Little did I know when I started this blog a few weeks ago, that my father was in the process of dying. Maybe I knew, but my right brain tendencies – the emotional, loving, caring side – allowed me to deny it.
His health had been declining for many months, but in a gradual way. I suppose it’s similar to raising a small child and not noticing how fast they are developing until someone else brings it to your attention.
Dad was ready to go. He had told just about anyone who would listen that he had lived a long life and did not enjoy the limitations that old age delivered. He had a strong character and even though he was ready, he did not give up easily. Let me clarify: He was extremely disciplined. He continued to drag himself out of bed and get dressed each day, and even though it became more and more difficult, he was determined to be up and dressed, at a decent hour. The hour became later, but not by much. About a week before he died he was describing how very hard it was to wake up that morning and how he could barely get out of bed. I told him, “If I were you, I’d just stay in bed all day long. Give yourself a break from your normal routine.” But he would not allow himself that. Each day he had less and less strength but he pushed through it.
It’s only now, looking back, that I see this as a positive thing. He set an incredible example for me to follow. It’s never too late to learn from your mentor how to live and even how to die. It’s been a beautiful experience to read the words of friends and loved ones in the sympathy cards I’ve received. Some of my father’s old friends have written and told me stories they recall about playing canasta or sitting on the front porch chatting with my dad. I appreciate these stories as these folks reminisce about the positive impact my dad had on their lives. He was truly loved by all who knew him. Even our friends, who have gotten to know him in this past year, are sharing what a lovely person he was. And he was. He may not have heard what they said, but he always smiled and nodded and laughed at the appropriate times, somehow. He was cheerful and grateful to me every single day this past year. I know this now as I look back in awe. While I was in the midst of it all, it surely was frustrating and maddening and very, very, difficult having him in my care. I don’t DENY that. And I miss him – even the frustrating moments. But my stomach is no longer in chronic knots and my head is no longer pounding. I worried a lot about the massive responsibility of caring for him.
A friend wrote me the most honest email the other day. She said, “Sorry to hear about your Dad, Debbie. But I’m glad he is at peace and your life can go back to normal again. It was a tough road for both of you.”
It was a tough road for both of us. And it’s okay for me to reveal that truth. It is perhaps, the other side of denial.