31 August, 2009

My Dad

I can't speak for anyone else, but for me writing is good therapy. I don't really care if these posts are read or not. Sometimes I simply need to get things off of my chest, and now is one of those times.

When I was 22 my father died after a long battle with cancer. He slipped away peacefully in his own home while he was asleep. The last few days of his life he'd become a little loopy due to the cancer having spread throughout his body and I was preparing myself for the time he'd be gone. One night I came home from work (I was living with my parents at the time) and popped in a movie down in the living room. My aunt and uncle were asleep upstairs because they'd come for a visit knowing that Dad wasn't going to last much longer. My sister had been spending as much time as possible with Dad, but she'd had to go back to work. As I was watching the movie, I heard my Mom get out of bed. She came into the living room and I thought she was going to tell me the TV was too loud. She had that "just woke up" look and in a totally normal voice she said "He's gone." Mom had grown used to the sound of my Dad breathing through the oxygen machine and she woke up because the sound had changed due to Dad having passed away. Contrary to what you see in the movies, there's no instant crying. What I felt was nothing. I was totally numb. I went upstairs to my aunt and uncle that Dad was gone and came back downstairs. By then all the lights were on and I went in to take a look at Dad. Someone had to close his eyes and that someone was me. I didn't want to do it, but I had to do it.

The way my mind handles grief is like a time-release pill. A little bit is broken off, dealt with and then put away. Repeat as necessary. Even though Dad died in 1994, every now and again something will trigger a memory I had buried about that night. Tonight I was watching the show "Without A Trace" and Jack's father died. That show triggered my memory of my Dad's eyes the night he died. I'd always remembered closing his eyes, but tonight I remembered what his eyes looked like. Dad's eyelids were half shut and I could see his grayish-green eyes. It's very true that a dead person's eyes definitely look lifeless. It's that memory, a little piece of the grief, that came out tonight fifteen years later after the event. I thought that I'd "gotten over it" but I don't think anyone ever does. I loved my Dad and having him die when I was only 22 changed me.

After I had closed Dad's eyes I stood up and looked at him for a little bit. I turned around and my Uncle was standing there. That's when I lost it. I grabbed my Uncle and started crying. He hugged me and said "He's in a better place now". I don't know who was making the phone calls, but my sister wanted to be there and was in no condition to drive down and my brother in law would have to stay with the kids. So, I went to pick her up and she was crying almost the whole way back. I don't know how I kept my wits about me. Maybe it was youth, maybe it was because I'd already released some of the anguish earlier... I don't know. By the time I'd returned, the funeral directors were there to take Dad away. They told us that sometimes the family would stay in a different room because seeing their loved one taken away was too painful. Some of my family went to the basement, but I stayed upstairs. I honestly can't remember who else was with me, but I watched Dad's body being carried out. I knew it was just a shell, that Dad wasn't in there anymore. He'd been released from all the pain and suffering. I understood that. I remember the visitation and parts of the funeral service at church, but I can't recall the burial. After that, life was a matter of us learning how to live without him. Every now and then, something will make me think of Dad and sometimes that leads to a bit of crying. Tonight is one of those times.

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