Mornings are the hardest. It’s like when I awoke on Sept 12, 2001 and for just a minute I’d forgotten the world was changed forever and then the realization and horror hit me like a ton of bricks recalling the horrible terrorist events of the day before. It’s much like that now – I wake in a haze -sometimes it’s 3am ,sometimes 4 am sometimes I even wake at those hours and somehow will myself not to let myself think or feel anything -and if I’m lucky it waits a little longer in the morning to pound me. That wonderful moment of haze and then I feel the tug or shot of pain from my surgical scar but then the pounding realization that I lost my dad overwhelms me. I hurt all over. Grief emulates from the inside out.
I know it will ebb someday but the loss of a parent is so life changing – more painful than I could ever conceive.
Sleep has been an elixir. But my body hasn’t wanted to do that much. Pain medication has been helpful and I have some because of the surgery -but I take it so sparingly for fear of addiction. I have hunger sometimes but no appetite. The wonderful meals people have brought over – smell so good-yet I try to eat but I’m not able to get much down.
On days where I can’t eat much I go for the bad stuff-cake or ice cream – cookies (except my dogs ate most of those when they found them near my bed). Even then I can’t eat in much quantity. I know this is the grief diet -the lack of appetite and the white sugar carb only foods that keep me fueled. We’ve met before. It will subside in time.
Losing a parent is -at least for me -so profound. I realized in the wake of all that the last weeks have brought that I’ve always been a child. And thankfully because I still have my dear mom I still am. But as soon as I learned that my dads situation was dire I yelled in my room “daddy don’t leave me” over and over. I hadn’t called my dad daddy in years. The grief that hit me was paralyzingly. A couple of my kids were home and i heard them shuffling outside my door and I tried to calm myself – I’m not sure I heard myself yelling. My daughter came in and asked if she could do anything and asked if she should stay home from work. I know for her that work was the best place for her to be. I told her it was ok to go. As it turned out she was able to say goodbye to my dad over the phone when she got home later that night. We held a prayer circle around my dad with family on the phone and my brother and his friend by my dads side in Florida.
We didn’t have time to get down to Florida to be there. I didn’t go down to help my brother navigate my dads medical issues that led to this last trip to the hospital bc I was recovering from surgery. It’s that suddenness that’s is so hard. You wonder what your last words were that he was conscious to hear. You wonder what things you wish you said when the person was living.
My last words to my dad when he was conscious in the Physical in-patient rehab facility were “I Love You”. My last words to him as he left the world were the same.
I’m still not sure I can bring myself to write about the last weeks of my dads life. I’m still getting my mind wrapped around the fact he’s gone. But I would be remiss in not talking about my dad. I spent a lot of time not writing about him when he was living. And I did so because my dad had his flaws. I guess I didn’t want to hurt him if he read anything unflattering about himself. We all have flaws but I didn’t want to hurt anyone I loved. We had a roller coaster ride of a relationship. Not often understanding each other. My teen years with him were hard. My dad liked to drink and back then he could be an angry person when he had too much. I also am sure my teenage antics caused him a lot of reasons to get angry with me. There are so much that goes into the dynamics of a relationship. And through the years I sometimes felt like my dad didn’t like me and often I didn’t like him. But man did I love him. And I always will. And I know that though we could have so many differences from politics to how we chose to live our lives that my dad may not have always liked me but I know he loved me.
His ways of showing love were different than obvious affection. He didn’t like goodbyes at all. So it was fitting that he never regained consciousness in his last hours. If he knew he was leaving us he’d have preferred to slip away. But he had a fierce sense of responsibility to my brother and I. His desire was to leave us each some money. And he succeeded. Though I’d prefer to having my dad around still to drive me nuts than to have the money he left me. But I know he’s happy that he was able to leave us this final gift.
My dad had grown up less than wealthy and had been fortunate to receive a great education with the help of a wealthy and wonderful Uncle named Jim. And that education enabled him to become a successful businessman. He was always careful with his spending. I often thought he was a miser. Sometimes it was so hard for him to spend a dime. He loved money too much sometimes but I think there was great fear in somehow losing it.
In my youth I began seeing money as a means of control and I saw that money didn’t always buy happiness. So I went the opposite direction and mismanaged my money and then my families and that infuriated my dad when I mistakenly told him about out issues a couple years ago. It was fear that drove that anger but it hurt me. One never gets over wanting to please their parents. Eventually we filed bankruptcy and I don’t know if my dad ever knew this fact. But from that I learned so much we are back on our financial feet – doing better – making better choices on spending and saving – and I don’t plan on mismanaging the money I inherit. In fact the last time I saw my dad he introduced me to his financial advisor- hoping that when he died I would use him.(and I will). As it turns out the advisor is also the administrator of my dads trust. I had no idea six months ago when I met him we would be meeting again so soon. Making sure he could leave us some money was a final gift of love that my dad left us. I want to be smart about it for my families benefit and out of respect to my dad.
My dad and I had an argument about a year or two ago. He had a hard time listening to me and I suppose I became loud and frustrated as I had many times over the years but I had tried to quell in recent years preferring to just try listening to him bc I loved him and maybe it didn’t matter if he actually heard me. (I began writing when I was a kid solely so I could express myself because I felt my words went unheard so often – even with my peers – maybe all kids feel that way but it’s in this frustration of needing to be heard that my writing need and desire were born -so in many ways I’m grateful). Anyway that day I yelled back and the argument didn’t end well. We were on the phone which complicated things more I think. My dad used his speaker when he chatted and that made me nuts – though I use speaker now often- is it an age thing or a tech thing but it can be so annoying causing disjointed conversations. Maybe we were both on speaker that day booming voices being heard talking over each other. Nobody listening. So the call ended not well and now I can’t recall if someone hung up on the other but it was a bad ending. Which led me to promise myself I wasn’t going to call him ever again ( so teenager-esque –we are children always with our parents and our immaturity can really come out when dealing with them).
About a week after that argument I got an envelope from him from his home on Marco Island, Fl. It was kind of bulging. I opened it to find two pretty, white sand dollars wrapped in tissue. One had broken a bit but the other – the big one- remained intact. – and a small note was included that simply said “I thought you might like these . There are many here on the Island. – Love Dad.” There was no I’m sorry -but he had raised the white flag with the gift of those beautiful white sand dollars. And I called him to thank him- we never mentioned the fight. But that act by a sometimes impossible man was how he best showed his love. Those sand dollars will forever be in my shell collection vase. They aren’t just stuff from the sea – which he and I both loved- they are a gift of love.
Dad and I were on a good run in the last year or more. We were in a good place. We talked often on the phone and had a nice visit in Florida last March. I’m so very grateful for that. I laugh as I recall some of those conversations. Ones which often ended with a speech about the candidate for President he very much disliked. I just listened and laughed bc he was very funny. He wasn’t looking for a conversation or my opinion -he just wanted to be heard and an ear I gave.
I suppose I held on to some sadness and anger over the differences we had over the years even when I thought I had let them go. But I know I’ve let much of it go now. Everything he was became so clear to me in the moments he was dying. Not the flaws or disagreements, not just my daddy, but the whole man. All I felt was love for this big personality that was part of my life. It was as if God gave me that gift of seeing him as a human -exactly like me. A soul trying to figure out how to get through this thing called life – and trying to love in the best way he could.