Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's been a while

It's been almost two years since I posted here.  I don't have an audience, so that's okay.

A few months after my last post, my Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  He passed away five months after the diagnosis, after chemo and radiation shrank the tumor, but didn't eliminate it. It spread to his lungs and took him rather quickly.  I hated how much weight he lost, I hated that he was sick, I hated that he was hurting.  Most of all, I hated how much he missed my Mom. It was painful to see it plainly in his face every time I saw him.

I still am Daddy's little girl, even though he's gone.

I always knew that I would miss my Mom when she passed.  We were close and she was wonderful.  But I knew that my Dad's passing would be worse for me.  It is and isn't.  With Mom, her passing was a bit of a surprise. I think I knew it was coming, but hadn't reconciled with it yet.  So the shock made it more difficult to process.  I cried a lot for no reason and every reason.  I had to write out personal notes in every thank you card, write a eulogy that was never read at her funeral, but was posted to my facebook.  I had to grieve to get past the loss.  I had dreams with her in it where I knew I was dreaming, I knew she was dead in real life, but no one else in the dream did.  I told her the things I didn't get to say in life. I hugged her every time and never wanted to let go.  I woke up in tears more times than I can count.  After a while, she stopped visiting me and I miss her still.

With my Dad, we knew his death was imminent. He went into the hospital with fluid in his lungs on Wednesday. That night, we learned that the cancer had spread to his lungs and it was stage 4.  We planned for hospice care, knowing that he might never get there (he didn't).  Every day I visited him, I talked to him. I told him I loved him, I thanked him for the wonderful life he'd given me. I thanked him for being my hero because he always was and always will be.  I told him that my fiance would take care of me and I would take care of my son and it was okay for him to go be with my Mom.  He had fought hard and he missed my Mom.  I didn't want him to hold on for me.  As much as I still need and miss him and as much as I didn't want him to go, I needed him to know it was okay.  I needed him to understand that I love him no matter what.  Here or not, I would be his girl and he would be my best guy.  I made sure he knew that.  On Friday before he passed, I visited him again (I went every day until he passed).  When I got there, he was in and out. As he was always hard of hearing, I called out to him, "Dad?  Daddy?!  Edziu!"  The last one (the Polish version of his name) brought him around.  He looked at me and smiled.  He hadn't smiled in SO long.  To this day, I don't know if he smiled because it was me or because he thought I was my Mom (who I resemble a lot).  I don't care.  He smiled at me.  That memory is still with me and always will be.

I saw him Saturday and again on Sunday.  Members of my parents' church choir came to see Dad that day.  (Mom and Dad had both been in the choir.)  I visited with my Dad and again told him all the things I needed him to know. I held his hand, rubbed his arms, and tried to make him comfortable.  They had planned to move him to hospice on Monday, so they took him out of the ICU.  Over the course of his time in the hospital, I'd slowly had them remove machines from him. Having medical power of attorney and knowing his wishes, I knew he didn't want the beeping machines counting breaths and heartbeats.  I knew he didn't want the oxygen he kept ripping off.  I knew he didn't want the morphine they kept pumping into him.

I had called my sister who lived far away and held the phone to Dad's ear as she talked to him and knew, by the look on his face, that he heard her and knew what she'd said.  I hung up with her, held Dad's hand some more, told him I loved him and kissed him.  I got up to put away my phone and noticed it was 4 PM and said aloud that I would have to leave soon to go home to feed my son.  Living 50 miles away made for an hour trip each way. My Dad didn't want me to bring my son to the hospital after Friday because he didn't want my son to see him so sick and my son didn't like seeing his very vital, very vibrant Grampy laid so low, knowing his time was short.

Dad had been breathing rather loudly in the hospital and, right after making my comment about needing to leave soon, I realized I didn't hear him breathing.  I stopped, turned around and looked at him and didn't see the tell tale rise and fall of his chest. I didn't hear the loud intake of breath.  I stood closer and leaned in.  Still nothing.  I put my hand on his chest - he'd lost so much weight that all I felt was his ribcage.  No heartbeat.  He was gone and I knew it.  And I missed it. I wanted to hold his hand as he passed.  I wanted there to be a moment where I saw that last breath, so I could know for certain he was at peace.  I missed it.  By seconds, maybe.  But I missed it.

How I managed to be so outwardly calm when I was screaming inside, I'll never know.  I stepped out of the room to find someone to pronounce Dad's time of death.  I looked to the left and saw a nurse going into another room. To my right, I saw a doctor coming toward me and asked him to come verify my Dad's passing.  He came in, checked, and told us he was gone.  As he left, the hospital priest came in and asked, "And how is the patient?"  I told him, "He just passed, Father."  He said, "Then let's pray."  And we did.  After the priest left, I called an attendant and asked him to straighten Dad's bed.  He'd been somewhat upright with his legs bent for days and some weird part of my mind didn't want rigor mortis to set in that way.

And then I sat, with my Dad.  But he wasn't my Dad anymore.  He was my Dad's body.  My Dad... my wonderful Dad... the man who taught  me to ride a bike and throw a football, to cook and fix things around my house and to be self sufficient... the man who had made sure that I grew up to be a stubborn pain in the butt who never settled for less than what she wanted... he was gone.  He was at peace and, I firmly believe, with my Mom and happy to be there.  And in that moment I felt grateful for the end to his suffering and angry at my own loss.  Thankful he was happy and with my Mom and simultaneously numb with the grief of missing him already.  I stayed longer than I probably should have. I couldn't bring myself to leave him there alone.  Silly as that sounds.

The next day, I arranged his wake and funeral with the help of my fiance.  I knew what Dad wanted and deserved.  It was the final gift I could give him, to take care of his arrangements the way I knew he wanted them.  As best as I could. I also was told that they couldn't find the doctor who pronounced Dad's passing.  No one knew who or where he was.  Dad's regular physician had to sign the death certificate.  Many tell me that the doctor was an angel.  That may very well be true.

It's been almost a year now and I miss his as much today as the day he passed.  If not more.  That wonderful, funny, stubborn, kind, sweetheart of a man.  Good God, I miss him.  Some days I feel like my missing him will never end.  I hear his voice in my head making his typical commentary often.  Watching a TV show, I hear him saying, "Watch this... watch this" at the good parts.  When I think of buying something that's a "luxury" I see him make a sour face in my mind's eye and say, "Eh... whaddya need that for?!"  He is with me.  He is part of me.  My Mom said, and I agreed, that of three of us girls, I am most like my Dad.  So he's never really quite gone from me.  But Lord, what I wouldn't do tto have him with me now.

I am blessed because I knew his time was coming. I knew we had days at best.  I was able to tell him the things I needed him to hear.  I was able to thank him and tell him I love him.  I was able to say goodbye.  That was a gift, I know.  And I'm grateful.  But it doesn't make me miss him any less.  It doesn't lessen the pain of his absence.  It certainly didn't make saying goodbye any easier.  I don't think there's a way for that to happen ever.