Oct 21, 2010

can't believe it's been a year...

It's October 21st 2010...nearly a year since my Dad took in his last breath. One year since he looked into my eyes. One year since he squeezed my hand to comfort me as I cried knowing that he would be gone soon.  I can't believe it.

It truly seems like that horrible week in October just happened.  I remember my family doing everything we could to give him permission to let go. It killed all of us to see our strong, vibrant father melting away cruelly in front of our eyes.  Still, he held on. We brought all the grand kids over. He held on. My brother visited, I visited, my husband visited, his friends visited and he still held on.  Finally, on the afternoon of the 22nd, less than 12 hours before, what would have been his 83rd birthday, a couple of men and a priest came from the church. The priest gave him last rights. Giving him permission to let go. God was telling him it was okay and it was time. Being the ever faithful and vigilant Catholic, that was the "okay" to go. I came over to visit Dad around 2pm, they left around 1pm.

He passed sometime in between.

It was hard to be the one to find him.  I walked to the back bedroom where he was and knew he was gone without stepping foot into his room. The air was still. His presence was gone. There was a definite vacancy in the air. Still, knowing he was gone, I walked over to him, closed his eyes, held his hand and kissed him one last time.  My mom was sitting in the front room. I shouted for her to come to the back room. Hearing her approach I simply said "he's gone mom."  She had a  confused look and replied "no he's not, he's still breathing. see?"  My eyes never left her "no, he's gone mom. His fingers are blue. He's gone."  She never walked into the room, she turned on her heel and walked into the den across the hall and called the funeral home.  This is her way of coping; get the details hammered out..don't stop for two seconds to realize or ponder the fact that the man you loved, the man who completely adored you and had for over 50 years, has left this world.  I, on the other hand, was simultaneously devastated and relieved because his long fight was over.

My Dads long illness started to drive a wedge between my mother and my brother and I. Well, not his illness, rather our mom's way of dealing with (or being in denial about) his illness. See, my Dad had Alzheimer's; a disease like no other.  It slowly and systematically erases the one you love. Erases everything about them that makes them them. My Dads short term memory started showing holes in it about 15 years ago. progressively over the years the short term became null. He would start a conversation with you and within a minute of finishing he would start all over again like it never happened. He was stuck in some infinite loop he didn't realize he was in and had no way of getting out of. Most of us never let on that, yes, we have already heard this story 12 times. My mom was not one of those people to let it slide. She would call him out on everything like he was a three-year old. "Vern, you already said that!" in her shrill, sharp-edged tone she has. He would throw back some wise alec reply to her. It's how they communicated. At least when he was sending the verbal volley back at her, you knew he was still there.

I wasn't the best daughter. I should have visited more, hung out with him more, seen him more but I tried. Once you lose someone so close to you you start reaching back for something tangible to hold onto. You want to think about happier times and that's the time you sometimes realize, yeah...I missed a lot of opportunities with my Dad. Fortunately and sadly he had no recollection of visitors. You could spend 10 hours with him but five minutes after you're gone he'd ask, "Where's Margaret? I haven't seen her in a while."

It was heartbreaking.

I think I had a moment with my Dad a few days before he died where he was there. He looked me in the eye and I saw my Dad. I went to his room to visit him. I knelt on the floor and talked to him. He looked like he was asleep which helped me say what I needed to say. I don't think I could've been so honest if he was looking right at me. How sad is that? My Dad is dying and I still can't say what's in my heart? What was I afraid of?  I don't remember everything I said but the gist was I was so sorry for anything I'd done. I was sorry I didn't visit more. I told him he was the best Dad to me. I was so blessed and lucky to have him as my father. It was then that the sobs came; big, sloppy, loud, sobs. I couldn't even talk. I felt my Dad grab my hand and squeeze it. Hard. I looked up and there he was. Clear-eyed and sharp minded. He couldn't talk but that look said so much. It was okay. He heard me. He loved me. He knew I loved him. I just wanted to curl up with him and tell him everything will be okay like I was talking to my seven year-old.  The moment passed and he fell back asleep. I am forever grateful for that last glimpse of my Dad. I prayed so hard that week, his last week of life, for God to please take him.  Please end his suffering. he's fought for so long and so hard...why are you making him suffer more? But God and my Dad were already talking I think.

When those visitors came they mentioned that as they prayed my dads eyes flew open and he gasped. Not in a scary way...but I think that was Dad letting go and getting his first glimpse into Gods eyes. He would be gone within the hour but I think his spirit was gone right then. His body was just hanging on. That gives me some measure of  peace knowing the God he loved, fought for and lived for was there waiting for him when he was ready to let go of this world.

I miss you Dad. Happy Birthday.

Oct 12, 2010


train, originally uploaded by MaggieRDA.
stuck at the railroad crossing waiting for the train to pass...

Oct 8, 2010

not the typical family

not the typical family, originally uploaded by MaggieRDA.

but i love 'em ♥