|Typical "Dad" pose. Arms crossed - probably saying, "Yes, Dear."|
I’ve been spending a lot of time this past week thinking about my dad and missing him. Not only because Father’s Day is coming up and it will be our first Father’s Day without him, but because I keep remembering last year at this time. When he fell and hit his head and we spent many sad, dark days in June by his bedside at the hospital and in hospice until his death on the 25th.
Although he was still alive on Father’s Day last year, he was in the ICU and was no longer responsive. My siblings and I had all mailed cards to him earlier that week, thinking that he was going to be all right.
But he wasn’t.
On Father’s Day, I stood by his bedside, opening each card and reading it to him while tears slid down my face. I wanted him to wake up and tell me it was all going to be okay.
But he didn’t and he couldn’t.
Later, when one of the nuns visited him in the ICU, she picked up all those cards and re-read them out loud to him. She told him he was so loved by his family and that God loved him, too. And if he was hanging on to care for his wife (our mom) who has dementia, he could let go because we were going to take good care of her.
When she called me later to tell me all this, I cried listening to her. I didn’t want dad to let go because I was being selfish – and wanted him still here with us. By that point, I knew there was very little hope and if he survived, he could no longer be the man we knew and loved. His brain had suffered too much injury.
So I knew I didn’t want that either.
And so my dad missed Father’s Day 2016 and will miss all the Father’s Days to come. He missed his 90th birthday by a few weeks. And he missed his 64th wedding anniversary by a few days.
But we miss him even more. And even though mom no longer really asks about him, I know she misses him. He was her rock; the one person she knew she could count on and the one person who got her through each day.
Over the past few years, I would ask dad to come to Columbus for the weekend for whatever holiday we were celebrating because I didn’t want my parents to be alone. They used to travel a lot and would usually be at one of our houses for every holiday. But Dad started hesitating before saying “yes” whenever I asked.
This was something he hadn’t done before and I thought he was merely being considerate of my time because I had to drive to Alliance, pick them up and then turn around and drive back to Columbus – a five hour undertaking that I would have to repeat once the weekend was over.
What I didn’t realize – until now – was how difficult it was for him to get mom out of her rocking chair and out of their house. She didn’t want to leave it. It was where she was most comfortable and where she felt most safe.
When she visited us in Columbus, there were distinct moments of real confusion. One Christmas morning she woke up thinking it was Easter and they were in a hotel. She was upset because she thought she had lost her glasses and she wanted us to call the Lost and Found to search for them.
She was talking about glasses she hadn’t worn in about 10 years.
It took over an hour for us to get mom calmed down and back to some semblance of normal. Dad said he hadn’t seen her like that before and it seemed almost more than he could handle. So I was at least glad I was here to help, but it made me realize how difficult it was sometimes for dad to care for mom.
Only he never ever complained.
It has only been in the last year since dad has been gone and mom is here with me in Columbus that I’ve realized how much work it was to care for her.
And I’m not even doing much of the work! Mom is in a memory care unit and my only “duty” is to visit with her. Most of the time, she’s settled in her rocking chair and she’s fine. But whenever something is out of the normal routine for her – like when I have to take her to a doctor’s appointment – she asks a million questions about what we’re doing, where we’re going and why. Well, basically she asks those three questions. But she asks them over and over again – so I think it probably adds up to a million. At least.
My point is that this is what dad had to deal with when I asked the relatively simple question, “Will you and mom come to Columbus for the weekend, Dad?”
I wish I could tell him how much I appreciated what he did for mom. And what he did for all of us. That if I could be half the person he was, I’d feel like I should be fitted for those angel wings he clearly must have hidden under his light blue button down shirt.
And I would just like to hug him one more time and tell him I love him.
So when we take the time this weekend to celebrate dads, I’ll be missing mine. But I’m grateful that I had such an honorable, good man as he to guide me through life. And even though he’s not here with us every day, I think he’s still watching out for us.
He just doesn’t have to hide those angel wings under the light blue button down shirt anymore.
I miss you and I love you. Mom and I will have a glass of wine together in your honor, okay?
And I thank you, Dad – for everything.
Until we meet again.