Bidding Farewell to a Wonderful Old Soul
Sometimes a father figure is born from someone who isn’t your father at all, but rather a wonderful, old soul who enters your life offering positivity, love, and support when you need it most.
That’s the way it was for me with my Mom’s second husband, Tor.
He was seventeen years her senior, and was in his seventies when they married, however, he flung his arms wide and welcomed her four kids along with the eight grandchildren that were part of the package with enthusiastic joy.
“That’s fantastic!” Tor would often exclaim with the high-pitched, creaky voice of Grandpa Lou from the Rugrats, whether he was gushing over a simple pot of homemade soup, or a Kindergarten hand that had been traced and colored to become a sloppy technicolor Thanksgiving turkey. I’ll be darned, too, if he really didn’t mean it. He was a glass-is-half-full type of guy who worshipped the ground my mom walked on.
Tor was also, without question, my sons’ favorite grandfather who doled out praise and hugs and positive predictions of future accomplishments with a flourish. He loved to have fun with them, often crawling around on the floor to help fix their makeshift railroad tracks, or whooping it up in his living room in a fake Indian rain dance to make them giggle. How could a young child not love and gravitate toward a grandparent like that?
By the time Tor came into our lives, he had suffered greatly from the loss of his first wife, and I believe his mind had already begun to be mildly affected by dementia. Previously, however, he was very sharp, having graduated from Northwestern University, and having flown in fighter planes in WWII. Upon introduction to my husband, who was born in the former Yugoslavia, Tor announced with a grin, “Sure, I’m familiar with Yugoslavia. I bombed that country during the war!” And while it’s hard to fully convey, Tor’s enthusiastic joie de vivre even made a native Yugoslav sit back and smile over a none-too-welcome announcement like that.
Tor suffered greatly from Alzheimer’s during the last decade of his life. This despicable disease changed him from a spry, smiling 75-year-old who would scale the roof of his Chicago-style bungalow to shovel off the snow, to a bedridden being with very limited cognitive and physical abilities. And then, yesterday, at 93 years old, side effects of the disease finally claimed his life.
I’m sure the fear, sadness, frustration, and drudgery that goes along with caring for a person being ravaged by Alzheimer’s might temporarily obscure former positive memories, but having a more distant view, our memories of a fun-loving, caring man remain front and center.
We all loved Tor very much, and are simultaneously sad that he’s no longer a joyful part of our lives, and very relieved that the tragic existence he suffered during the last few years is behind him.
Tor, thank you for your love and support. It will always mean the world to us.
I will continue to think of you with fondness each time I walk under the Northwestern arch.
And I will forever cherish a vision I have of you passing through the pearly gates with a wink and a grin exclaiming, “This is fantastic!”