My dad was Superman. He could do anything, take care of any problem, ease my mind of my problems and tell me what was right and wrong. With age comes the ability to know these things, and I have the confidence to do so, but advice from one’s father supercedes everything else. Dad is gone now, and that advice and encouragement and that fatherly Superman knowledge is gone with him.
I had much more to talk to my dad about, many more drawings to show him, many more stories of his grandkids and their funny little escapades. He was looking forward to seeing my son, John David, graduate from high school this year and seeing my daughter, Laci, start her first year of pre-school. He talked of going up to the new high school and getting Bob Howard to show him around. He was really excited about this school, and after seeing it myself I know he would have been proud. He was very happy that my nephew Wesley and his family had moved back to the county and would be close to us all again. Everything was going great until he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Superman doesn’t get lymphoma, but surely enough, Dad had it, and apparently one of an aggressive nature, but the prognosis was good with several treatments of chemotherapy and, hopefully, remission. We all knew this would happen, that Dad would be well again, to be able to get back to all the things he loved to do. But Dad was 81 now. Sometimes, at that age, other things start to falter somewhat, and Dad was no exception. He had macular degeneration, and it was getting worse, so his eyesight was diminishing. His legs, which had been giving him trouble for years, were getting worse, causing him to not be able to get around like he wanted to. Eventually he had to use a cane, then a walker to move around at all. He lost quite a bit of weight, although most of the time he ate quite a bit and his energy level seemed what it should be. He just couldn’t keep from losing though.
The main thing that bothered him though was the pain coming from his legs that we initially thought was arthritis. I don’t know where the pain was coming from, but I know it caused him much grief and sleepless nights, sleep that he needed very bad to get well again, sleep that would keep his mind sharp, his thought processes clear.
Strong pain medication was prescribed for Dad, but it only worked intermittently and never fully pushed the pain back I think. I say I think because Dad was not one to complain. He didn’t like to be taken care of and thought he was a burden on those of us that helped him. No matter how many times my mom and sister and I would tell him the opposite, he would still say he was a burden. For five months we doctored him at home, took him to his appointments and chemo treatments and made sure he had what he needed.
We tried to make the quality of his life better, even though we knew he was going through a lot. I consider myself a strong-willed person, but I don’t know if I could go through what Dad did the last months of his life.
The one thing Dad had on his side though was his love for God and his belief in the after life. Eleven years ago, my mother was very ill at the time, and Dad prayed to God and told him that if he made my mother well again, he would go to church and at least try to live a good life. Mom had just had surgery and had months of therapy and other trials to go through, so Dad made the offer. Turns out, when he started attending church, he felt the calling and stayed there for the next 11 years, each year getting closer to God and becoming the man he wanted to be, the man he knew his mother wanted him to be.
When he became sick, Dad knew that prayer would help him get back to his old self. Friends and family came to his house and prayed with and for him.
I always thought it was something how Dad would attend three different churches, which were three different denominations, because he loved going so much. I told him he was interdenominational. Due to attending all these churches, he became friends with so many good people who truly loved my father and prayed and hoped he would get better. He would always say, “If it is God’s will,” I will get better. We all hoped it would be God’s will.
On Aug. 20, that hope was gone. By now, most everyone in Harlan County knows what happened but didn’t know much before that point. Some didn’t even know Dad was sick. That’s why I wanted to write this, to let all his friends and buddies over the years know what he had been going through. The pain, coupled with medication, depression and other factors took its toll.
My dad, Junior Deaton, Air Force veteran, coal miner, merchant, writer, photographer, musician, father, husband, grandfather, greatgrandfather, and not least of all, Christian, is with us no more in body, but in spirit he will never be gone. His influence on me and others will be here for years to come. My family and I will never be the same, never truly be happy without Dad around. If you knew him at all, you know why. During my Dad’s funeral, I got up to say a few words, and the first words I said was, “To me and my family, here is the greatest man that ever lived.” I will always believe that, and always feel fortunate to have been the son of Junior Deaton.
To those of you that read and looked forward to his weekly column here in the paper, please know that he took great pride in that column, and it was the highlight of his day for someone to mention one they had read to him. Sometimes he would have a hard time coming up with topics, but he would always get it done and look forward to the next week. Dad’s columns were written just like he thought. I would always try and correct his grammar, but then would think, why would I do that? That’s what makes it so interesting, that it is written down just as he thought it. He always loved this little book called, “Thunk me a Thaut” by William A. McCall. When William was a small boy, he wrote down everything in just the way he thought it. It made for some humorous reading later in life when William became a college professor and published this little book. If you ever get the chance, get a copy and read it. The stories in it are wonderful.
I’ll close with this. Remember that we are on this world for only a short time. Try and live a good life, make plenty of friends, don’t do anything that you know is wrong and treat everyone with respect. My dad lived by these words, and I’m proud of him for being who he was, good ol’ Junior Deaton.
Oh, and one more thing.
Pray for the soldiers…..