Monday, March 21, 2011

Afterlife

As I was surfing through my favorite blogs today, one in particular called out her favorite bloggers and in particular Amalah. I've never been a follower of that blog, even though it's one of the most popular ones on the interwebz. I followed the link, read a few posts, and felt the memories come flooding back.

Her father is dying of cancer.

I have really been missing my father lately. I can't help but think that since Nick was born exactly 4 months and a day after my father died, that somehow my dad had something to do with us getting such a sweet, sweet boy.

My dad was a total prankster, and absolutely adored dogs. When we moved back to Virginia back in 1997, a German Shepherd-mix was dropped off on the road by my parents' house and my dad ended up adopting him. Brutus was his best buddy for many years until he died of a heart attack while my parents were traveling in Europe. My dad was devastated and never, ever had another dog after that.

Fast forward to when we got Rufus. He has always been on the shy side, but when he growled at my dad and then my dad growled back, Rufus determined that Grandpa was not to be trusted. Thus began a dance between the two of them every time they were in the same room. Rufus would sidle up to my dad, getting juuuust close enough - my dad would attempt to pet him and Rufus would jump away, wagging his tail and grinning. The only time Dad was ever able to pet him was when Rufus was asleep.

My dad would absolutely adore Nick, not only because of his cuteness but also his sweet disposition. As a matter of fact, Nick is like my dad in dog form. Sweet, good natured, a little stubborn, and smart as hell. A deadly combination.

Last year was so draining. I adored my father to the ends of the earth. He was and is my hero. Watching his illness progress was one of the hardest things I've ever had to live through, if not the hardest thing. He was so brave, and faced death with a stoicism that I still admire to this day. He trusted in his God to hold him in his hand and guide him through his final days.

The last day he was truly lucid was July 31st, his 89th birthday. He suffered through his birthday party with our family and by the end was a total wreck from the pain. After that, they bumped up his medication and he remained in a haze for the next two weeks.

As I sat by his bedside that last week, I held his hands for hours while I traced every line, vein, and spot with my finger. He was completely lost in the clouds of painkillers, which only allowed him a few lucid moments each day and I treasured every second of them. I had already said everything that needed to be said, and heard him say everything that I needed to hear. There were only slow, steady motions of comfort left to offer. Smoothing his beautiful silver hair, giving him a manicure without him complaining about the ever present split nail on his index finger. Rubbing lotion onto his arms and hands. Giving him a nice, warm shave and brushing his teeth for him.

I wasn't there when he died. I had actually left work that day with the intention of driving down that night to see him, since we all knew it was getting close to the end. There were horrible thunderstorms though, and I decided to wait and leave in the morning. He died just before 11 PM that night.

After he was gone, my sister called me and could barely speak. When the phone rang, I knew it was all over. I laid in the dark for hours, with the tears coursing down my face with a mixture of sadness and relief. Peace had finally come. A peace he deserved.

There is a certain kinship that people share when they've lost a parent, no matter what age. You give each other that knowing look, the sympathetic nod, and you really get it. You realize that now you are the one to carry on the family traditions. You know that you can't pick up the phone and ask how to fix that broken window or for your favorite recipe. But you also know that although life as you knew it is gone, there is an afterlife of your own to be lived.

The last few days, I have been happier than I can remember being in a long time. Maybe it's springtime with the rebirth of life all around us. Maybe it's allowing myself to living again without being afraid to make plans for my life because of the unknown. Whatever it is, I'm happy it's here.

5 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Wow, great writing; your dad sounds like a really neat person. :)
The sweet furry ones do have a wonderful way of healing human hearts. Sounds like Nick happened at precisely the right time.

Taryn said...

I have read through some of your older posts about your father, and along with this one, your love for him really shines through. You must have had a wonderful relationship with him.

My dad died back in 1994 at only 74. And while our relationship wasn't nearly as close as yours must have been, I so understand what you are saying about not being able to pick up the phone, etc. It's like that last little bit of being a kid is gone once one's parents have passed. For me, I miss sitting on the back porch with my dad, watching a thunderstorm rage, and just quietly enjoying the moment together.

And definitely, a puppy truly helps heal that broken heart.

MPPs Mom said...

super giant hugs for you from me ;)

Very very touching.

nancy said...

I feel your pain. My father died 22 years ago at 57 yrs. of age. I'm 57 now. I was there the week before he passed. He could not speak and when I went to leave he would not let go of my hand. I left when he finally slept. I felt like a thief in the night. I will never forget him.

Janet said...

Did your Dad happen to have a taste for wood products? ;P

I lost my dad 18 years ago. He was a jolly happy guy and to this day I still wish I could pick up the phone, yell "hey you old coot" and share a laugh with him. But as the years have passed, the pain of losing him has eased, because I can still feel him in my heart.