One year ago today Big Daddy and I went to the casino (as we do) and while we were there, we got a call from my mom. She’d just seen Dad two days before and everything was okay, but on Sunday she got a call that he wasn’t doing well. By the time she called us, I could tell she’d been crying but she told us there was nothing to do so we didn’t need to rush home. I think my mind froze up a little bit because I remember looking to Big Daddy to tell me what to do. He said, “We’re going home,” so I got up and we headed to Plano. I’m really glad he knew what to do, or threw a dart and hit the right answer because I wasn’t really processing information at that point. I guess that was shock. It was like someone shot my brain full of Novocaine.
By the time we got to Dad’s care facility, they were just managing his pain. His breathing was labored and he was so very frail. He didn’t look like my dad at all, but then he hadn’t been himself in a long time. As strange as it sounds, it felt to me like he eroded…this big guy with this big personality left us bit by bit…I really don’t have any opinions about whether it’s easier or harder than other ways of dying, and as with most things I’m sure my sister and my mom have their own experiences and thoughts about it that may be much different than mine but to me it was like a Polaroid photograph in reverse the picture became less and less clear until he was all blurry and impossible to recognize.
We gathered as a family, all of us except my eldest niece who chose to stay home. She didn’t want to remember him that way, and I remember being proud of her for knowing herself well enough to know what she could handle. Her Pop Pop would never have wanted her to do anything that she was anxious about. We all did what we felt like we needed to do and from that day to this, I don’t think anyone in my family bothered with opinions about what should have been said or done. We were gentle with each other. We were at peace with what was coming. We all were just winging it, without a leader and without instructions.
Eventually we said goodbye and we left. The nurse told us that he wasn’t dying yet so I heard, “It could be tomorrow.” No one said that, but it’s what I thought we were being told. Not that it mattered. He wasn’t going to sit up and give a speech about what amazing people we are. He didn’t need to, he’d put his love into action a million times.
A little while later, my sister (who had stayed behind for a few moments alone with him) came to the house to tell us he’d gone and all I remember anyone saying about it was, “Okay.”
Mourning has been really weird. It’s not orderly or structured. The times when I’m sure I’ll be emotional, I’m usually not and then on some random Tuesday a memory will come to visit and I’ll come apart for a little bit. Some days I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that my dad is whole and happy and sending me special deliveries of joy and other times I just want him here, right here, right now and I’m a little pissed off that no one consulted me about when and how my dad was going die. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been ambushed by sadness and others I’m just really thankful I got the dad I got. All I’ve learned is grief is messy and inconvenient.
I’m always saddened when I hear about losses during the holidays. I don’t know if it’s a harder time to lose someone or not–maybe it’s always hard, but what I’m learning is that we help each other navigate the new journey one day at a time. I now feel very safe with others who have lost parents. It’s not a club you’re in any hurry to join, but you’re pretty thankful for people who’ve had the experience before you as they help you accept that while things are different, there will one day be a new normal and you’re not alone. We’re not ever alone.
Love ya’ll–make it a memorable Monday!