Saturday, December 3, 2011


Someone told me recently that I never grieved the loss of my Dad, even though he died over eight years ago. I'm not sure what that means. I was there when he died. I cried. I wrote about it. I cried some more. I cried plenty and I miss him everyday. Isn't that grieving? So what if I still sob when his name is mentioned?

The only bits of unfinished business concerning his death that I can think of are the few special moments I had with him that I've never talked about. With anyone. It hurts me to think about them because even though I had a million good moments with him, these three pop up in my mind from time to time and lodge in my throat, making it impossible to speak. So I'll write about them and maybe get the closure this person thinks I need.

During one of Mom and Dad's last visits to our house in Texas, Dad put the newspaper down on the kitchen table where he was reading it and said, "Was I a good father?"

I paused in my kids' school-lunch-making, surprised by the question. "Yes," I replied with a smile. "You were a great father."

"Well, of course you're gonna say that," he grinned.

Folding closed the brown bag lunches, I told him, "No, I mean it."

My boys ran into the room just then, freshly scrubbed, teeth brushed, hair combed, ready for school. My personal and slightly awkward exchange with Dad was over. I wish I could have opened up more. I wish I had hugged him. But I feel OK about it none-the-less. He knew.

Years later, Dad wound up with a staph infection which had attacked his heart. A specialist who dealt with high-risk patients had been scheduled to remove a heart abscess. But then we were told that he wouldn't survive the surgery. I already had plane tickets to go up and be with the family during the risky surgery but now I knew I was going for a funeral.

My sister picked me up at the airport and took me straight to the hospital. Dad was awake, but not all "there." We stayed until the nurses kicked us out. The next day Dad was being transported to a hospice facility.

During the ambulance ride in the morning, they didn't give him any of the drug that made him loopy, so when he was wheeled into the hospice room, his mind was somewhat clear. I just so happened to be the only one in the room at the time. "Hi, Dad!" I called, matter-of-factly, as they pushed his stretcher in. He looked up into my eyes, gave me a big smile and mouthed "hi" through the oxygen mask strapped to his head. I was asked to leave the room while they got him settled. That was the last time I saw him with his eyes open.

Dad's wake was the first and only one I've been to. It's a strange ritual, I think. The body is laid out in the casket while people mill around and socialize. It didn't upset me, I just thought it was odd. Right before it was time to close the lid, my Mom, me and my three sisters approached the casket and stood, looking down at his shell. We said a prayer and finally dropped our arms from around one other and tearfully walked away. I was the last to leave. I wanted one last private moment with him, so I reached down and squeezed his arm. Wood. His arm felt like petrified wood. Dad?

So, there they are: three moments with my Dad that didn't include anyone else but me. Is writing about them the same as talking about them? Probably not- if I spoke the words, someone would have to be in the room to hear them. I would surely burst into tears. Sorry, but I just can't invite that. Instead, I'll cowardly hit "publish" and see if somehow my broken heart will be healed.


heylaw said...

This is brilliantly written. You certainly have grieved. You are still grieving. It is a process, one which, by the way, takes a lifetime.

Gramzof3 said...

I just needed to add a comment so my new profile picture and name show up!

mama k said...

I believe that grieving is a "process" and sometimes that process takes a long time....grieving is when you think of that person and your heart still breaks....and when you get past that stage, you think of that person and you smile...that does not mean that the pain is any less, it just means that their memory puts a smile on your face...

caryl said...

Thanks, Lori. Love your new avi, btw!

mama k, thanks for your comment. It will be nice to get to that stage.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that I never read that before - it brought tears to my eyes. We seem to "tough up" and try to keep on going. I like to talk about Dad and keep his name and his memory before us. I am conscious of losing bits and pieces of him,clothes, books, etc. and it pains me but I know we can't keep some of these things forever. The anniversary of his death of a sad one - even after nine years I am aware of what happened each hour. I'm glad you were with me at the funeral home - we both needed you to be there. He had his faults but he was so completely loyal to each of us even when we weren't the best we could have been. I have regrets about what I could have or should have done but the past is the past and I can only hold on to the good parts. He was a good father, a good husband and a really good man. I talk to him just about every day. When I find a penny in a random place I think it is him and so many times it is a nudge I need or a reassurance. I leave the penny there so I can see it again and think of him again. Remember when we found two pennies on the train going into Calgary? That was the only time I found two. He was thinking of the two of us. I still have a picture of him in my mind holding you in his arms in the doorway as I pulled out of the driveway to go to work up at the Mayfair stores. Very sweet. Love, Mom