Last week my dad died three months short of his 95th birthday. Youngest of four I was privileged to have him to myself more than the other three. I was definitely a “daddy’s girl”. My dad loomed large in my life, not only due to his large frame, standing 5’11 fluctuating weight sometimes topping 250, but because I grew up with his rules, and his black and white thinking, in his house there was only one way, I’d ask why, he’d say because I said so… But I also felt his joy at seeing me and my fear of displeasing him fueled my decisions for years.
But come high school my rebellious nature surfaced and we disagreed more and I wasn’t as eager to be with him. And because he loomed so large in our house with his moodiness and unpredictable bad temper I’d avoid being in the same room as him. Even still I wanted him to “approve” of my choices.
But many years passed and we became closer. To the point where I enjoyed traveling with him (and my mom), I looked forward to our discussions at the table, he loved discussing things, new practices in my business, he always wanted to know who I was dating, he loved politics, he loved CNN and MSNBC. At 94 he knew what was happening in the world and he shared his ideas passionately.
And, one day several months ago I received a call from him, Claudia I’ve an idea, J is getting married I want to take all you kids to the wedding in AZ, want to go? Well going on a trip to AZ in December from Chicago, always sounds like a good idea, but going with all my sibs and my parents was a trip I didn’t want to miss. And the others felt the same.
He so looked forward to the trip with his kids to the wedding. He’d say when we go to the wedding… or the wedding’s in a month or it’s coming up, but my sibs and I looked at each other wondering if this trip was really going to happen? Because in early November he fell, ended up in ER and we found out the cancer had spread and his pain was increasing and it was iffy he’d make it back home. But my dad’s a fighter (as in WWII). And when they wanted him to take Norco he’d monitor it because he wanted to drive and he figured if he refused it, he’d be released from the hospital being able to drive.
But things didn’t as he planned. There was a stint in rehab, and he did seem to get stronger, more stable and optimistic, seemed willing to adapt to not working everyday (which he had done for 85 years), and being driven by us or by Ubers. But when he got home the pain was relentless and he never felt comfortable for very long. I love my dad so much and seeing him in pain tore at my heart. I’d think of all the things we could do to help him. My family had resistance to hospice, so I explored medical marijuana in filling in the paper work I found out if it’s a terminal illness it gets expedited. I was told it’d take about three weeks (at this writing I’m still waiting to receive the card, I sent it in the end of December). And January 3rd he fell again, as he says his legs just gave out and he fell backwards and ended up in ER for over 26 hours because 16 people were also waiting for a bed. And there my mom, and his four children witnessed further pain and further decline. And repeatedly one by one he’d beg us to kill him. He’d point a gun to his head and say shoot me, or give me a pill to make me die. He’d say they do it for animals. And I’d repeatedly say if I could give you a pill to kill you I would, and if I did, I’d also go to jail, it’s not legal here. Through this process the strength of him, the kindness of him, the intensity of his desires were magnified. I’d make sure to never leave him without saying I love you and kiss him frequently. And at the end, he was having a reaction to the narcotics which we didn’t know for a few days so I’d say I love you dad and he’d say I love you too but scratch my back.
I do believe my dad’s soul lives on but his physical self who walked around and could give me hugs and tell me he loved me and say hi sweetie and how’s that cute dog of yours is missed everyday.
There’s a line from Jodi Mitchell Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘Till it’s gone I knew I loved my dad. But I didn’t know as an adult woman well over fifty how much I’d miss him. And how great the cost of one life would be on so many. At his funeral the line of people who came to say good bye was beyond what I ever would’ve imagined. And the number of people who’ve told me how much they loved my dad, has also surprised and filled me with pride and gratitude for how lucky I am to have had such a great man as my papa. Rest in peace dad. I’ll continue to feel your spirit ~ See you on the other side.