Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2017

13322150_10206269539806605_5277678811974825638_n

My father died 11 days ago.  That is such a weird sentence to write.  I always knew that I would lose him and it likely wouldn’t be in his 80’s or 90’s but never thought it would be at only 67.  My father spent the last decade and a half of his life battling various health issues some due to genetics, some due to his weight, and some just to the luck of the draw.

Almost a year ago we found out that he had liver cancer and after much testing that in his case it was terminal…there was a lot of time spent on what does this mean.  Will he die tomorrow; in years, weeks, months…what?  After conversations we resigned ourselves to the idea that he would most likely be gone by Thanksgiving maybe Christmas; he would not see 2017.  He did he saw 14 days of it.

Over the nearly a year that he battled cancer the greatest sign of him being sick for many many months was that he lost weight and strength.  In the last months of his life his brain went from being a slightly leaky pot to a severely leaky sieve.   He lost track of time, forgot how to do many of the normal things in life, he forgot much.  He never forgot his family and he never forgot that we loved him and he loved us.

The last time I saw my Dad he could not carry on a conversation but he knew who I was and responded to my ‘I love you Papa’ with ‘oh, love you to kiddo, bunches’ in a quiet voice.

Many years ago on the night before my Dad was ordained to the transitional deaconate my sister and I gave him a father’s day/ordination present that was a small white beanie baby bear.  The bear was made as an honorific to the late John Paul II.  Its tag read:

“Teacher, Writer, Father, Friend

Your Love for us will never end

Throughout your life a light did shine

On acts of kindness to all mankind”

To us it was the perfect gift for our father who had always been those things in our life.  As I look back on his life and listen to people who knew him talk I realize how much those words apply to his relationship with others as well.  He never truly knew how beloved he was or how highly many thought of him.

My sister and I often talked about how our Dad had changed when he went to seminary.  My dad was ALWAYS an amazing father and a good person but he was a little (okay a lot) more rough around the edges when we were growing up.  You could see more of the man who spent six years in the Navy living on a ship with a bunch of rowdy sailors, causing trouble and getting away with it because he was GOOD at what he did, at least as he always told it. 🙂

Growing up my Dad would always go to bat for my sister and I with our teachers.  God forbid a teacher did something he found unjust and sent a note home for him to sign.  I loved it!  I remember once a teacher gave the whole class detention because a handful were being disrespectful and rude to a sub, her reasoning being that we should have made them stop.  When she handed the notes out telling us to give them to our moms to sign (mom traveled and was away) I walked up and asked if I could give it to me Dad.  (Yes, I was and am a smartass) She said yes and I remember grinning and she looked at me questioningly and I remember basically saying that this should be fun, and that he won’t like this.  When I gave him the form he signed it, not on the designated line but after a paragraph explaining that I wouldn’t be staying and what he thought of her teaching methods.

My dad adored my sister and I and we were both pretty good at getting what we wanted from him, he hated to say ‘No’ to us when we were little and he hated when we were upset.  If we wanted something at the store generally a simple “look, Daddy, that’s neat” or a “Can I have this Daaaaddy, Please” got us what we wanted with mom shaking her head in the background.

I remember styling his hair with our clips and hair ties; he would just sit there and let us, a small smile on his face.  I remember asking him once if he ever wished my sister and I had been boys and him telling me he wouldn’t trade us for the world.

I remember being goofy with him, I remember the first time I made him laugh with a joke I made up on the spot, I was so proud of myself as I shouted “I made a funny” which made him laugh even harder.

I remember him making fun of the people getting out of their cars to watch the mudslide as we sat on the highway stuck.  The running commentary, the voices as he pretended to be them had my sister and I rolling in the backseat and my wonder wondering about all of our sanity.  She often seemed to be wondering about his sanity in the sillier moments.

I remember when my Dad would ground me it never lasted for more than a few hours, at most a day and that was rare.  A simple “I’m sorry Daddy” with a smile and a hug rectified everything…unless of course you were lying than you were in more trouble.

My Dad taught me to play chess with the pieces in made and the board my Grandpa Don made as a wedding gift for him.  I loved that time with him.  He NEVER let me win and therefore to this day I’ve never won a game of chess against him but oh how I loved that time with him.

As I grew older I loved to just sit and talk with him, politics, history, and religion were some of the best things to debate, discuss, and learn about with him.  I remember in high school we were talking about something that I had recently learned in history class and was arguing with him, RUDELY, and he got frustrated that I wouldn’t just Shut-up and listen and threw the couches decorative pillow at my head.  Mom wasn’t too happy when it grazed me and hit the lamp…let’s be clear she was upset about the lamp, me I was being a Shit and deserved it.  I often teased him in my adult years about the time he threw a pillow at my head.

I learned a lot just talking to my Dad, he knew a little about a lot and as well as a lot about a lot of various things.  He had a thirst for knowledge and was always reading and seeking out knowledge.  I learned to not just go with what everyone else says from him but to formulate my own opinion.  I’ve learned about a lot of odd things and read many a book that I wouldn’t usually read because I didn’t want to just jump on the hate bandwagon but formulate my own opinion and ideas as he taught me.

This idea of knowing what you think especially applied to faith.  Dad and I would spend hours discussing religion and faith, he often played devil’s advocate challenging me to not just say ‘yup I believe _____’ because others did but to understand and know.  We did not always agree and I know he, generally, respected the fact that I didn’t just spout back his beliefs any more than I would someone else’s.

I miss him, I would give anything for one more conversations, one more Chess game, one more hug, and especially one more Je t’aime!   Je t’aime is I Love you in French.  Growing up Dad would speak to us in French sometimes, just to be silly mostly but it made me want to learn French so I took a couple years in high school, my French is at about a 2/3 year olds level I would guess.  When I learned that Papa was basically the French equivalent of Daddy he became Papa.  When I was an adult and my folks and I were in a shared household for a number of years due to his health issues a tradition emerged.  Every night I would knock on his door and say “Je t’aime Papa.  Bonne nuit.” on my way to bed.  He responded with “Bonne nuit, je t’aime aussi … beaucoup” or some variation thereof.

I could go on and on talking about the amazing man that I called Dad, Daddy, & Papa.  He had his flaws like all people but he was also a good man and a great father.  I consider myself blessed to have been raised by him.  To have learned from him and been shaped by him into the person I am today.  As a child he was my hero and in many ways my closest allie in this crazy world, as I grew older I saw more of his tarnish and flaws but still was often awed by him.

Je t’aime Papa et bonne nuit.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Just over two years ago I wrote an entry entitled ‘You Don’t Know’ about the idea that you don’t know what it like to walk through someone elses illness.  I’d like to revisit this idea from an emotional stand point instead of a physical one and from the point of someone who is losing someone they love dearly.

“I would give anything for one more visit with my mom”

“Embrace the time you have”

“Spend all the time you can so you have no regrets”

‘You’re so lucky, I would give anything to have known it was coming, to have had more time”

This is what I hear and more when I ‘complain’ about watching my father fade away as he suffers and dies slowly.  When I struggle to figure out how to deal with the emotions of losing one of the most important people in my life.  I nod my head and I say thanks but I wanna scream “YOU DON’T KNOW!”.  Early in this process when my dad was still whole the platitudes of embracing him, making memories, and regret for lost loves I understood at this point they hurt.

Here is what a visit with my father looks like:

I visited yesterday, I walked in to his room in the nursing home, not much different than a hospital room, and he was sitting up in his bed.  His breakfast untouched in front of him, his hands shaking uncontrollably, glasses off, eyes barely open.  I said ‘Hi Papa’ and he looked at me and was happy to see me, he knew who I was (Thank God!).  He said ‘Hi’ and then muttered incoherently for a bit.  I could see that he was struggling to see what was on his tray so I asked where his glasses where, he continued to mutter, I found them and asked if he wanted them.  He said yes and I helped him put them on as this simple task that he’s done most of his life is a challenge for him now.  I took the lid off it, his fruit, and hot cereal telling him what each was and asking what he wanted. He muttered at me for a bit more and I figured out he was asking about the juice on his tray.   At this point my mom came in and I asked her to find him a straw as I held the cup to his lips because he couldn’t, his hands were shaking too much and too hard.  When I pulled the cup away he said “That’s good!!!”.  Mom came in with the straw and with help he finished the juice.  He proceeded to mumble and mutter at my Mom about her looking ‘different’ and ‘less dark’, we have no idea.  He then spoke a bunch of garble gook that had the word “back” in it.  Based on his movements I could tell his back hurt and between gestures and deductive reasoning we figured he wanted the bed down.  Throughout the half hour I was there he faded in and out of consciousness many times.  I had to leave the room once as I refuse to cry in front of him.  Very little of what he says make sense, and he doesn’t in general understand what he’s being told.   When I left I kissed him on the head and told him I loved him he said he loved me to.  The only positives, truly, of this visit are that he knew who I was and understandable said I love you.

This may not seem that bad or whatever but I left this visit and for the first time in this process completely fell apart.  I’ve strived to control and push down the feelings of this process and seeing my Papa like that made it impossible.

When people tell me what they would give for one more visit with their lost love one in response to my sorrow at my father’s decline I want to ask if they would still feel this way if this was what a visit looked like. If after a visit you sob for the person you love.  The reality is I would give anything for one more conversation with my dad, my Dad – My Papa, not what’s left.

Just because you’ve lost someone and miss them doesn’t mean you know what someone who is going through that experience is feeling.  Your relationships, your way of dealing, your everything is different.  You are a different person and therefore your way of processing is different.  Even my sister and I, both losing the same person in the same way, are going to experience this loss differently because we are different.

I’m not saying don’t help or offer your thoughts to people going through this process, some of the greatest help through this has come from friends who’ve been through it, I’m saying think before you speak.  Your desire for your whole completely missing parent doesn’t mean that my sorrow for my declining and slowly vanishing and suffering parent is invalid.  I can’t embrace my time with him anymore because time with him means sorrow and pain.  It means watching him search for words, it means watching the odd shape of his mouth, it means trying to understand the gobbly gook that is speech, it means seeing the pain on his face, and it means watching him sleep and fade in and out of consciousness.

Read Full Post »