One year ago today I received the last call regarding my Dad and his health. The one where the nurse very apologetically says, “Your Dad. He died some time in the night.”
He had died in his sleep as most kidney failure deaths occur. As the body becomes more riddled with toxins the periods of consciousness become shorter and shorter and the sleep becomes heavier and heavier. He had a strange bought of lucidness the night before where he told my brother he wasn’t dying and he needed to go home. While we had both read about this occurring as a last phase before death, we had a hard time really considering and instead did the foolish thing and let ourselves hope it was possibly true. Of course it wasn’t. And we knew that. And if we didn’t we weren’t given too long to hope, he had died less than 12 hours later.
My brother was already there in Knoxville so he was able to head straight to the hospice. I had to do what I had been preparing my family for: load everyone up in a millisecond and hit the road. The hospice had let me know that they would call me ASAP and that if I got on the road immediately, I could still come say Goodbye. They wouldn’t take him away yet. We had been packed for weeks and already had suits, dress clothes, and baby paraphernalia waiting in Knoxville from the many other trips I had made in the months prior.
Of course the drive was slow as we got behind wrecks and construction and everything possible to slow us down on the one day I needed to be able to aparate.
I said my goodbye to a body that no longer held my Dad but for some reason was symbolic enough that I just had to do it. Why was that so necessary, I’ll always wonder. I had said goodbye to the real him many times over those few months. When I had hugged him two days before I remember considering this as the final goodbye, the signs were there it wouldn’t be much longer. I had told him I loved him and squeezed his frail body as tight as I felt safe doing. So after that – why was I so desperate to say Goodby to the shell that had once held him? I don’t know. But I did. And I’ll be forever glad I did because it gave a stark reality to the daze of death. I was very glad I had that image in the months to come when I would sometimes convince myself he was no longer gone.
I don’t do that anymore.
I know he’s gone. It still hurts, but I don’t have moments that I doubt it anymore. I still struggle with him not being here. There are so many things he’s missing I knew he would just love. His granddaughter playing t-ball – and playing it well. Just like she did soccer. He would love to see what having an athletic daughter looks like. One that seems to have some sort of basic talent for sports that I never had. And LilZ’s musical? He would eat up all of the stories of rehearsals and set-builds and costume sessions. I know he would find this all as fascinating as I do as it’s something he never experienced as a child or as a parent and as reserved of a Man as he was – he still loved learning and experiencing new pockets of life. He would have loved hearing about this theater community we’re now a part of and he would have wished he could have been here to lend a hand. He would most certainly been here to see the show and would have guffawed over his grandson dancing and singing on stage because he would have been thinking the same thing I think every time, “Well…he didn’t get that talent from our side of the family.”
I’m spending the day doing things that make me think of him. One last time, I have said. I have mourned the entire year in MY way. In a way I know he would have hated. He begged us to move on long before he died. He didn’t want us spending time going through his house (“Just throw a stick of dynamite in there and run!”) or crying over his things. He didn’t want us to cry at all. He wanted us to stay in our own towns with our own lives and let him die alone. We couldn’t do that, of course, but it shows how little he wanted his death to affect us. The problem was, of course, he was too brilliant of a father for that to happen. He raised us by himself, creating a bond between Dad and children that couldn’t just be disintegrated without leaving a few wounds.
But today? If I thought he was watching me I’d say he was spending the day rolling his eyes in frustration. I’m going to spend the first half of the day doing things that will most surely make me cry. A lot. And he would most certainly want to punch me in the face for that. But, as he would be the first to admit, I was never one to ever do things HIS way. He died with the head full of gray hairs to prove that.
I love you and miss you, Dad. In ways I never knew were possible. I know you wouldn’t want me crying as much as I have, but know that every tear I shed is because you were just that great of a Daddy. The little girl inside of me who looked to you for protection and safety can’t forget that easily. And the adult who looked to you for strength and guidance will most surely never forget.