Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Almost two weeks gone

I miss him. I didn't expect to miss him, but I do.

There are things that I would have told him if he were still here. Things that aren't important, but that I could have told him. 

I chose my words carefully the last few years. One of Daddy's Parkinson's symptoms was anxiety. I never wanted to add to that anxiety, so I chose my words very carefully. 

We talked about the weather. A lot.

I guess that aside from death being such an unforgiving separation, the timing of it was particularly harsh. We buried Daddy on February 12, the day before my parents were engaged. Two days before Valentine's Day. Six days before Momma and Daddy's 44th anniversary (yes, their engagement was a whopping five days long). Twelve days before my birthday.

This will be the first year I don't get a card from my daddy.

Last year, he sent me a card. I got my feelings hurt because Momma didn't sign it or send one herself. That seems particularly stupid of me now. But last year, I got this card. It was a super sweet "Happy Birthday, Daughter" card that he picked out at the store. 

Daddy wrote on the front of the card. He did it all by himself. I couldn't read what he wrote except for the part where he loved me.

I always got the message that he loved me.

I've been looking for that card all day long. I know I didn't throw it away, but I can't find it.

Tomorrow is going to be a very lonely day if I can't find a birthday card from my daddy.

I've been going through old pictures. The wedding album from my first marriage has some of my favorite pictures of me and Daddy. 

I was so young.

He was so healthy.

We were having such a good time.

Dr. Sclater played the same arrangement of "Amazing Grace" at my wedding that he did at Daddy's memorial service.

It was 14 years ago. Only six years before Daddy's diagnosis. 

It doesn't seem like that long ago.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In his passing

We are home. My boys are sleeping in their own beds for the first time in two weeks. Two of the four of us have a stomach bug. The dogs are somewhat happy to see us, but not altogether glad to be sharing the leather sofa again. I've opened the mail, thanked the neighbor who cared for the pups, and made a list of the appointments I need to reschedule.

Life is back to normal.

Except that this past Saturday, we buried my daddy.

Daddy died sometime within a half hour of me writing the post, "It's Time." In fact, if I hadn't written it and had gone on to the hospital, I would have been there when he passed.

I don't think he wanted that though. He took his last breath while my momma had closed her eyes for a much needed cat nap. She slept for about 20 minutes and woke up to find that he had stopped breathing.

Thank God.

My daddy has been healed. He no longer suffers from Parkinson's Disease. His mind is no longer tortured with dementia.

At least, that is the attitude I try to take.


I haven't cried much. The day of his service was a day I spent being proud of him. His casket was draped in the American flag, and Taps was to be played at the end of the graveside service. Granted, the soldier didn't check his horn before he got there, and it didn't work, leaving us all sitting in extended awkward silence, but I was still proud. Proud of my daddy, the Vietnam veteran.

The front parking lot of the church was almost full when we arrived for the memorial service. There were friends there from my high school days. There was a life long friend who drove in from Nashville and surprised me. There were people who helped raise me in that church. There were more people than I could have imagined - who all came to honor the man I was lucky enough to claim as my daddy.

The music was beyond perfect. New Orleans style jazz arranged by my professor - rather, my dear friend. He and his wife provided all the music for the service. The solo was the jazz arrangement of Amazing Grace that my daddy loved. We marched out of the sanctuary to the most fabulous arrangement of When the Saints Go Marching In that you will ever hear. That Daddy didn't get to hear.

I keep expecting to have a break down. Be angry. Be devastated. Be inconsolable.

It hasn't happened yet.


Sitting in the room with my dead father was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, I think. I wanted to run. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to cry. I wanted to be anywhere but there, but at the same time, I wouldn't have been anywhere but right there with my family.

His eyes were clear and focused for the first time since I saw him in hospice. I couldn't stop staring at them, wondering what it was that he saw as he took his last breath.

It came time to leave him, and I hadn't touched him or spoken to him. He was dead. I didn't see much point. But something kept me from leaving without telling him good bye one last time.

I walked back to the bed and leaned over to kiss his head. His skin was cool. I let my tears fall, and I didn't wipe them from his face.

Monday, February 07, 2011

It's time

Have you ever watched someone die? I don't mean necessarily the "last breath," but more the "last days."

I thought I had. There was my Uncle Dadie, who I watched have a rapid decline during my third semester of college. He died days before my final exams. I remember the exaggerated bone structure of his face and how it looked like his skin was so stretched over those bones that he couldn't close his mouth.

I remember my grandmother and how it seemed as though you could see both bones in her forearms and every detail in her shoulders. I remember how shallow her breathing became.

I remember my granddaddy. My granddaddy could still speak the last time I saw him. He grabbed my hand and begged me not to go. He was scared, he said, and he wanted me to stay with him.

Truth be told, I couldn't have taken it if my daddy had done that to me, and I think that is probably the deeper reason that I didn't come right away.

I don't have to worry about that though. My daddy can no longer speak.

He can't eat.

He can't drink.

He can't even blink.

They can't get his blood pressure to register.

There is absolutely no logical reason that he should be alive, and yet he still instinctively fights. I am both proud of him and slightly exasperated at the same time.

It is exhausting to watch someone you love die. You have to still live while doing it. Momma still has to communicate with the seemingly millions of people who want to know about Daddy.

She still has to eat and drink.

She still has to take her chemo everyday.

She still feels like she has to be the momma, when in reality, her husband is dying.

She is losing her soul mate. The absolute love of her life. Her very best friend.

As much as I'm going to miss my daddy, the hardest part of this is watching my momma hurt and not be able to help her. She loves him so much, and it didn't matter what state he was in - she just wanted him to be with her.

We are all tired. I know Daddy is the most tired of all.

He looks like a skeleton with skin. His unblinking eyes are so deep in their sockets. It's time.

It's time, Daddy.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Change of mind, not heart

I changed my mind.

Probably not a surprise, but I packed up the boys on Sunday and headed to Tennessee. It wasn't my heart that changed. I still feel as though every time I've said good bye to Daddy in the past few years, that I've been saying good bye for good. In a way, I have been because each time I see him, more of him has been gone.

However, the longer he has held on, the harder it became to not be here, so here I am. Exhausted both physically and emotionally, but present.

There is so much to say, but nothing I'm quite ready to share. Just holding these moments close to my heart for now.

From 2007, here is a little something to get to know my daddy better.


The Original Perfect Post Awards – April 2007
My daddy has been on my mind. The transition he and Momma have recently made from California to Tennessee has not been easy on either of them. But Daddy is happier now. He sleeps better. He eats better. The anxiety doesn't overtake him everyday. Saying "better than in California" is hardly saying much, but it's the only comparison to make.

Still though, his life is defined by how well his medications work that day. Forgetting to take something means that it will be a bad day. Waking up at 3:00 AM and thinking it is 6:00 AM, thereby eating breakfast and taking your 7:00 AM medications at 4:00 AM means, that it will be a bad day.

A bad day: A day in which anxiety and nervousness overtake Daddy's ability to function. Eating is out of the question. Dressing himself is out of the question. Sitting down or getting up by himself is out of the question. Sleeping that night will most likely be out of the question.

While in California, my momma consistently told me that I didn't understand what he was really like because I wasn't there from day to day. "You've just caught him on a bad day," she would say when I would call him on the phone and he wouldn't know who I was.

Now that he is in Tennessee, both my mother and my brother give me reports on him. My momma's reports are tempered in hope, or possibly stubbornness. A bad day can possibly be followed by a good day. A bad day can possibly be fixed or prevented with medication. A bad day is just that - a bad day. In my momma's voice you can hear her defiance against the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. You can hear her missing her husband above all else.

My brother's reports are more to the point. How much weight Dad has lost. How many times Dad got lost in the house. How little Dad is sleeping. How I need to be coming to see Dad soon before too much more of him slips away. In my brother's voice you can hear frustration. I think that I hear resolve some days for being the chosen one to have to deal with it. I know I hear strength.

But me. My firsthand information only comes from too short visits and phone calls. Daddy perks up on the phone with me. I know he is trying to put on his best. I have done the same for him all of my life. Even on a bad day, he will get on the phone with me and tell me that he is making it. His voice cracking and shaking with the Parkinson's induced anxiety, "I'm getting by, Sweetheart. Don't worry about your Daddy," he'll tell me.

Today, Guy and I went to see a lawyer about drafting our wills and other legal documents. As we went through the questionnaire with her about our assets, insurance, and such, we came to the section about "what if we both meet an untimely death or are incapacitated simultaneously?"

Who would we want managing our finances while we laid in the hospital in our comas? In a shared room of course, with mourners, secret twins, and a dramatic soap opera soundtrack in the background.

I opened my mouth to say, "My daddy."

When all that came out was an audible squeak, I looked at Guy, and he said, "Schmoopie, you're crying."

And I was. Right there in the lawyer's office. I started to cry and I had a hard time stopping.

All of the things I used to rely on my Daddy to be, he can't be now, and all of a sudden, I missed him desperately. I wanted his advice on selling my house. I wanted his advice on buying a new car. I want his advice at least once a week, and it is not available anymore. And I saw my mother and how much she misses him in a whole new light.

Asking for his opinion or for help causes his anxiety to go through the roof. There is also the factor that whatever answer he might give you to your question was valid most likely 30 years ago. Or it is to an entirely different question. The main problem though is that it brings on the anxiety that is so bad for him. So I do not ask.

The last time I was with my daddy was in December. We were visiting for Christmas and I lost the baby while we were there. I didn't want my parents to come up to the hospital because I knew that would send Daddy right over the top. The next day though, I wanted him. I wanted him to comfort me, to hug me, and to be my daddy. So I requested a snack. Our snack. Peanut butter and Nilla wafers. He fixed me three little sandwiches and brought them back to the bedroom. He sat clumsily on the edge of the bed and put his stiff bony arm around my shoulders and patted. He patted and said, "I love you, Babe."

Parkinson's and Alzheimer's will never touch Daddy's heart.