Remembering Dad

I have a bundle of things to do today, but I am barely treading water. The reason is that my father died on July 13, 1979, 31 years ago today. Somehow, that 31 years seems like a long time, but the events seem like they happened yesterday.

James Yearnd (1927)
James Austin Yearnd, Sr., 1927-1979

I remember the blur of the day, but not much more. It was Friday, the first day of a busy weekend at a concession stand I ran. The night before, my stepmother stopped at that very stand, and told me it would be wise to go see Dad. Papa and I went that Friday afternoon, an hour’s drive to a unfamiliar hospital in Traverse City, Michigan.

It was clear that he was not doing too well, and I do not remember if he was conscious enough to know who we were. What I do remember is the nurse seeing that he had visitors, and that she hurried to find a doctor. That doctor wanted to talk to us, so we stepped out into the hall. He delivered the bad news that there was nothing more that could be done. Although I knew in my heart that that was the case, I did not even know how to react. I remember asking, “How long?”, and the doctor just shrugged his shoulders, and said “A few days, perhaps a week.” We stayed for a while, and when we got up to leave, I said, “Dad, see you in the morning,” and gave him a kiss.

I had a concession stand to run, so we headed for home. I do not remember who was watching the little girls, but I do remember that our oldest daughter was at camp. When we got home, Papa got out of the car, and I was about to head to town to open my stand when he came back out of the house. The call had come just before we got home, Dad was gone.

He was fifty-one, and would have been fifty-two on July 20. I was twenty-seven years old, married, and the mother of 3 little girls; my youngest sibling was only fourteen. For twenty-four years, every time I had a birthday, I would wonder if I would make it to fifty-one. Since I turned fifty-one, I wonder how far past that number I may live on every birthday. For many years I was very angry with Dad, because some lifestyle changes might have prevented his early death. Then I just became sad, sad that he missed my daughters growing up, his beautiful great-grandchildren, all the fun times you can only appreciate after your children are grown.

How can I forgive him for being himself? When I was particularly bitter, or sad, or frustrated one day, one of his sisters pointed out to me that he had good qualities, as well as the undesirable ones I remembered. Lately, as I go through some old photographs, scan them, and file them away in sleeves, I do remember to good qualities, and the young dad who loved babies and small children.

I just wish I had known him longer.


  1. What a beautiful post. My dad had had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass but he’s still a smoker and he doesn’t watch his weight — he just wants to do what he wants to do and enjoy his life on his own terms. I wish he’d do better, but then I think that he’s just doing what I would want to do with my life, live it as I choose. I think I hear the same thing in your words. But your dad continues to live in your heart. More and more these days I think about what legacy I would want to leave behind and I think that’s it. I want to be remembered. I think your dad, even though his life was shorter than most, still has that good legacy.

  2. Thanks, Patti.

    • Karen on July 22, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Pam, I can relate on some levels with your post, Missing Dad. My was killed in December of 1967 in a construction accident. He lived about an hour after the accident. I have alot of “wishes” as you do, he never lived to walk me down the aisle for my wedding, he never met my awesome husband, my children or my grandchildren. But he lived his life as he wished – and that was what made him the person he was. I think of him often – and I’ve shared him with my family thru my photo’s and my memories.
    Great post!

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