Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A nightmare...

There are moments from yesterday that I cannot believe weren't all dreams... actually, nightmares.

I'm not sure how it's possible that I am sitting here this morning. That I managed to take a shower and accept the cup of coffee from Patrick after screaming at him as I woke up from a fitful sleep. That sleep held another nightmare. One where he too dies of cancer. A cancer he got from smoking for so very many years, despite my logical conversations, and then anger, and finally desperate pleas. The anger I unleashed upon him this morning was not 100% fair, given that, although it is rooted in a fear I carry with me every day, it was triggered from the real pain I'm feeling after yesterday's ACTUAL nightmares.

Somehow, even though it's impossible, my dad finally passed away yesterday.

I am fatherless.

After I hung up with her, and after I threw up in the bathroom, I picked up my mom and we drove to the nursing home and we looked upon his body and he was no longer in it... Those moments, in that room, with my mother and my sisters... I don't want to remember those. But I fear they will be forever etched in my mind, clear as a bell...

I don't like the idea of"stages" of grief. That suggest to me stages that you actually GET through, instead of the waves of emotions that continually knock you over. I'm not dealing with one stage right now. The shock and the sadness are working right alongside the anger. Sometimes denial and bargaining show up for kicks. And I'm only on day 2.

Of course, having known he was dying since July, and having had him in the obvious end stages of his life this past month, we've already BEEN grieving for what seems like forever. I know all of my family was feeling the same as I was:

"It is insanely fucked up to want someone you love so much to just die."

Being a rational and moderately intelligent person, I knew that I didn't actually WANT my DAD to die. What I ACTUALLY wanted was selfish; I wanted my dad alive and well and making bad jokes at the Thanksgiving table. But instead of that, which was impossible, I had to hope for my dad to be free from the pain. I wanted US to be free from the pain of the limbo we were all living within. We were actively grieving for a man who was still alive. Every day began with the question of "Is today the day?" Every time I said goodbye, I kissed him, put his hand on my cheek and wondered, "Is this the last time? Is this the memory I have to hold onto because tonight, the phone will ring?"

Monday, the day of the actual last day I saw him, I managed to get there in the morning to avoid the stream of people that had filled his room every other time I was able to visit. Don't get me wrong, I am SO GRATEFUL that he had so many visitors, and I don't wish that they weren't there; but I was feeling anxious that the time I was having "with" him wasn't actually WITH him. I needed a quiet morning with him and my sister Vicky. And it was good. And she and I cried with each other, and held his hands, and wiped his face, and told him it was ok to go...

I had time alone with him, for the first time in a long time, and I held him and told him the same things I've said before. I love you. I know you love me. I am so proud you were my dad, and I know you're proud of me. My other sister, Jill, came and then we both had a quiet afternoon together. And we cried and we held his hands and we told him it was ok to go...

And then, it was time for me to go. And this time, as all of the other times before, I put his hand on my cheek and my head on his chest, and I hugged my daddy for the last time and told him it was ok to go now...

I had started making a photo album for him about a month ago, right around the time that we knew he wasn't likely to come back home again. I wanted him to have photos surrounding him, with faces he loved, and stories to share about all of the memories we'd made. Sadly, the cancer was too painful. The pain meds were never able to be on top of his pain AND not affect his cognition. And so the photo album became something else. It became the book I knew we'd bring to his funeral. I worked on it for an unbelievable amount of hours, and it still came down to the final hours of last night, where I realized that I didn't have a picture of So-and-so or that something wasn't straight and it didn't look "right." Feeling the tension and anxiety flooding over me, I rushed through it, knowing it would be FINE and that anyone who felt under-represented in the book would probably understand.

I'm so scared. I'm so scared of what life will look like without him in it. I'm so scared of knowing my mom is alone every night. I'm so scared that my kids and nieces and nephews will lose their memories of him. I'm so scared that I will lose memories of him...

Driving home last night, do you know what made me start crying and screaming again? I had been relatively calm for several hours, and maybe it was natural that it all came spewing out again, but the realization that he would never make potato salad for parties again nearly knocked me over. My mom makes the same damn potato salad, but my dad and I have very similar tastes on consistency and I always liked his ratios and blah blah blah and I started bawling like a baby. He won't make potato salad or Papa's noodles or barbecue on the grill again. He won't be at the head of the table at Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, raising his glass and smiling at everyone. He will never cannon ball into the pool with the kids or hide flamingos in my mom's Christmas village. All of the little things that made him so special, are simply no more.

I always imagined this day would be impossibly hard. I had no idea it would be so much harder than I thought...


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