that is neither painful nor comfortable, but something in between… a resolution that this is just the way life goes… chipping away at us day by day. Giving and taking.

I like the mountain tops much more than the valleys. But I have to admit I learn so much more in the valleys.

Father’s Day 2010

The last time I saw my father was around Father’s Day 2005. He and I watched my tribute to him together. He died June 27th, 2005, succumbing to Prostate Cancer.

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Hey, Dad…

What’s it like in a place with no time? Do you have any since that it’s been 3 years since you left this world at 10:00am?

I still miss you. Just so you know.

I love you, and my memories of you.

Father’s Day with No Father

I miss my dad.

It was three years ago that I saw my dad for the last time. I am grateful to God that I had that last opportunity to spend my Father’s Day 2005 with him, and to be able to sit beside him as we watched along with the family my tribute video — a short story of his life in music, pictures and video clips.

Since that time, I am aware of the seeming finality of death, through the many, countless events I have wanted to share with my dad over the phone, or via e-mail; the new technologies that I have acquired or learned; or the accomplishments of my children about which I would love to brag, as if I had anything at all to do with their skills and knowledge.

51 years ago, I was born to my mother and him on Father’s Day… my actual birthday falls on a Monday (tomorrow) this year. But Father’s Days are not what they used to be. I now own the coffee mugs and some of the other gifts that were mailed to him for this occasion, and I remember him with each cupful of my favorite morning beverage…

My uncle Willis died just a few weeks before him that year, then my sister Jan just over two years later, then my dear brother-in-law Scott a couple of months ago. Joanne, my surviving sister, joined my brother and I at my mother’s house for her 80th birthday last Tuesday, and as we rode to our favorite childhood Christian Family Camp Mount Hermon — just the four of us — I commented about how these four of us were now “the whole family.”

It seemed small.

And through circumstances no one wants to face, and with a bit of irony, I am the only married Darrow child. And I am grateful to God for the many graces that have come come my way in that arena.

I, for one,
intend to
just go back
to blogging
the way I
did before
Wednesday, in celebration of what would have been Joanne and Scott’s 31st anniversary, we went to San Francisco on what turned out to be the most beautiful San Francisco day I can ever remember. It was a glorious family time with my mom and sister. Mom, at 80, can walk faster and with more energy than many 35 year olds I know.

We talked about our losses over the last three years, and decided that those heavenly incarnations of those we lost would be very disappointed to find out we didn’t get back to our lives and live them richly with every bit of the personality they knew here on earth, so I, for one, intend to just go back to blogging the way I did before: just as corny, irreverent and playful as I have been — with all due respect to those who have passed on.

Living is pretty nice, after all. I intend to enjoy it.

2 Years Gone

Robert Darrow, Age 5Dad left this earth 2 years ago today. While it is something one can come to accept, even get used to for the most part, it has been a part of life I would have preferred not to experience.

Then again, it has changed me.

My dad was a rare, good soul, and if you’d care to learn about him, his childhood, his marriage and family life, his solid work ethic and spirituality, take a few moments and watch the tribute video I made for him in 2005 while he was still living.

To comply with YouTube’s imposed time limitations, I have split the whole 35 minutes into six parts which can be viewed in sequence, starting with Part 1, here. If you have never seen it, I encourage you to watch this first part and see if you don’t get drawn in.

As for Mom, it was a poignant day for her, today, but she’s doing well. She’s found a way to live life again, and does what a day demands — missing Bob, the whole time.

Tonight I will go to Pizza Port and toast the memory of my father with a beer, as I did the day he died. Why beer? Because one of the fondest memories I have of me and my dad was the day he and I drank beers together for the first time, in Solvang, CA. Growing up in a conservative Christian home, I could never have imagined such an event, but truly good people do grow and change, and as my parents got older, they learned to throw off the shackles of religion and to relax and enjoy their God-given freedoms.

These are big moments to some of us.

Memories of Dad

Dad's Last Birthday - 77I’ll never understand how people forget birthdays.

Then there are some very intimidating folks who remember everything. Every event. Every Birthday. Every anniversary. Commemorating them with a card in the mail. Several days prior. My mom is intimidating that way. She doesn’t mean to be. She just loves touching people’s lives. She can’t help it if she’s just better at it than most people. It’s her gift, and she does it with deep feeling and love. And a life-long consistency.

Today, I am sobered by my mother’s loss of her dearest friend in the world. My dad. His birthday would be on this day, if he hadn’t stopped having birthdays. And I am sobered by the idea that we all stop having birthdays, eventually.

I loved
my father
I loved my father. And I love his memory.

April 12th, for my family and me, will always be his day — even if he’s no longer physically around. He would have been 79 today, if he had lived.

This day is also an anniversary of another memory that I wish could stay fresh in my mind as the happiest of days, but that soon I will want to forget ever happened.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven… –Ecclesiastes 3:1

On Becoming Mortal

I became mortal a year ago today.

Prior to that, and unknown to those around me, including family, I was truly superhuman. Many of my unearthly powers are still with me: I can balance rocks, vanish coins and then retrieve them from the ears of astonished children, and move oil-impregnated globs of colored pigment on canvas substrates in an arrangement that looks just like someone you know. No, seriously!

Becoming mortal was a painful and slow process, and to this day, I am still realizing the intrensic limitations of my new condition.

Becoming
mortal
is knowing
you’re
slowly
dying
when you’re
not even
sick.
First there was a jolt I could feel both in my head and deep in my soul. Somewhere, Someone with Omnipotence had this shocking initiation delivered to me through—get this—an ordinary cell-phone. It was precisely at 10:15am on June 27, 2005 that my very own mother unwittingly delivered the anesthetizing frequency, apparently traveling within the soundwaves of the phrase, “Your father passed at 10:00am.”

I am sure she did not know that at the same moment I was being stripped of the immortality with which I had shrouded myself for as long as I could remember, which, to me was forever.

Much of the rest of the phone call is a blur. But soon a pressure built up behind my eyes causing an overflow of water.

And what followed in a day in which my whole body numbed was the realization that I was dying. That I am not going to live on forever. That, in fact, if I live as long as my father did, I have only 27 years left. That’s just 1400 weekends.

Becoming mortal is knowing you’re slowly dying when you’re not even sick.

And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Just a Monday

Pizza Port AleMy wife caught me lying in bed staring at the ceiling this morning.

“What are you thinking about right now?”

So I told her. I was thinking that one year ago on a Monday just like today, I got a phone call from my mom to tell me my dad had died. Well, she used a euphemism. She said he passed at 10:00am.

It was actually a year ago tomorrow, June 27th, but the date doesn’t feel quite like this Monday does. It was that Monday, that had followed a weekend—as they all do—that changed my life forever. And this very Monday brings back some of those feelings.

Later, in an annual tradition I hope never will end, I will go to the local micro-brewery and make a toast to my father as I did that day. One of my fondest memories is sipping an ice-cold, hand-crafted beer with my dad.

I hope there is beer in Heaven.

“Here’s to you Dad.”

Read my description of that day in my entry A Day of Celebration.

There are many euphemisms for death: pass away, pass on, final rest, crossing the great boa… Many of us Christians refer to death as a Homegoing, when our spirits are finally home with our Heavenly Father. My dad was sure of his place in eternity.

We’ll see each other again.

Dad’s Last Birthday

Click to watch a video of the morning of April 12, 2005It’s interesting to me that the beginning of life and the end of it have so many similarities. Beyond the obvious, that at both ends of the timeline you need the care of someone who loves you to help you make the transition, there is also the curious fact that references to time are usually about days, weeks or months.

And then, eventually, you start referring to years: It’s been six weeks… It’s been 7 months… It’s been a year…

My father’s birthday is today. Or rather was. He’d have been 78 today. After today, I suppose I will stop writing about his birthdays. I dunno. But this is the first birthday he hasn’t had since he was born in 1928.

April 12th has always been a part of my life as a special day—a day starting out with music, leading into a festive breakfast that my mom cooked, followed by a new tie, new socks, or a wooden something for Dad.

A year ago today was my father’s last birthday. It started out just like every birthday of his that I have been there to witness, and as every birthday ever started in our home. Dad got roused out of bed to the sound of the loud, joyful melody of the famous Happy Birthday song everyone in this country is familiar with. My mom, nearing 77 at the time, still plays piano with great flare and enthusiasm, and, as she always did for birthdays, got up early to wake the birthday boy with the only loud piano music you’d ever want to hear that early in the morning. She traditionally played the piano with great gusto, repeating it over and over until everyone was up and in the room, rubbing their eyes and singing loudly to the honoree.

This time, I was there to video tape it. I had reason to believe, despite hope, that this was my father’s last birthday (that can be a real party killer if you think about it too much).

I’m pretty sure he knew it too.

He did pass away 2.5 months later.

Observation: You stand at the Card Rack a little longer than ever before when you believe you’re picking out someone’s last birthday card.

Now, I don’t know how long the Welcome Banquet for New Arrivals lasts in Heaven… I suspect it’s a long time, given that time and space are so different there… So all I can do is hope that if it’s still going on, Someone remembers to get a really goofy party hat for Robert Darrow, whose earthly birthday was April 12th.

He’d wear it, too!

And if I could put in a request to the Host, it would be that he could be excused from the table for a few moments, and run outside and do a Phoon in front of the Pearly Gates.

He’d do it, too! [Link]

I’ll be checking my e-mail for the digital photo from Heaven, all day.

Here’s a little video of a small portion of my Dad’s Last Birthday, complete with the music, our own traditional Happy Birthday variations, and his reading of my last card to him.

I’ll always love you Dad. You were a great man!

Time Gone By

It was 6 months ago today, at this very hour, that I had just heard that my father had died.

My cellphone rang at 10:15am, and when I went to pick it up, Caller ID revealed that the call was from Mom&Dad—as I stored it in my contacts list. I remember the hint of a sense of dread when I saw who it was. For about the last year I had been wondering every time I saw Mom&Dad on my cellphone if this was the call. I had seen my dad’s condition just eight days earlier, and so knew that call would be coming soon.

Still, nothing really prepares you for the reality of it.

“Hello, Mom…” I had gotten used to addressing only her when a Mom&Dad call came in since my dad had become so weak in the last months.

“This is the call you didn’t want to get,” she began. I could hear the muffled tone in her voice, a carefully gentle, quiet statement that was at once matter-of-fact and how-do-you-say-a-sentence-like-this. She had already been crying and had collected herself, yet she was far from trying to be strong.

That began the day my dad died, six months ago. It was a day I will never forget for its pure surrealness, soft-focus peripheral vision, echoing sound and buzzing numbness. It was a day that changed my life. Unlike at any time ever before, I became fully mortal, and realized just how my days were numbered—and how few I have left.

Last night I sat alone and watched the video/documentary of my dad’s life that I made for him.

I cried more tears watching it this time than I ever have.

I miss that guy. I really do.

Hands

I just got through reading a great article by an animator I have never met, Ward Jenkins—I stumbled on his blog through some art connection, and through his blog also found a blog of his wife Andrea’s doing. They are both on my regular-reads list. The title of his piece today is Meeting Giants where he relates well a touching story of getting to meet a couple of old animators—two of the Disney’s famed Nine Old Men—who were doing a signing at a place near him.

It was my turn. I walked up to Frank and shook his hand. That hand. The hand that gave birth to many inspiring characters, many incredible scenes. The hand that has drawn perhaps millions of drawings, each one a small birth of personality and life. The hand that has moved millions, perhaps even billions, on this planet to tears, to laughter, to sorrow, to pain, to wonderment, to exhilaration, to joy, to love. I shook that hand and time stood still for me. In this frozen moment, I wanted to be some kind of conduit where all his experiences and knowledge of the craft somehow channeled into me. Oh, if only. If only I could gather all his thoughts and feelings about animation, even the anguish and hardships that seems to be so evident of the art-form, and suddenly become this new creation myself, the Tenth Old Man, or something.

It reminded me of how I always look at hands.

Some hands do not capture my attention for long. Others draw me in. Few and far between are pretty hands, in my opinion, but many hands are interesting. I, too, place great importance on the hands of talented people. Whenever I am in the presence of great artists, I always look at their hands. If they are particularly famous, and “made it” a long time ago, and have been living in fabulous wealth for several decades, however, I look at my feet. But that’s another story.

My three-best-friends-ever all make their living with their hands… well I suppose most do. I mean, my good friend Celine Dion makes her living with her voice, but she still does that chest-pounding thing with her hands. Anyway…

Morgan Weistling is great painter. His hands look no different than anyone else’s, but the control they have is amazing to me.

Brock Meeks is an amazing fellow. He decided he wanted to be a writer about 15 years ago, and with no formal education or great grades in English or writing, went to the library and got books on writing, and made himself a writer. He’s now one of the top writers at MSNBC.com. Same thing with photography. He wanted to become a better photographer, so he got books (and some good camera equipment) and dang if he didn’t turn into a world class photographer.

Then there’s my high school best friend, Rick Gerber, who’s a magician. Was in high school, and still is, 30 years later. Full-time! You can’t help but watch his hands. The things he does with coins, cards, scarves, sticks, napkins and lovely assistants will make you sure that his hands are truly magic.

We always look at the hands.

But the hands are just a tool. An extention of the mind. If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the hands are the vehicle of experience. You don’t look at a Frank Lloyd Wright home and then stare at his saw. There’s just too much more inside the man.

Ward Jenkins reflects that the old animator gave him a distilled solution to being successful as an animator

OBSERVE EVERYTHING
COMMUNICATE WELL
DRAW, DRAW, DRAW

You can substitue your own fundamental skill for Draw, but that’s really the heart of excellence isn’t it? Observe everything. Communicate Well. Draw, Draw, Draw.

See, it’s drawing—the most fundamental element of art—that is the most critical element of all great art. New art students do not appreciate how critical to their future works is the fundamental regimen of drawing.

Drawing makes you observe, and observing makes you see better, and seeing is what makes the artist. Not the hands.

Seeing makes the great writer, not the hands.

Seeing makes the great magician, not— well, maybe that doesn’t work. But you get my point.

My father was Salesman of the Year in various companies he worked for, a pattern that started in the early 1950s. He was not your typical salesman. He was your friend. My dad was the living example of applying the Old Animator’s Advice to his profession as a salesman. The drawing my father did was in studying the client, finding out their technical needs and communicating with his own companies production teams and engineers what the client wanted and building detailed proposals for the other company’s engineers to peruse.

At my father’s Memorial Service, a gentleman named Don Baumann came walking up the aisle to an open mic and told the audience about the day Bob Darrow came to work for him. Don was my dad’s new boss. Don found out that day that my father was the replacement for someone they fired. The company hired my dad to work under Don without telling Don. And the man they fired? He was a very close friend of Don’s.

“Bob, I don’t think you’re going to make it here,” Don told his new hire that day.

My dad heard similar slams over the next few months as his boss wondered why my dad never turned in Expense Reports—the expected evidence of wining and dining clients, taking them to clubs and dinners and golfing.

My dad was busy drawing.

“Bob, I don’t think you’re going to make it here…”

At the end of the year, my dad outsold everyone in the company and remained the top salesman for his many years there. In short order the company restructured their sales procedures to model my dad’s methods. Everyone was required to get to know the clients’ needs, build solid proposals, observe and communicate.

My dad was fond of a phrase

Listen to Understand, Not to Respond

Still… I miss his hands.

DVD of Robert A. Darrow Tribute Video

I am making the DVD of my father’s Tribute Video available for anyone to buy. All proceeds will be donated to Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center in the name of the purchaser. A CD of the audio of the service is also available, with the audio playable in home computers and most home DVD players (it does not play the video on a home DVD player, but a Quicktime video of the Tribute is included on the disc, also playable in a computer).

For more information, click here or click the DVD cover in the sidebar at right.

Something about this day…

It’s been bugging me ever since I saw the date on my computer…

What is today? Am I late for something? Did I miss an appointment? Why does the 27th make me feel a little icky inside?

Then a few moments ago, my sister Joanne called from Colorado Springs to see how I was doing and chat a little, and she mentioned. “…yeah, it was actually a month ago today, actually.”

We were talking about Dad.

I cannot believe how many times in the last 30 days I have thought impulsively, Oh, I’ve gotta show this to Dad… oh yeah, I can’t. He’s gone. or I gotta call Dad and tell him… oh yeah, I can’t. He’s gone.

I suppose accepting death is about getting to where you don’t have those thoughts. So, I suppose I will never accept his death.

If it were all up to me—and yes, we’re all grateful I am not—I would have him back, cancer free.

Dad, if they have Internet up there: I miss you.

Mug Shot

Grandfather MugThe first thing I inherited from my late father (which is kinda funny to say, since it has a double meaning, in his case) was this mug. My mom gave it to me when Teresa and I were up there for his service. Well, not at the service, but before we left a couple of days later.

She has been gingerly clearing things out of the house that are ‘not really hers.’ This was my father’s and I don’t know who gave it to him… but I am the most recent grandfather in the Darrow line, so she thought it would be nice for me to have it.

I have had coffee out of it nearly every day since I got it home. I don’t think I’m that sentimental, but I would have been very disappointed if TSA had broken it inspecting my luggage at the airport.

Mom has begun the long, probably wrenching process of deciding what to keep, what to toss or give away; getting rid of things that were my dad’s of which she has no interest.

She asked a couple of other women that have been where she is, “When did you start getting rid of things that were his?”

One started the next day, another a week later. I told my mom that it’s got to be different for everyone, and that it was fine with me if she started right away.

“Dad’s life is done, Mom,” I told her. “It is now your life to live, and you should make your home the way you want it.”

She thanked me.

Said and Done

My Father’s Service

I think that very few people entertain the idea of purposely planting themselves in a potentially emotionally wrenching situation, which is why I am so pleased that about 200–250 people showed up for my father’s memorial service.

No body wants to go to a funeral or memorial service. But we had friends and relatives from several states—even Calgary, Alberta Canada—come to Cupertino for my father’s Memorial Celebration.

What’s odd to realize is how, a full two weeks after my father’s death, I have only partially grasped the reality of it. His passing made total sense given what I saw when I visited on Father’s Day. It was a surprise that he was gone only eight days later—I knew he was in bad shape, in fact I knew he was dying—but it never resonated with my sense of truth that he would be permanently gone the following Monday.

When Teresa and I left two days after Father’s Day, I took a few moments alone with Dad and told him several things that, even now, bring back that brick-of-a-lump in my throat that I tried to talk past as I spoke to my dad for what I knew would be the last time in person. I didn’t want him to see the tears streaming down both cheeks, or see a look in my eyes that said “I know you’re dying” but it was clear that if I was even going to get the words out—and I needed to—things were just going to have to be that real.

I told him that this was a Real Good-bye. “I know I probably won’t see you again, Dad, this side of Heaven,” I stammered. I paused to let the brick shrink back a bit. He looked at me and nodded. He was hearing and understanding all that was being said—and not being said—but forming small phrases took a tremendous amount of energy for him. He remained silent.

I told him “Thank you.” That was all that came out for a time.

How do you thank your father adequately for a lifetime of love and grace? There are no adequate words. “Thank you for loving me the way you did,” I repeated.

I held his hand and told him that I was pleased that we had nothing left undone or unsaid; that we had cleared the books long ago, and I would always be at peace with his passing, and would never regret anything in our relationship, or wish I had said something more.

Then I kissed him on the lips, put my hand on the side of his face and pressed his cheek against my own, streaked with tears. When I stood back up, he took as deep a breath as he could and said in a weak voice “I love you, David.”

I told him, “I love you, too, Dad. I’ll see you again.” And I turned and walked out the door.

The service started fifteen minutes late, which, though unplanned to be that late, seems in retrospect to be appropriate since my dad was nearly always “time-flexible”—a euphemism for “late.”

John played some introductory music on the piano, and then Brian Morgan, a pastor there at my father’s church, got up when John and I indicated we were ready to begin, and got the service started with a few words about my dad, his faith, and this particular occasion.

The Longest 5 Minutes

Then the pulpit was turned over to me. I had noted a few minutes earlier, when I was handed an Order of Service outline sheet, that there was a parenthetical “5 min.” next to my name, and I thought to myself, well, I will probably go over that with all I have planned to say about my father.

I think I talked for 35 minutes. Not sure.

Even the 35 minutes was not enough time to do justice to last words about my dad. I could have gone on for another half-hour, easily.

That led into a time of singing old hymns—something my father really enjoyed about church. It was a wonderful sound as all of us sang It Is Well; All Hail The Power; and Praise To The Lord.

Then my sister Jan’s 3 children Aaron, Annie and AJ got up and sang a trio with Aaron and AJ playing guitars and John on piano. It sounded great, especially when the three of them broke into 3-part harmony. It was a touching, beautiful tribute.

My sister Jan rose from her seat, was handed a microphone, and read a poem she wrote earlier in the year telling a warm story about something she learned from my mom about a cute little secret that was exchanged often between them as they went to sleep at night.

[Hear the poem from the service: I Won – MP3 file/1.7MB]

Then we had a time of “Open Mic” with a couple of men running wireless mics to people when they stood where they were to tell some memories of my dad.

It was great to hear how my father’s life had changed people. I learned some new things that day—things about my father’s life, integrity and love that I never knew.

Then I introduced my video, and we all sat and watched it together. It was an honor to be able to tell about my father’s life through pictures and sound. Unfortunately the service ended shortly after that, and everyone was left in a puddle, as my mom would put it.

Lots of Cake

From there, we left the sanctuary and entered Fellowship Hall for lots of cake and other refreshments, and talked with people I haven’t seen in years, even decades.

It was a very good day. It truly turned out to be a joyous occasion.

And having said and done what needed to be said and done, I feel a comforting sense of closure; a call to move on with my life. My father was proud of me. There is no more urging inside to make him proud. His life is over, and he loved me.

I am grateful.

I just wish he could have been there.

Watch My Tribute Video

Screenshot of video presentationIf you can see this post, the time has arrived (or perhaps passed) to view the video that is being presented at the church where we are honoring my father, Robert Allen Darrow. I have pre-set this post to become visible at the predicted moment we will be starting the video at the church for attendees to the Memorial Celebration.

At approximately 2:30pm today, Pacific/California time, we will be showing the 35-minute video of the Life of My Father. Join in, if you can. I have no idea if the servers at my host, Lunarpages, can keep up, but it’s worth a try.

Just click here.

Troubleshooting: If the file will not play, make sure you have Quicktime 7 or higher installed, and that you are not on a dial-up connection. Also, you may need to delete your browser cache, and possibly restart your computer. Other than that, I don’t believe I can help you. I’m sorry.

Enjoy along with us. The video is fairly high-quality, with stereo sound and narration — turn up your speakers, or put on a pair of headphones for good listening.

Feel free to download the file—instead, or afterward—to keep on your computer for later viewing. Repeated viewings will eat up my bandwidth allotment if you view it from my website.

Than you for your interest in my father. Your comments are welcome.

R.A. Darrow Celebration July 9, 2005 2PM

The date has been set for the Memorial Celebration for my father Robert A. Darrow, who passed away June 27th, 2005.

The service will begin at 2:00pm (maybe 2:03pm ;-)) on Saturday, July 9th, 2005
at Penninsula Bible Church Cupertino
(Sign at street says PBCC)
10601 N. Blaney Avenue
[click address for map in a new window]
Cupertino, CA 95041
Church phone: 408.366.6690

The service is intended to be a respectful, honoring celebration of the Life and the Homegoing of our beloved father, and the loving husband of my mother Doris. Expect a joyful time, filled with music and stories. If you have a particularly meaningful memory of my dad you would like others to know about, there will be a time of open mic for several to use for sharing. We look forward to your presense, physically or, of you cannot attend, in thought.

At my mother’s request, on behalf of Dad’s delight in fellowship with those he loved, immediately following the service we are going to continue the celebration with “Lots of Cake!” in the Fellowship Hall on the church premises. Other refreshments will also be served. Please plan to join us all for extended fellowship after the service.

See also “In Lieu of Flowers,” below.

Watch this space for updates.

In Lieu of Flowers…

My mother, Doris Darrow, has requested that in lieu of flowers, it would best honor Robert Darrow and his family if you would instead direct a donation to Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center.

An account has been established in the name of my father.

Ron Demolar, director and a long-time family friend whom we have known from the decades our family has vacationed and attended presentations there, expresses his deep gratitude for the graciousness of my mother in directing financial support to this organization from which we have enjoyed many years of quality family time.

Checks may be made out to Mount Hermon Association and mailed to the following address

Book of Remembrance for Robert A. Darrow
Mount Hermon Association, Inc.,
P.O. Box 413,
Mount Hermon, CA 95041

Credit Card donations may be made, also, beginning Monday July 4 you may call Jeannette Lange at Mount Hermon:
831.430.1237
and direct your contribution to the
“Book of Remembrance for Robert A. Darrow”

Click here for more info about Mount Hermon

My Dear Papa

My brother John, inventer of the soon-to-make-it into the lexicon “Phoon”—the word for a specific pose—has a wonderful “goodbye” on his website, Phoons.com, to our father.

His tribute begins on the Recent Additions page—which will likely change over time—but currently says:

My dear Papa —Thanks for your great love for God,
your family and others
~~ Apr 12, 1928 – June 27, 2005 ~~

It is a collection of all of the Phoons my father posed for.

That we know of. 😉

Life Goes On

One day after my father’s “promotion” (believe it or not, he now holds an office higher than the Pope) my sister Jan and her husband Dan are celebrating their 30th Wedding Anniversary.

They might like to hear from you, if you feel like congratulating them.

Keep going strong, you two! Congratulations!

A Day of Celebration

Yesterday goes on record as one of the strangest-feeling days of my life. Over all, it was a very good day. Full of good memories, tears, phone calls to family. My dad’s passing yesterday was only a surprise in the sense that we didn’t know when it would come, but we were praying that it would be soon.

Cancer had occupied too much of various parts of his body, and we knew his spirit would be moving out soon. To our relief, he wasn’t complaining about pain, only “discomfort,” and he was conscious and alert even within the hour of his passing. He seemingly had one foot in Heaven already as he kissed my mother goodbye. I can’t explain it, but all indications are that he knew it was over here on Earth. His shedding a tear as my mother kissed him and told him he could go, is a memory I will always cherish. (Update: I have since learned from my mother that his last hour was not as comfortable as I had believed, and she is doing all she can to not even think about it.)

I spoke with each of my siblings and my mom yesterday. Each of us had things to cry about and even to laugh about. My mom had told me that Dad passed “precisely at 10:00am” which upon reflecting with my sister Joanne I had to comment: “That means Dad was supposed to die at 9:00am. He was late for everything.” We both laughed.

No one tells you what you’re supposed to do after a phone call in which your mom tells you your dad is gone forever. So, after posting my blog entry yesterday, 15 minutes after his passing, Teresa and I walked over to 7-Eleven and I bought two Snickers bars.

When I was in High School 30 years ago, I asked my father one day if he ever bought snacks or candy from the vending machines at work.

“Yes, sometimes,” he answered.

“What do you get?” I asked.

“I always get Snickers. That’s my favorite.”

I never forgot that.

So Teresa and I went down to the ocean (a block from 7-Eleven). We walked along the water’s edge, ankle deep in the warm Pacific wash. Then Teresa hung back—knowing my plans—while I stared at the horizon for a while. I got out both Snickers bars and unwrapped them half-way. I ate most of mine, then pulled my dad’s Snickers from its wrapper and threw it into the waves. It was odd symbolism, I suppose, but it was an acknowledgement that we will not be enjoying such things together again.

Sometime around 1pm, I think, Teresa and I headed over to Pizza Port here in Carlsbad. One of my fondest memories was having a good ale with my father now and then. We were headed there to toast Dad with a glass of cold ale.

Teresa and I drove up to Sunnyvale last week, arriving early in the morning (2am) on Father’s Day. It’s where I wanted to be on my Father’s Day. We crept past my sleeping parents and went to bed in their guest room.

We awoke at around 10am, and went into the family room to greet my parents. Mom had gotten Dad out of his hospital bed, there in the family room, and dressed him up in pants and a Hawaiian shirt, and he was smiling broadly through thin lips and a sunken face as we walked into the room. Amid the joy of being with him again, and on Father’s Day, I was struck by the overwhelming changes in him. My father was dying. I could see it in his face.

To my surprise, my mother was helping him, that morning, sip beer through a bendie-straw from a tiny little glass. He smiled and his eyes twinkled as Mom told us that it’s his favorite liquid now. Water no longer tasted good, but he found beer to be refreshing and it cleaned his mouth and teeth nicely.

Upon arriving at Pizza Port yesterday I got a cell-call from my brother John and I told him that Teresa and I were just arriving to toast Dad with a beer. John excitedly asked me to call him back on my cellphone when we were ready to toast; that he and Mom would join in with their own glasses of beer there in her home.

Five minutes later, I called Mom’s number and John answered with the push of a button on the speaker-phone. I told them that Teresa and I each had a pint of cold beer ready, and that I had poured about 4 ounces into a third glass for Dad.

Mom told me that their pastor had just arrived a moment earlier, and that he was willing to toast along with us.

Teresa and I rose from our seats, and I said something like, “I don’t know how you thank God for a dad like mine and toast him with beer at the same time, but here goes: Thank you, God, for my father, and here’s to the greatest man I have ever known, or ever will know, my dad, Robert Darrow.”

Then we sipped, said a few other cheerful things, and hung up.

After I finished my beer, I noticed Dad hadn’t touched his, so I drank it for him.

Robert Allen Darrow 1928 – 2005

“This is the phone call you didn’t want to get,” my mom began after I said hello.

“Oh…” I sighed.

“Dad passed at 10:00 this morning.” (Fifteen minutes ago)

From what she told me, he knew he was making that transition. His last words were “Amen. Amen. Amen.”

My mom kissed him and told him he could go. She says he shed a tear, and shortly was gone.

At 9:08 this morning, not quite an hour before his passing, Mom wrote an e-mail to my cousins which included this tender comment:

Bob is sleeping again. All he can “eat” is ice chips, so he is fading away faster and faster. This has to be hard for him, too, as he can no longer say what he wants to say. He did purse his lips for me when I kissed him “Good morning,” so that’s a happy thought.

I am only beginning to feel how much I will miss my father.

Please, if you know my mother, don’t call her today. I’m not taking any calls either.

Robert Allen Darrow
April 12, 1928 – June 27, 2005

Sound for Sore Ears

One of the benefits of growing up in the Darrow home is annually hearing Happy Birthday sung in harmony. Every year on my birthday, since I moved away from home decades ago, I have answered a ringing phone to hear my parents launch immediately into the whole song, customized for me.

Today, I “caught it on tape.” Though my 77-year-old father is flat on his back in his in-home hospital bed, barely enough energy to talk most times I call, he mustered up the strength to join my 77-year-old mom in singing me a birthday greeting I shall never forget.

Click here to hear it [MP3].

I cried a little when I got off the phone.

Camming with Dad

Last night I had the pleasure of web-camming with my Mom and Dad. It wasn’t quite the realtime experience that computers are capable of, but it was a first for us. My brother connected a borrowed webcam to my parents’ computer which rides on a wheeled, over-the-bed cart similar to this one [minus the pool] that they can slide to and from the bed. Though not confined to it, Dad spends most of his days and nights in a hospital bed that has been wheeled into the family room where he had been sleeping in his recliner. For him it is too uncomfortable to sleep lying down unless he’s on his side, and the adjustable hospital bed makes it easy for him to find positions that allow him comfort.

Their internet connection is 56k (which is really maybe 38- 44k on a good day), so the frames were updated about every two seconds, and since it was a two-way video conference, some of the frames were not received until maybe 15 seconds later. Audio was provided via cell-phone and a speakerphone next to my dad, so we could communicate without typing. Transmitting audio would have slowed the whole thing to a Polaroid pace, and the cell-call was weekend-free, so it worked fine.

I called my sister Jan in Oregon and got her to log onto Yahoo Messenger and click on the cam next to my brother’s account name. She got quiet—and a little weepy—when the image of my father and mother came up in the video window.

None of us except John, who lives somewhat nearby, have seen my parents since April, when we all came together to see my Dad perhaps for the last time. We all thank God for the extra days—now months—God has granted him.

And it was nice to see him again, last night.

I ask again to all who read this, as my father has asked, please remember my mother in your prayers.

A Month of Blessing

It just occurred to me that it was a month ago yesterday that I received the call from my father that was a pretty grim telling of his doctor visit. “Well, I am in terminal condition,” he said matter of factly.

I hate when he does that.

I didn’t know if I would make it in time to see him. At the time, he was telling me that he was returning to the hospital to get some special hardware (tubes) installed in his kidneys which “should buy me a few more days.”

It was a Friday when I got that call. Good Friday, in fact. Doctors told my mom that if he didn’t have that procedure, he probably would not make it past the following Wednesday, due to kidney failure.

My parents, though they enjoy this life and want to stick around for every minute they can, do not want “heroic measures” in the event of incapacitation. They feel much like I do: If my spirit is having that much trouble operating this old body-machine, let me move out.

So, I know my father is comfortable with the idea of moving on, but he did want to see his kids again—and to my knowledge never even asked any of us to come see him.

Of course we all told him I’ll be there by Wednesday [or the like], and of course his reply was “Oh, no need to come, really. You need to take care of your financial needs.”

Whatever.

God bless my wife, Teresa—she let me stay there for two weeks without the slightest hint of “Well, when are you going to come home?” [Hey, maybe that’s a bad thing…]

My father says that even with all the bible reading he’s done, sermons he’s heard, and books he’s read—and that is a substantial amount since age 15 when Howard and Charlotte Fox introduced him to his need for a Savior—he still hasn’t an idea of heaven that is so drawing that he looks forward to going there. “I like it here just fine,” he said to me, eyebrows raised as he stared out at his recently landscaped backyard where all the birds and squirrels come to feed everyday amid the English Garden of flowers, a pathway, and neatly cut grass.

And I have benefited tremendously from the “extra time”… truly borrowed time in every sense of the word. My dad has, virtually every time we’ve spoken on the phone since then [almost daily], taken on a biblically patriarchal role—something I have desired—in pronouncing blessing on his children. [Well, me anyway… Geez, I hope he’s blessing the other kids, too...]

What a privilege to have, so far, an extra month of blessings from my father—in addition to the previous 48 years.

The Greatest Joy

One of the greatest joys since August 2002—which was the last time I was in the same room as all three of my kids—came a few weeks ago when I went to visit my father and a couple of days later all three of my kids came to say their goodbyes to their grandfather, driven by their mother Andrea, God bless her. All of my kids were in the same room with me again. And yes, it brought tears to my eyes.

My Dad still talks about what an honor and a joy—a blessing it was to have them all there.

Some time in the last two years, Greyson has picked up the guitar and taught himself to play quite well, playing in a range of styles: strumming, fingerstyle and lead.

Greyson asked me if I wanted to see his new guitar.

I got to sit in front of him and listen to a one-on-one concert. For only two years of playing, his talent is amazing. His memory for songs and his ability to play fairly intricate music was surprising to me. He has a fairly good knowledge of the fretboard already, and, as it turns out, a very nice singing voice, with good pitch.

Having never heard him sing anything since before his voice changed (and he was shorter than me—he’s 6′ 2″ now) I hesitantly asked, “So, do you sing anything while you play?”

“Yeah… I mostly know John Mayer songs.”

He stumbled confidently through Mayer’s Comfortable for me on the spot, while I videotaped him. [See Video]. Recommended for broadband users. 7min;11mb RealMedia file.

To be sitting with my son again; to hear him sing for me; to hear my other two kids in other rooms nearby laughing and talking with my father, their grandfather… these were the greatest joy.

The Perfect Age

Among scholars it is generally accepted that biblically, the number 7 represents “perfection.” The world was created in 7 days (or time periods—let’s not argue that one for now) and God saw that it was good (which to Him means “perfect”), and there are many more examples.

So, age 7 ought to be the perfect age, right? Better: 77.

Well, I forgot to mention that I had the pleasure of attending my own father’s 77th birthday party on April 12th, 2005.

Happy 77th to Birthday Robert Allen Darrow.

Understanding

While I was visiting my parents (my dad’s condition has stabilized, by the way) I was doing a lot of scanning of old slides and photo album stuff. My expressed desire is to put together a tribute to my father in video form, and show him before he passes on. My brother and I discussed, but never planned, a memorial service for my dad before he goes. “Memorial Services are always too late,” John laments. All these people gather together and say such nice things about the one person who isn’t there to hear them. And then they have a party.

Dad saw me taking still images of things around their house and asked if I would shoot or scan the dictionary definition of understand.

My own appreciation of the subtle differences in, and the precise the meanings of words comes largely from my father. As a teenager, we had an old, blue Webster’s dictionary in the upstairs bathroom where other homes might have magazines. There was a yellow or pink highlighter nearby, too. My dad liked to highlight as he came to understand words. This particular dictionary is dotted throughout with yellow and pink.

After scanning the corner of the page that has understanding on it, I read the definition aloud to my father. After a long pause, he said something that will echo in my mind forever:

“After all my searching and researching, I do not know whether it is more important to understand or to be understood.” —R.A. Darrow, 2005

Alive and Kicking

I picked up my oldest sister Jan last Thursday from the San Jose Airport. She immediately noticed the weather was not Portland-Oregon-cold so we stopped by a Tarzshay (Target in French) to pick up some more summery clothes. It is indeed warm here.

We have spent time together around my parents’ bed talking with my dad; helping to ready him for the day, almost all of which he can manage fine himself. He is enjoying the grace of others and allows us to serve him. About all he really needs is a little help with some of his new attachments, and occasional help getting in or out of bed or his recliner. For the last several days, he has spent most of the day in his recliner where a cordless phone has been ringing at irregular intervals; old friends calling to say “they heard the news.” It is a sobering and unsettling thing to watch your father answer calls from people he has known in his lifetime telling him goodbye. And other true friends have sent e-mails, cards, letters and even delivered desserts. All the notes are read to Dad aloud, usually by someone who cannot get through the message without choking up. Such kind and generous remembrances. Dad listens to them with joyous tears every time. Each new person that writes, drops by or call brings tears to his eyes.

As of yesterday (Tuesday) he has rallied, and for the most part, you wouldn’t know he was even “out of sorts.” I popped over to Longs Drugs yesterday along with my sister to pick up an 8 x 10 for my parents. When we got back, my parents were just returning from a walk around the block! Before I came up here, I thought I was going to be spending most of my time around my father’s “death bed” and here he is enjoying a little sunshine on a walk with mom. He never was one to cooperate with doctors.

My older sister Joanne will fly in tomorrow, and other relatives are on the way.

My brother John comes over every evening after work, and hangs with us all evening. Last night we all watched my parents’ favorite TV show Amazing Race. (Their other favorite is Survivor).

Once again, as in so many cases throughout my life, I find myself the undeserving recipient of uncommon grace. That I get to spend time with my father while his mind is as clear as ever, talking over old times, new friends, memories brought on by antique photos, surrounded by family is nothing short of the greatest gift a man can receive at this stage in life. Too often people find out over the phone that their loved ones are no longer living.

My three children Drew, Greyson and Lauren drove up Saturday with their mother Andrea to pay their respects. All of us had an amazing time of simple, warm friendship, family time, laughter and joy. It is the first time I have spent nearly a whole day in the same room with my sons in too long of a time, and I loved every second of it. A lot of the conversation all day was peppered with lines from Napoleon Dynamite, most of which my dad just shook his head at. He is from a former generation… 😉

Greyson brought his Taylor guitar and showed me what he has learned over the short two years or less that he has been playing. He is a fantastic singer and guitar player. He has surpassed everything I ever learned in 30 years of playing, myself—by far! I was quite impressed, and enjoyed my one-on-one private concert. Greyson is a handsome young man with a funny, odd, random sense of humor that makes me laugh.

Drew works for K5 a surf and sports store in the San Diego area. He is doing graphics for their website. He is self-taught and enjoys his work. He is as funny as ever, with a quick wit and bright smile.

Lauren tried out for another play on the Friday night before they drove up, and I do not know if she got a part, or if so, what.

At the end of our dinner meal, Dad stood and gave a “speech” of sorts. More of a blessing. The heart of it was Learn to Love One Another. I managed to get the whole thing recorded and subsequently burned to CD for future generations.

My parents have loving relatives and good friends. I learn with each new guest that comes to visit my dad just what a generous and loving man he has been—and what a wonderful team my parents are in this world. Together, they have been a blessing to untold hundreds, perhaps. Yet Dad keeps saying with great emphasis: I am so blessed!

I wish you could meet him.

With the Folks

I drove up from Carlsbad to Sunnyvale yesterday. Time goes by unnoticed by me, so the 8-hour drive went by like nothing. Got here; folks were in bed; I plopped on a spare bed and went to sleep.

Good to be here. Morning arrived and I have spent the morning laughing and crying and chatting with my parents. They are both well.

Right now they are arguing about how much water my dad should drink.

All is well.

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