Friday, August 22, 2014
"Your Dad's gone" a solemn voice echoed on the other end.
It was the phone call I had been dreading for 2 years.
I told her I would be over shortly and hung up to call my brother whom I had spoken with just hours earlier telling him that he shouldn't waste any time getting over to visit Dad in the morning as something seemed off, I just felt it when I was with him earlier.
"Hey bro...." the silence was deafening..... "Dad's gone Home"
I laid in my bed for a few moments wanting so bad for this nightmare to be over, to wake up from the dream. A million thoughts at once. I got up and grabbed my glasses and walked out into the living room where my husband was still awake watching tv.
He looked up at me and said "Hey, what are you doing?" and I couldn't bring myself to even utter the words again so I just stood there blankly. "Oh. Oh no." he said as he stood up to hug me. "I'm so sorry babe..."
I grabbed my car keys and told him not to say anything to the kids until I was back later and I drove over to my Dad's house. The whole drive over there I kept thinking of the last time I had seen him, just hours beforehand... my step mom and I had gone to the chapel to make the arrangements for an intimate formal viewing. We had just signed the papers for a cremation service...Literally hours ago.
There was an insane storm going on during all of this, in fact I laughed as I held my Dad's hand earlier that afternoon and said "Dad, do you see all of this? The angels are here for you... I think they've brought all of Heaven with them!". It was quite a sight outside, hail and rain and thunder and wind like I've never seen before... oddly enough the storm centered right over our small community and that was it...
When we returned from the chapel with the final arrangements in place I went up to give my Dad a hug. Though he hadn't opened his eyes more than a handful of times in a week and usually laid there pretty peacefully, I could tell that tonight he was restless. He didn't seem comfortable. I covered him up with a blanket and started to massage his hands when he turned to look at me and started grimacing and making some very odd noises. It startled me and I said "Dad what's wrong, what's the matter?" He did this a few more times as I asked if he needed more pain medicine. He was unresponsive, had been for a couple of days at that point, so I gave him some more morphine and waited a few minutes. He was still acting odd so I gave him another dose and also some Haldol hoping to calm him down, I upped his oxygen a little bit and I sat with him. I kept thinking I just wanted to stay, I almost called my husband and told him that I was going to stay the night on the floor next to him... but I didn't.
He seemed to calm down a little bit over the next hour, his breathing more relaxed, so I turned down the light and gave him a hug "Love you Dad."
I left the house, still uneasy, about 10pm and called my brother who had just arrived in town to let him know to head over first thing in the morning. I knew something wasn't right. I got home and laid down shortly before getting the phone call.
All of that ran through my head over and over again as I drove to his house. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. After all this time, we were finally doing this. The awful phone calls. The late night call to the hospice nurse and coroner. Just utter disbelief. Pain that knocks the wind out of you.
I went inside and up the stairs and saw my Dad laying there, just as I had left him merely hours ago. His head was tilted to the side and his eyes were slightly open... I had to look twice to convince myself that he really was gone. I knelt down beside him and laid my head on his chest and cried. I held his hand and stroked his head in absolute disbelief. Every ounce of my body screamed in agony. "Damn, Dad." "Damn." I sobbed.
I watched my brother walk in and come up the stairs and do the same double-take that I did and shake his head. I stood to hug him and we all cried. We all sat around in silence, all having the same million thoughts racing through our heads.
My step mom said that he had been resting easily, she had kissed him goodnight around 11:00 and got up at midnight to give him his pain medicine and he was gone. I just knew it.... I knew I should have stayed and not gone home but obviously that's not what he wanted. He didn't want me there. It was quite fitting since the past several months had gone in a similar fashion, almost like he was pushing me away, trying to tell me to move on and stop worrying about him... to move on with my life... move on from cancer and all it has taken from us. The whole time I just wanted to be there, as I told him at his first chemo session that I would be... and it's like he was increasingly telling me to stop. Perhaps he had seen, better than I could, all that cancer had taken not only from him but from me, my family... sucked me dry and he wanted me to stop letting it... even that night.
"Enjoy your life Baby Cakes" that's all I could hear as I laid on his chest. "It's time."
I began to help my step mom pick out his suit from the closet and the gray tie he had requested in the last coherent conversation I had with him about 10 days prior. Which shoes would he want... it was all so surreal.
By now the hospice nurse had arrived, she had to confirm that he was really gone and call the doctor to get the death proclamation. She also called the mortuary company that we had decided on only a few hours prior so they could come and get him. When they arrived they were so professional. I mean what an awful job to have, awkward, emotional... horrible but they were wonderful. They let us have our time with him and then got him on the gurney to come down the stairs. What a weird experience, I could hear them struggling to get him down the stairs, afterall it took 5 firefighters to get him up there in the first place trying to keep him as comfortable as possible. I watched them load him into the hearse and close the doors... and that was it.
We all continued to stand around in disbelief and finally left to go to bed. When I got home both of the boys were laying in our bed sleeping. I saw my oldest open his eyes as I climbed in and I just stroked his hair softly, he kept staring at me intently. "Momma... is Grampa in Heaven?" it took my breath away. I couldn't believe that he knew somehow... "Yea baby. He is."
What a day... what a day... I can hardly believe it's been a year. Who am I kidding, I can hardly believe it happened at all. It still isn't real that he's gone. I feel like the Universe gets extra wonky around death anniversaries, like the vibration speeds up because weird things happen. Memories that haven't dawned on you in ages all of a sudden pop up. Things seem out of place... it's hard to explain. It is similar to when he died, like the veil between heaven and earth kept thinning out until he was gone. I feel like it's doing that again. I can feel him close by now, just like in the opposite sense I could feel him drifting away.... which probably makes no sense to anyone but me?
Even the kids have been obviously noticing it, they've been talking a LOT about Grampa lately. My youngest who never really gets emotional about missing him has been crying about missing Grampa every single day for nearly 2 weeks... "You miss your Dad momma?" "Yes baby I miss him" "Me too" :( Out of the blue he is constantly talking about missing him.... I've yet to tell them that it's been a year, not that they could comprehend what that means anyway, or that we're going to have a celebration to commemorate things but they can definitely sense it all.
A year later, it still feels numb. I have to shake my head any time I think about that day, when I think about it all... I remember the initial diagnosis and sitting there dumbfounded as a surgeon still wearing his blue cap explained to us that he had just removed a tumor the size of a cell phone during the cystoscopy. I remember the look of shock on my Dad's face when the same surgeon repeated the findings to my Dad later in his room as the gravity of it all started to hit. I remember the phone call my Dad made to me the day everything took a horrible turn as he told me they'd given him 2-4 years... "So....that's it?!?" long pause "that's it, kid"... how had he found the courage to make that call to me...? I imagine it took the same courage as I needed to call and tell my brother that he was gone.
It's all an epic whirlwind of shittiness really. It still sucks today as bad as it did then. I still have no good answer for my kids when they cry to me about how they miss Grampa. I tell them they can visit him every night in their dreams and they respond "but Grampa doesn't come in my dreams!" how the heck do I fix that...? I tell them that I promise he does come but sometimes it's hard to remember our dreams and they look at me confused and continue to cry. They don't get it and they don't know how to fix the hurt in their hearts anymore than I do. I'm not sure if it'll ever get easier.
So what do you do a year later... the same thing we did that night... put one foot in front of the other, continue to look to the sky and listen intently when he sends his love and reassurance from heaven and "live my life Baby Cakes"
I'm trying Dad.
But I'll always wish you were still here to live it with me.