I’ve learned so much about my dad in the past few weeks … from of all places … a hospital bed. Lots of stuff I probably forgot over the years … and some I never knew. A complicated and extremely private man who couldn’t stand to be fussed over, Dad gave in to the round-the-clock, two-week vigil by his five children, assorted son-in-laws, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren. I guess he could tell from the first day we weren’t going to leave his bedside. Dad stopped bluntly telling us to “go home” after about the second day. For instance, my dad likes to eat at IHOP, but doesn’t eat the pancakes. I never knew that. I wondered who goes to IHOP and doesn’t eat the pancakes? After all, I remembered he ate pancakes when we were little … with two fried, sunny-side eggs right on top. Now it was bacon, eggs, hash browns, whatever else, but not the pancakes. I offered to stop by IHOP when my brother, Pete, called after he and his wife stood vigil during the overnight shift. I had the day shift. Dad couldn’t stand the hospital food. Pete mentioned the night before, Dad agreed to eat the Jell-O. But all they had was orange. It was the “flavor of the day.” He wanted lime. I also learned the origins of all my dad’s tattoos. He has eight, I think … four on each arm. Not sure why it never came up in a conversation when I was young. I probably thought he was born with them. Now, my dad ran away from home when he was 14 and joined the Merchant Marines. Dad lied about his age and got a free trip to China out of it. Before he was to ship out, Dad acquired a tattoo with the name of his beloved older brother, Louis. We called him Uncle Louie. He must not have been paying very close attention. It was some time after the ship left port that Dad discovered the tattoo artist couldn’t spell. The tattoo actually says “Louise.” I understand more than a few knuckles were busted upon learning that information. Our oldest daughter kept her grandfather company during the late night shift. My dad told her, “Don’t bring crosswords. I don’t like them.” Dad also confessed to Katie that he didn’t like the ’65 Corvette Stingray at all. I remember that car. It was either silver or gold. I think he got rid of it the very next year and replaced it with a ’66 version. Now I know why. “Grandpa thought it was a piece of junk. It rode crappy and everything else. He tried to get issues with it resolved, but the Corvette people were completely lame,” Katie said. I also learned that Dad likes rainbow Popsicles. I fed Dad a whole Popsicle during one of his good days and it was great. I broke it up into little pieces in a cup and started spooning in the cherry, my personal favorite flavor, and worked through orange, lime and finally grape. Yep, and I learned that Dad is a charmer. One morning he told Tammy, his ICU nurse, “You have the most beautiful eyes.” “Why thank you, Wayne,” Tammy gushed, after regaining her composure. The next word out of his mouth was “cigarette.” My guess was the nicotine patch wasn’t doing it for him. I also learned that my dad doesn’t like his finger pricked for blood tests. But issues like that are easily solved when family puts their hearts and heads together. My little nephew, “baby boy” Pete, donated the cover of a coloring book. On the back of the cover was written, “No finger sticks, only toe sticks.” The sign prominently hung on our dad’s bed. The last words my dad said to me were, “You are an angel,” as I readied the spoon with his Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. Dad was pretty heavily medicated, so I chalked it up to that. I teased that he better stay away from the cops because from the looks of his pupils, a drug test was in his future. He left this world a few days later. Dixie Frantz is a Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past 12 years. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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