I have written in previous blogs about my father who has been sick and dying. Last week he died. I am not going to lie: I had a complicated relationship with him and I am grateful that in the end I showed up and got to say goodbye.
On Wednesday night, Lauren and I spoke to my mom over the phone. She said my dad had taken a turn for the worse and he would probably not make until Friday. We drove over to their house the next afternoon. When we got there, my two brothers were in the living room, one buried in his smart phone and the other one on the land line. I barely got in the living room when my older brother barked the order to go up and see my father. I hate being told what to do, even in times like this, but I get it — we all grieve differently.
Lauren and I went upstairs to the tiny bedroom where my Dad lay asleep in a hospital bed. He was pretty morphined up. He could not move and could not talk.
They had hired an aide to take care of my dad. The aide was a small Filipino man dressed all in white. He was wearing a white cap and had the cleanest white gym shoes on, like they had just come out of the box. He looked like the Good Humor Man that I remember driving around in an ice cream truck when I was kid. I have fond memories of Good Humor products growing up; I loved that Toasted Almond Bar.
But the Good Humor Man wasn’t cheering me up. I felt scared and sad. Lauren and I sat in a chair next to the hospital bed and I asked the Good Humor Man a question, but the answer he gave me, either because I was uncomfortable or because of a language barrier, made no sense. I was annoyed, and then he said, “He can hear you.”
I said hello to my dad and he began to cough, and then he opened his eyelids slightly at the sound of my voice. He was somewhat lucid, considering the amount of morphine he was taking. My throat got tight and my eyes teared up.
I have had issues with my Dad since I can remember, some of them I have resolved and some will keep me in group therapy for the rest of my life. I always thought that work was always more important to him than his kids, that he was not a great role model, and I am not even going to bring up his criminal past, which landed him prison for 22 months.
My mouth was so dry I felt I could not speak, and honestly, I had no idea what to say. “Goodbye” did not seem appropriate since it was implied. Then my Higher Power spoke through me: “Dad, I love you,” I said. I reached over to gave him a hug and started to cry. The miracle was not what I said, it was that I meant it.
His left shoulder began to shake. He lifted his left hand to acknowledge what I just said. I imagine if he could still speak he was saying going to say, “I love you, too.” Since I have a hard time with intimate moments like this, I grabbed his hand and tried to control it and put it back down.
Later that night, my youngest sister arrived from Colorado. She got there around 10:30 p.m., and by 12:15 a.m., we got the call that my dad had died. I think he was waiting around to say goodbye to her, too.
I am like my Dad in many ways, and the one that annoys me the most is this constant feeling that I am not enough and that outside success of money, fame, power and having a building with your name on it will fix all of that. It never does, but I am stupid enough and I keep trying. He, like me, very rarely saw the gold that what was right in front from him, in his case his five kids. Most of us kids turned out pretty well — one exceptionally well, the one who is writing this blog. But my Dad could never see it until the end.
Maybe I am lying to myself, but I want to believe that my Dad finally got it, that his kids did matter to him more than he realized. That he loved us more than he realized and that I loved him more than I realized. Either way, that is how I want to remember it, so I can learn for my soon-to-be-born daughter.