Dad? Dad? Dad! Funny how I won’t be “addressing” anyone by that name anymore. These are the little things you think about after losing a parent. The service is behind us now. All the preparation is over. The family and friends who gathered to give tribute have said goodbye and gone home. To give honor was our goal. I think our mission was accomplished, but I’m not done talking about him yet. I want to say more. Eight minutes just can’t be it – not after 87 years.
I reflected a couple of years back in this column about being part of the sandwich generation. I was taking care of my parents while simultaneously taking care of my kids. I noted how overwhelming it was at times. How I wanted to just be the daughter again, instead of the caretaker. I talked about going over to their house and getting assaulted with the sound of blaring TVs. They are silenced now. The house is so cold, after always being so unbearably hot. I am free now to open up all the windows and let in as much fresh air as I want. Funny, now I’m missing the “Dad” smell.
The stillness is so impregnated with what was. A lifetime. We sorted through and discerned what to dispose of, and felt a sense of betrayal when something didn’t make the cut. We went through all of my parents’ possessions, arranged their life nicely on tables for all to “pick through.” At the last minute, I just couldn’t part with some things. People were gracious, sharing with me their journeys through the same. The house is about to have new owners now.
I try to reflect back on the few months prior. There are funny little moments that will stay with me always: When the nurse told me how she laughed hysterically after Dad’s dissertation of his Cream of Wheat. How he fought two nurses off when they tried to put an NG tube down his throat. The chart read: “combative patient.” Great. How he overshared when asked to give his medical history. How aides used to linger to listen and laugh about his stories from the past. Dad didn’t try to be funny – it was just his dry, unrestrained commentary that left a trail of laughter.
Why didn’t I take the time to sit down more and have that cup of coffee with him? Why is it so clear to me now that doing that far outweighed the necessities of pills, bills, food, etc.? It’s that time thing again. How does one use it, as each day goes by, so as not to regret? How do we keep perspective with the daily mundane?
So how do I keep honoring Dad? By taking care of his wife of almost 60 years. Mom lives with us now. I am reading her his journals that he meticulously kept, filled with little endearments. And by sharing memories of him with my kids. I also try to drive safely. “Take it easy on the road. It can all change in a moment,” his words echo back to me. I will, Dad.
As we battled with the degeneration of his body at the end, the visiting nurses, numerous trips to doctors, 24-hour clinics and the hospital, he would say, “Soon this will all be over and you’ll be able to get on with your life.” I knew it would happen some day, but at the time I was overwhelmed. Now it is over and there is a hole that can never be filled.
I miss you so much, Dad. How comforted I am that I can say, “I will see you later.” In the meantime, I will immerse myself in your treasured big band music and reflect on the “sentimental journey” we had.