I was the only kid in the church who wasn't scared to death of him, his gravelly voice and his slow, stern way of pronouncing things. Everyone's horror was 6th grade CCD, because Father Nester taught it. There could be no goofing off.
Because my parents loved him so, and because my dad decided while Father Nester was our pastor that he was giong to study to be a deacon, we had a really strange, close relationship with him. On rare occasions that we went out to dinner and he didn't wear his collar (this is a guy who ALWAYS wore a black suit jacket with his collar and shirt, and hardly ever even wore a short sleeved black shirt. He was seriously Old School.) the waiters always thought he was a great uncle or a grandfather. Essentially, that's what he became.
He was at the wedding, and Robin took several wonderful shots of him (I'll check and see if I have any on the computer, because they're truly great). This is the guy my husband and I stopped by in the limo to bring to the wedding reception on our way from the church--the one I ran up the stairs to meet. He's been in the nursing home (fortunately they have a priest wing) for the past couple of months, because he's getting goofy....the medical term is dementia, but apparently the legal term for people who run or inspect nursing homes is "goofy."
Last night at 1:30 we got a phone call from the nursing home--my dad is his legal power of attorney, since he's outlived most of his family except a few nephews in St. Louis and California--saying he'd fallen, and they were taking him to the hospital. And that was all they could tell us. 4:30, when we'd finally all just gotten back to sleep, the doctor called from the hospital and told us he'd hit his head, and my dad gave him some permissions for procedures (can we do an MRI? can we give him oxygen? what if we need to do surgery? does he have a living will, what are his resuscitation wishes, etc etc....all covering their bases.) He hadn't broken his hip again, but he'd whacked his head pretty hard. Again, that's all we knew. So we went back to bed.
My dad just got back from the hospital. He is alive, but prognosis is not good.
He's got a pretty large subdural hematoma on the right side.....and a couple of other little bleeders. They don't know whether it resulted from the fall, or caused the fall. It's hard to tell. They decided not to operate, because they're not sure if they can stop the bleeding, and even if they could it wouldn't make him any better. He's conscious, but sleeping (quite possibly related to having been up in the middle of the night, and who knows how conscious he was through everything.) They have him on oxygen, and they're going to move him from ICU tomorrow, and wait and see. Watch and pray.
He was talking to my dad last week about how he doesn't like where he's staying, and he wants to "sneak away quietly, like a pussycat," to live somewhere. I only hope that's what he's doing now, and that he's going home. This man has a faith that has been sorely tested. He entered the priesthood relatively late, in his thirties. Before that, he was married, and lost his wife. He was an alcoholic for a number of years, but has been in recovery for longer than I've been alive (which explains the constant cups of coffee). He's the only father my mom has known since her own father died when she was five, and the best father figure my dad has had, even though his father lived until 1996. He's my second grandfather. But if there was ever any doubt in this man's mind or in his heart that there was a God, and he was a loving and gracious God, and that this God had a son who could make everything all right, he never showed it to anyone. Even his dying is a lesson he's teaching with slow, patient dignity and a quiet sense of humour. I can guarantee you that the first thing he's going to ask if he wakes up is, "Will someone take me outside so I can have a butt?"
I'll miss him when he goes. Chesterfields and all.