My memories and my photographs became priceless after my father died. This is one of the first pictures I have with my Father, Ralph Norrington. It represents the beginning of our relationship.
Ralph Norrington was a smart, progressive man. He was strong both mentally and physically. In my eyes, he was invincible. He was my Superman and I was Daddy’s little girl…truly, his favorite. His passions? He had one. Ralph Norrington was PASSIONATE about making money! My Father took this picture in 1965. It was his first “money making” purchase…an apartment building with 100 units located in Chicago, Illinois, where he grew up.
Ralph Norrington was also an entertainer. He sang the classics from the classic artists, Sinatra, Davis Jr., Bennett, Bellefonte, Fitzgerald, Williams and the “modern” day artists, Beetles, Stevie Wonder, Lou Rawls, Marvin Gaye, Sonny & Cher, Nancy Wilson…the list is endless. He installed an intercom system in our home and there was always music playing in every room. His choice of course, unless he wasn’t there. I often wondered how I knew the lyrics to “Mack the Knife.”
We lived in a three-story home and every time my Father saw me walking down the stairs he’d start singing “Heeeere she comes…Miss America”…which explains the invisible crown on my head.
Ralph Norrington was also famous for his signature jokes. According to my Father the ONLY time to schedule a dental appointment is 2:30…2:30…Tooth-hurty! If you’re eyes are rolling, my Dad’s smiling.
As you can probably imagine, my Father taught me countless lessons during the 84 years of his life. Some of them include;
“Your life is your responsibility.”
“Be a leader NOT a follower.”
“If you lend out money don’t expect to get it back.”
…and my favorite…
“Don’t call boys, let them call you.”
In 2002, Ralph Norrington, my Superman, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. It’s a disease that parallels Alzheimer’s. However in my opinion, this disease was a gift from the Universe. You see, this illness stripped by Father of every wall he spent a lifetime building… to protect his heart andhis ego was non-existent.
When I was a child, I never heard the words, “I love you” and I don’t remember my father hugging me or kissing me once. One day, while I was chauffeuring him to his adult-day-care center, I stretched out my right hand and my Father, MY Superman grabbed it and didn’t let go. I drove the entire distance with my left hand holding the steering wheel and my right hand tightly gripping his while tears streamed quietly down my cheeks. No words were spoken during the 15 minute journey.
While growing up, my Father OFTEN told me what I was doing WRONG, but NOW the only words I heard were praise.
“You’re the greatest, girl.” “I’m so proud of you.” “You’re smart.”
The compliments and words of encouragement never stopped. I remember quoting a line from the movie Taxi Driver, “You talkin to me?” It took me awhile, but I realized the Universe gifted me with the Father I yearned for as a child and to be very honest, also as an adult. In January 2007, Ralph Norrington was admitted into a hospice facility. Superman was down to 114 lbs. and his doctors gave him two weeks to live. I knew this was going to be my last visit with him and on this day I said good-bye.
Well, two weeks turned in two months, and two months turned into a year and a half! Ralph Norrington, my Superman was KICKED OUT of hospice for refusing to die! The reason? I believe there were more lessons my Father wanted to teach his only daughter.
The last year and-a-half of my Father’s life was spent in a convalescent home. He was confined to a wheel chair while dependant on a team of medical staff and caregivers to take care of him and yet he never complained.
The LESSON: Complaining is a CHOICE.
I remember spending hours outside with my Father sitting next to him while we watched cars drive by. (He enjoyed the action.)
The LESSON: It doesn’t matter HOW you spend your time…
as long as you remain grateful for every moment.
My Father never lost the ability to make me laugh. When I told him I loved him, he would always reply, “Nooow you tell me.”
The LESSON: Laughter IS the best medicine.
My Father greeted everyone with a smile, he was never in a bad mood…well…unless my Mother was around. Hey, even Superman had his kryptonite!
The other LESSONS my Father taught me during the last 18 months of his life were;
Singing out loud is ALWAYS appropriate.
Money has NOTHING to do with how HAPPY your life is going to turn out.
…and my favorite…
If you want mayonnaise on your hamburger, you DON’T HAVE TO OPEN THE BUN!
On Saturday, June 21, 2008, I called my Father and heard his voice for the last time. It was low and weak but he managed to say “Hi Sugar.” All I could think of to say was
“I love you Daddy, I love you, I love you, I love you…and he replied “I love you too.”
He died two days later.
My Father’s death was another GIFT from the Universe. After the service, my only son, Nathan and I drove to the beach. We sat on the sand in silence looking out at the Pacific Ocean. Finally, Nathan asked me “Mom, how do you feel?How do you REALLY feel now that Gramps is dead?” At that moment I felt my Father’s presence and I smiled…a really BIG smile. “Whaaaaat? Gramps is dead?” I was actually joking as I sat on the beach. We laughed…we hugged…and we laughed again. And then we did what we ALWAYS do…memorialize the moment with a picture.
This last photograph was taken exactly one hour after I buried my Father…because on that day it was MY turn to teach my son a lesson.
HOW I want him to LIVE after I die! Happiness IS a Choice!