Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Final Tribute to My Father


Roland Weymouth Hughes Jr.

May 10, 1953 - May 11, 2024

    To say that 2024 has been extremely challenging, would be an huge understatement.  This Father's Day is very bittersweet for me.  Losing both my Grandpa and Father to horrid diseases in the last 6 months has been really tough on me, my wife and kids, my sister and my stepmom.  I'm not afraid to say that I've shed an extreme amount of tears of grief and opened myself up emotionally to pretty anyone willing to listen.  

This is my Final Tribute to My Father.

My Dad had his 70th birthday luncheon last May on Saturday the 6th.  It was a beautiful day to drive out to rural Northumberland County where I grew up.  We had plans to meet at a local seafood restaurant called the Crazy Crab.  It was a wonderful gathering of close family and we even had the pleasure of eating food that my cousin prepared since he was the head chef at the restaurant that day.  My dad had been in a slow decline since he had a small stroke in March of 2016.  Sure, he wasn't getting around as well as he did and he tired a lot more easily but was in great spirits that day.  We ate, laughed, watched the boats come and go, and just enjoyed a rare opportunity for family to gather.  As the meal ended, my dad started to become a little irritable and was ready to leave. We really had to coax him to make the short 100 (or so) yard walk to a small hometown ice cream shop.  My kids and wife had ice cream, but my father and I did not.  He dared not send his borderline diabetes into system overload.  Instead, we sat out on the porch and just enjoyed the wonderfully beautiful day not really talking much but enjoying the time together.  That was the last time I saw him outside of a medical facility.

I can try to remember all of the details but honestly some of the details are a bit foggy.  The last year has been a blur.  Between all the trips to the hospital, doctor's appointments, and the nursing home, there's no way I've been able to remember quite everything.  I can not remember how many times my dad had been admitted and released to various medical facilities.  There's probably a medical paper trail on my dad that weighs a metric ton and is a couple miles long.

My father had a stroke back in early 2016 and that really slowed him down.  He had recovered enough to go (at my wife's behest) to Camden Yards to see the Orioles play the day before Father's Day.  Yovani Gallardo was decent enough to beat RA Dickey, Manny Machado went 2-4 and Jonathan Schoop homered that day.  The thing about that day that really stuck out in my mind was how my dad had such a hard time shuffling and scuffling from the parking lot (admittedly it was more of a walk than I'm leading on) to our seats.  Thank God we were not in the sun.  I had never had to stop and wait for my dad to catch up.  Dads are supposed to be the ones who wait for their sons to catch up, right?  How could this be?  Super Dad's gonna make a full recovery, right? I didn't really think much more about it at that point and I drove him home with him napping in the passenger's seat.

The only picture I took that day

His health had pretty much stayed the same up until last May.  

A few days after his birthday luncheon, my stepmom called and said that my father had passed out and fallen at the house, the rescue squad was on the way and they were headed to the hospital.  He ended up being admitted to the hospital for confusion (later we'd learn it was a Urinary Tract Infection mixed with dementia starting to take hold of his brain).  At first, I was told he'd be fine and he'd go home in the next few days. The few days turned into a few weeks.  He couldn't kick the UTI as quickly as was originally thought and the confusion just didn't go away.  I went to see him at the hospital to see him and he was a different person.  What a difference a week or two makes because he hardly knew who I was.  At the time, I just kinds shrugged it off and chalked it up to the UTI and an unfamiliar surroundings for the confusion.  There was no reason to believe this was the beginning of the end for him.  He's Super Dad, he'll be fine in a few days, right?  How could I be so naive?

Another week or 2 went by and he became to weak to go home, so he was released to a nursing home, just 'til he gets back on his feet.  This was just before Father's Day 2023.  I didn't go to see him on his last Father's Day.  Big Mistake on my part but I can't do anything about it now.  I did call and he seemed to be in good spirits and on the mend.   He spent a few more weeks at the nursing home and was released towards the end of July to go home.

The second week in August me, my wife and kids went on vacation. My dad have a minor outpatient surgery to fix an issue that had plagued him nearly his entire life.  A few days after the procedure and going home, he ended up back at the hospital for another UTI and the confusion that went along with it. Again, he didn't bounce back, spent more time at the hospital, was released back to the nursing home, and then home again.  This was early October.  The next day, he had another fall at home and was headed back to the hospital again.  This was the last time he was anywhere other than a medical facility.  He was a prisoner of his dementia and a wheelchair.  His mind became numb to the passage of time and depression set in.  His body let him down time and time again.  He got so mad at me and my stepmom every time we told him that he couldn't go home. We were trying to get a handle on the urinary tract infections but we kept missing appointments because of those recurrent infections.  You can see where this was going.  At this point, I started to take the situation more seriously because it had been a long while since he had been in good health.

My birthday came and went in early December.  It was a milestone birthday and I got all of the normal phone calls and cards from family and friends except from one person: My Dad.  At first, I was selfish, angry, and depressed that my dad had forgotten my birthday.  When I thought about it more, I let it go and considered the situation.  It hurt, but I let it go.

Christmas was coming and for some reason I was more excited about the holiday season that I had been since I was a kid.  We were able to have a family Christmas gathering at the nursing home with my dad on December 23rd.  He was in good spirits this day since he had to "get up for it".  Looking back, even though flawed and unordinary, it was great to spend one last, big, happy family Christmas together.

We visited my Grandfather afterward and I couldn't believe what I saw.  My Grandma passed in October of 2022 and she had kept the house in great shape over the years. Her health had been in steady decline too for about 5 years.  Covid did her no favors as dementia really took hold and the limited visits that I had during that time period really showed that her health was failing. The slow decline of dementia and a stroke on October 1, 2022 took her.  I couldn't believe I had let my dear Grandpa's house get in such terrible condition inside.  I was mad, sad, angry, and down right embarrassed.  I had to do something.  The Saturday after Christmas, my family and my sister's family descended upon the house and cleaned it from top to bottom. He also mentioned that he hadn't been feeling great and had been to the doctor just a few days prior. He looked a little worn out, and was winded quite easily.  

On January 2nd, I was summoned by my stepmom to come to the doctor's appointment with her and my Grandpa.  The Doctor broke the news that the illness my Grandpa had was stage 4 colon cancer.  For a 90 year old man, the treatment options are very limited.  We had an appointment with an oncologist the following week and had a plan to treat it with oral chemo therapy  We just had to get his buy in.  

He was done.  I get it.  But, the decision broke my heart.  He was the last one standing from his generation.  He was ready to go be with them.  In the wee hours of the morning of January 22nd, with me by his side, he went to be with them. 

My father was not in good enough health to be there. Having to tell my dad that his father had passed was frickin' tough. He didn't take it really well but at least he was able to understand that he was gone. Arrangements were made for my Grandpa's Funeral.  My dad got a respiratory infection and was not able to go to the funeral. Another heartbreaker. Nevertheless, I was able to stand up, and speak at the funeral to the small gathering of close friends and close family and tell them what a wonderfully genuine man my Grandpa was, about how they don't make them like that any more and that the family Rock was gone.

From the end of January 'til early May was a downward slope. We tried everything we could trying to get my dad in front of doctors that would see him but it was just too much for his mind and body.  I pushed him around in a wheelchair while he had no idea what was going on.  Having to tell him who I was over and over.  It all weighed on my mind like a ton of bricks.  His body had been constantly fighting infection after infection for nearly a year and we had to put him on hospice care in early May.

On May 9th, I had just finished my lunch at work and I got "The Call". The nursing home called and said something had changed overnight and I needed to get there as soon as I could.  I rushed out of work but not before my coworker gave me his rough, barely still together, beat up, copy of the New Testament. He said he read to his mom before she passed and told me that hearing was the last sense to go.  

I made it to the nursing home with Bible in hand.  I walked in and my dad was laying there in the bed.  Unable to speak, unable to really move.  His eyes were open but I don't know if he saw me or not.  I told him I was there and the only reaction I saw was his brow lower a bit.  My stepmom was there, in shambles, so I did my best to comfort her but I knew this was a battle Super Dad would not win.  The nursing staff came in and asked me to step out while they had to do some work on him.  I waited in the hall and decided to read some of the Bible that my coworker had given me.  It fell open in my hands and I laid eyes on Luke 6:43-45. 

    "For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man, out of his heart produces good, and the evil man produces evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks."

My wife and sister arrived and we were all in shambles.  I gathered the family together and just read the Bible.  My wife left to go home and take care of our kids, my stepmom went home to rest, and my sister went the hotel right across the road.  I stayed vigil overnight and into the next day.  I was exhausted and finally went home to get some rest after being up for about 40 hours.  Friday, May 10th was my Dad's 71st birthday.  What a way to celebrate.  The next day was Saturday the 11th.  I had no mental energy or physical energy left.  My plan was to rest up as best I could and go back to see him Sunday.  It was not to be.  The phone rang at about 9:50 that night.  My dad passed at 9:40 on Saturday May 11th, 2024. I was not there but I believe that he wanted it that way. I believe that he waited until me, my sister, and stepmom were not around so we didn't have to see him pass to the other side. The Good Fruit Bearing tree of my family was gone from this world.  

The last month has been extremely tough. I was able to get up and speak again at Dad's memorial service on Memorial Day weekend.  Another tough moment but I wanted to let everyone in attendance what a wonderful man my dad was.  They already knew how great he was, and that is why they were there, but I told them anyway.  Its been tough letting go but I now look back on  treasured memories of fishing trips, baseball practices, car rides, and more importantly, the lessons he taught me.  There are THREE major things that I gleaned from his book of knowledge. 

Hard Work can accomplish most anything.  He was the hardest worker I've ever known. He worked the counter at NAPA from the time I was born until I was about 14 or so. Standing on that concrete floor day in and day out.  He was Super Dad around the house, in the yard, and in the garage. When he wasn't at work, he was always keeping things running smoothly at home.  Our yard never grew out of control, the bushes were trimmed and the garden was always planted with care.  In the winter, he always cut firewood, split it by hand and fed that wood stove to keep our butts warm.  We never had a vehicle leave us on the side of the road.  There wasn't a thing he couldn't fix.  He never quit until the job was done and my work ethic definitely comes from him.

Sacrifice for your kids and Dedication to your family.  He'd do anything for me.  From the time I was born, there's pictures of him giving me a bath, feeding me, and just sitting in the chair with me in his arms.  He was my teeball coach and threw numerous rounds of batting practice to me as my love for the game of baseball grew.  He was my biggest fan through the travel ball and high school baseball years.  Took me anywhere I needed or wanted to go without complaining one bit.  He was my personal moving company. He moved me to college and back, to various apartments, and into my first house.  I learned that sacrificing oneself for another only gets paid forward.

Love is Unconditional but it is also not Free.  Nothing in Life is Free. Not even Love.  Grief is the price of Love.  I would not be here without my Father's love.  I will miss my dad until the day I die.  That is the price of Love. The wound will callous over time but I will grieve my dad until I am gone too.

Since I have become a father myself, I have had the pleasure of rearing and nurturing two energetic girls.  They couldn't be more different from each other but I love them the same and am proud of them both.  As of today, they are 9 and 4.  They have a long way to go and I can't wait to see them grow and prosper.  I had the best example of what it means to be a Father so I will honor him by being the best I can be for my girls.  

I could not have asked for a better Father.  The world is a worse place now that he is gone but I now fully understand the Hard Work, Sacrifice and Dedication, and the Unconditional Love that it takes to be a Father because of Him.

Thank You Dad, You did Good, You did Well.  I Miss You and Love You! 


  1. Sorry for your loss. That was a wonderful tribute.

  2. As someone who grew up with a dad who was never around when I needed him, and had little to interest in me, I envy you, and those like you who did have these kind of dads. Your dad sounds like he was a wonderful man. You definitely lucked out when they were handing out dads.