Sunday, June 17, 2007


Dad in his thirties, coaching basketball practice
Dad, my brother and me at Lake Michigan's beach

An Indiana winter scence at the lake that dad made
Dad and me. He's the cute one : )

A summer scene of the same lake
Both of my parents had the same nickname in high school. They were Mick and Mick.

Reflection on the lake

Dad, my younger sister, my older brother and that's me with the barefoot
Dad, as coach

and again
Dad was just thrown in the shower by the team in this picture. Keith, the player beside him came to dad's funeral and spoke very lovingly about him.

By brother and me
Dad at home
Dad & I

That looks like an onery look on his face. Probably was.

April 9, 1944, the day my parents married.

He loved his rock business. He took his "rock talk" to the schools to share his knowledge.
Here he is in his Clear Creek Rock Shop with my son.
Dad at my house in Rhode Island
First Grandson, who is now 27 years old.
Loved being Grandpa.

Me with the lake that dad made behind me.
My dad, brother and me.
I'm sure I just got scolded, it's written on my face.
Dad, my brother and me in Huntington, Indiana, where both of my parents grew up
and where I was born. Home of Dan Quayle's Library. Really...
Okay, so I'm the ONLY democrat in my family, but I took this picture when I was home in May to prove it to you... Bush the father chose Quayle and Bush the son choice Cheney...hmmm...not too good at selecting vices

Dad at home
Dad & my son, Jonathan, out on his man-made lake
Dad & my son by the lake
Here he is in September 2005
Dad's family. He's the one holding the ball.

Dad's oldest brother, the physicist, Dad in the middle,
Dad's other older brother, the artist and farmer

Dad's Mother and who I inherited my red hair from


At my dad’s funeral, I began with these words:

“The one thing about my dad that makes him special to me was and will continue to be his SPIRIT. My dad is my hero. He made it a better world…”

I am grateful for the time that I had with my Dad a year ago during father’s day week, when I flew to Indiana to see him. It was the last father’s day that he was alive. I sang hymns to him in his little room. Sometimes, he sang. He initiated conversation one day. I was told that he wouldn’t recognize me by my sister who lives in Indiana. I was told by my mother that he didn’t show happiness any more. None of this proved to be true. When I walked down the hall of the Alzheimer residents’ floor, I spotted him standing 30 to 40 feet away. He lifted his arm toward me and said my name “Sandy”. He immediately wanted to leave the building. Later I found out why. He wanted to go home.

When father’s day came, I went to visit dad. I told him it was Father’s Day and that he was my dad. Neither my brother, nor my sister visited dad on that day. I spent a lot of time with dad that week which I found out later upset my mother. Dad expected mom to spend more time with him and mom didn’t like that. I upset her life. That is reason enough to be condemned in my family.

The Hammel Reunion - one that dad was present for

Because I wanted to have more time with my father, the first week of August 2006, I flew back to Indiana for dad’s birthday which coincided with the annual Hammel family reunion. Mom was not happy with me for coming. The day after dad’s 82nd birthday, I took him out for a car ride. This was the last time I was allowed the freedom to take him out. He was worried the whole ride that he would get in trouble with mom for going out. Even so, his whole body language changed completely when he saw where we were – at the lake and house that he had built. During this trip out, he made it clear that he felt that since it was his family reunion that he should get to go. It made sense to me. But what also made sense, was his worrying about mom’s power over him at this time in his life. The next evening dad asked mom in front of me if she was going to the Hammel Reunion. For someone who I was told couldn’t remember things, he remembered this for over 24 hours. She answered him, “No, and you’re not either.” She was mad at me. I said “He wants to go, why shouldn’t that matter?” The next morning I received a phone call telling me that I was no longer to take dad out for car rides. And specifically, that Mom forbid me to take him to his family reunion. The nurse called me to tell me this information. That evening when my dad’s sister and I went to visit dad after the reunion, dad was scared the whole time that mom would show up. This woman badly affected this man, but blamed me for his reaction. None of this looked like love to me.

My father still had desires, wishes and expressed them. But he was denied by his wife, my mother to have any say in his life. She was in total control. This saddens me even now after his death. She won this one. But overall, Dad was the ultimate winner in how he lived out his entire life to the last breath.

How do I put into words in one blog post, a lifetime with my dad? That is not possible to do. That, however, has never stopped me from making an effort before.

My family is nothing like the one that I thought I had. Turns out that pretending played a big part in what my family is. The family that I was supposed to believe that we were was a Christian-loving, compassionate and kind family. Except for my father, in the end, none of that is true. My mother has shown herself to be someone that I don’t know. But at least, now I know. There is some positive value in that knowledge.

Until, my dad got a supposed diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, I had to take dad on mom’s terms. On the phone, she controlled the conversation when they both were on the phone. Then over the last several years, she just acted like he didn’t exist at all. I had to press her to put him on the phone. When he was on the phone, she criticized him for breathing too hard or being wrong about whatever he did try to say to me. I overlooked much of her behavior. But it became so blatant last summer, that I had no choice but to see her for what behavior she exhibited for all to see.

My father always recognized me. He always was able to communicate with me. Yes, there were days that he couldn’t retrieve words that he was looking for, but none of that mattered to me. It was all the more reason to love him and be patient with him. I personally don’t believe that he had AD, but some other form of dementia. An AD diagnosis cannot be definitively confirmed unless a brain autopsy is done after death. Having this diagnosis appeared necessary for my mother’s sake. It allowed her to put him away and feel justified. My father pleaded with his wife, my mother, to allow him to live at home. In front of me, she told the doctor last August that she and he had been fighting every day before she put him in the “home”.

The saddest thing about my dad’s dying May of this year is that he wasn’t truly loved by the woman that he emotionally demonstrated his love for until he died. For the last decade she increasingly and more boldly humiliated him. She put him down in front of all to witness. She revealed to me that she is not the person she pretended to be all these years. She still wants me to believe that she is. But to do that, I would have to deny myself a promise that I made to myself: I will live in truth. Maya Angelou says “when someone shows you who they are, believe her/him.”

That is where I am with the people who are in my family. Even with impaired mental retrieval, my dad had emotional integrity to the end of his mortal life. What a betrayal of trust he lived through. If there is a heaven, I hope he gets extra credit for this enduring skill that he exhibited.

It is difficult beyond reason to accept that your mother lacks total empathy and has never found out who she really is. I feel my mother proves denial of true feelings only creates a fiend. My mother wants me to believe that what she says is true. Instead I believe what she behaves.

My whole adult life I have been the “sinner” or the “black sheep” of the family. For a long, long time I struggled trying to gain what I thought was my parents’ approval and love. But, now I know it was my mother that was the hold out. I wanted to be known for the woman that I had become. I wanted to be understood by my mother. Now, I surrender. I don’t want her approval anymore. I live fully without her understanding the full human being that I am. It is her loss more than it is mine. As much as I would adore having a mother’s love in this way, I know a person who doesn’t know herself or love herself has no way of giving this to someone else. This is sad. But this is true. I can live with truth even when it is sad.

In spite of my family’s stamp of disapproval of how I live my life, or how they think I live my life, I have found my real self. I love my life. And after trying for the last time to communicate with my mother on August 7, 2006, I leave her with her life and I was able to step into my life more freely than ever before. I have never been happier. My family looks like some scripted movie to me. It is not a family that I would want to live in. There is not one person in my family that I see anything that I would want to be. Except for one. Dad. I would never have dreamed my family would turn out to be the way it is. But it is.

Dad died Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 10:05 a.m. May 10th is the same day that his mother died.

Dad at his parents' grave stone September 2005

He was 82 years, 10 months old. The only member in my family who had called to tell me about dad’s expected death was my brother, who lives in Maui. The two who live in Indiana, my mom and my sister, had never contacted me over the last years about dad. Not to tell me he was leaving home to live in this institution. Not that he had fallen after being hit by a car. Not that he was near death. On Wednesday, May 9, 2007, my brother called me to let me know that the next morning he was going to arrange to have dad hear his voice. We were both going to Indiana the next week, but in case dad didn’t survive that long, we wanted speak to dad, although he himself couldn’t speak anymore. The next day, Greg called me at 9:00 a.m. to update me.

My dad gave me what I needed to believe. Where mom had let me down in so many ways, Dad came through. He demonstrated how to live in truth and integrity even at the end. My dad was real. He was never pretentious. Those who knew my dad admired him. The middle of five children, born August 3, 1924, he was the only one in his high school class of 1943, to be classified 4F for the military during World War II. He was however recruited out of high school, by Curly Lambeau, the coach of the Green Bay Packers.

My father’s favorite sport to play was football although he ran track and played basketball. And he did all of this with his own dad’s disapproval, initially.

This is what they wore. This is the only picture I have - it's high school. No Green Bay Packers picture, just a Packer-Redskins program, a letter from Curly Lambeau and newspaper clippings with his name praised a lot.

My dad was very proud of his oldest brother, now deceased, Harold Theodore Hammel, a world-known physicist. This is uncle Ted's back side of his grave stone:

Just before Ted died he had proven a new theory. His name was nominted for a Nobel Peace Prize, but you cannot be awarded posthumously.

I visited my dad's other older brother, Jerald, in the early evening of the day of my dad’s funeral. He told me “Your dad got more beatings than all of the rest of us put together”. Dad got some of those beatings on the behalf of other’s actions. His mother put salve on his wounds. My dad’s family was far from well-to-do. His own father a few days prior to finishing seventh grade was sent to work and live on a farm for room and board. He told my father he cried himself to bed every night.

My dad built the three family houses that I lived in as I grew up. The first one I was born in. The last one was built on a lake he created from a natural spring where a corn field had been. During college, he started his own wood floor refinishing business that developed into contracts doing the basketball courts at Notre Dame University, Indiana and Purdue Universities. He taught and coached basketball at two high schools with acclaimed success. But to him, the most important reason for coaching was the mentoring that it allowed him to do. The local newspaper sportswriter told me that Bobby Knight respected my dad’s coaching and came to recruit players from dad’s teams.

For me, I remember the fact that dad’s players rules included strict rules about not dating – so it seems that might have had some bearing on the fact not one player ever asked me out for a date.

I was raised by imposing parents. The leather belt was used frequently on me and my brother. Both of my parents gave us “lickings”. With dad however, I remember the talks afterwards - they were confusing. He would sit on the edge of my bed with me after the blistering cracks on the skin and say that “he did it because he loved me and that it hurt him more than it hurt me”. Well, he was wrong on that.

By the time I grew into myself as an adult, I knew my father had the heart of a teddy bear. It is not okay to whip your children. I was able to see through that and see him for who he was at heart, later in my life. My dad was a compassionate man. He made it a practice to not criticize people in general. He showed his sensitive nature by how he chose his words and articulated his thoughts. He admired spunk. He had spunk himself. He never pretended to be anything that he wasn’t.

Truth for me means no pretense. Being genuine. Real. Dad gave me the gift of personifying these attributes from a member of my family.

The newspaper sportswriter spoke at my dad’s funeral, “The one thing that I liked about Mark was his intensity. He loved to win.”

I am intense. I love being passionate about my passions, about my life. And now I can own this trait about myself and see that it comes from dad.

Although it appears that dad got beat by life – that is not true. He lived his life to the last breath on his terms. He was forced to live where he didn’t want to live. He wanted to live at home. But he refused to draw his last breath until he wanted to.

This is just the kind of music my dad loved…..


Uploaded by yosh95wilde


My dad's older brother, Jerald died while reading his mail on his bed May 19, 2007. I was the last one to see him face to face, although his children had talked to him on the phone. My dad is survived now by their only sister, who is a gifted pianist. My uncle had mailed me some photographs that I had left at his house. They arrived in my mailbox after he passed away. His daughter told me that he wanted me to have a picture that he had drawn of me. I feel blessed that I decided to go out to visit Jed the day of my dad's funeral.


The Day My Dad Died I Was On the Phone With Him

When I called, Marcia, a nurse picked up the phone. She said dad’s "pulse is irregular, there are crackles in his lungs, he is non-responsive today, he moaned yesterday when I turned him over".

Below is what I said on the phone call to my dad. He took his last breath at the end of the phone call.

“Hello, dad, this is Sandy from Rhode Island. I love you, dad. I love you so very much. I wish I was there. I would hug you and kiss you. I’m going to sing you one verse of

“The Old Rugged Cross”.

On a hill, far away, stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame,

But I know that old cross, the dearest and best,

For a world of lost sinners was slain,

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross

Where trophies at last I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged cross

And exchange it some day for a crown.”

I’m coming to Indiana in 6 days, but if you go to heaven before that, just know I’ll see you up in heaven and I’ll hug you and kiss you in heaven. I love you, dad. Can you squeeze Marcia’s hand to say you love me? I love you, dad. Bye

Following this in a couple of seconds, Marcia came on the phone and said:

Sandy, he blinked his eye

I think he’s very close

I think it helped

I’m holding his hand

It’s amazing

He’s waited for you


You know, I think he’s gone

I’ve never seen anything like it…..hhhh.

It’s just amazing

I said, what do you mean…

Reply: You and the connection

He waited for you

The healing

He blinked – he doesn’t do that.

I said in response, he was resourceful to the end. He didn't have the strength to squeeze your hand, so he came up with something else.

She responded, How can anyone not believe?

She said, I don’t have my stethoscope, but I think he’s gone

I said, would you get your stethoscope?

She replied: I will. I’ll be right back.

Back, she says: I think he’s gone

I said: Will you touch his hand or arm?

She answered: I touched his forehead

She asked me: Will you be calling Greg?

I said: Yes.

I asked Marcia to stay with me on the telephone. She did.

This was a gift that he gave to me. This was a blessing. I knew it right then.

I shared this story at the funeral service and the singing of “The Old Rugged Cross”.

“Let the world stop turning,

Let the world stop burning,

Let them tell me love’s not worth going through

If it all falls apart

I will know deep in my heart

The only dream that mattered had come true

In This Life I was loved by you.”

From the song “In This Life” sung by Bette Midler

When I went to thank Marcia for all that she had done for my dad, I asked her which eye dad winked with and she said the one near the wall, the left one. I can't even make my left eye wink by itself. But he could. I know he understood everything I said to him. He found a way to say he loved me when I asked. Then...Marcia said she saw him take his last breath. She said she has never seen anyone go like dad, immediately following an exchange. What a gift he gave to me. Such a blessing. Now, he has peace that he so deserved and needed.

What a really cool man he was and continues to be in my life.
A wink has a whole new meaning for me now.

Dad liked Tennesee Ernie Ford, Here he is singin”16 Tons”




A democracy needs "We the People" to make it work.

In honor of my father I continue to do my political activist work.
He lived full-out. That's what I intend to do.


I'm open to whatever life sends my way.
Just like truth, hope never dies.
I don't know what is in store for my family.
But I remain ready to welcome any goodness and truth.

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At February 14, 2008 at 7:48:00 AM EST , Anonymous Angry African said...

Your mom, my dad. Your dad, my momo. Haven't written about her yet. Still too difficult 7 years later. She took her own life. With a gun my dad owned.

I like what you say as it is so true. Live the truth. Let's go on and make them proud.

At February 14, 2008 at 11:52:00 PM EST , Blogger ilovemylife said...

Thank you for reading my story. I so appreciated reading yours at your blog. Welcome to my world and I feel welcome to yours...

At March 20, 2009 at 6:28:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the lake that your dad made

At September 6, 2011 at 12:24:00 PM EDT , Blogger Jawstaysun said...

Thanks for sharing your story and thanks for all the things you do to make the world a better place!

I am also from Huntington, Indiana.


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