Writing Dad

It’s been months since I’ve set aside the time to write anything other than an e-mail.  What a year it has been, and not one filled with our usual projects and adventures, but one where my father fell ill and died.

Just over a year ago, my 94-year old father announced that he wanted to leave his wife, sell the house and move into assisted living.  A few weeks after that, he changed his mind.  Roll on another few weeks and he fainted while driving and totaled his car into an electric transformer.  Four-hundred people without power for two days.

One pacemaker later and his life was changed.   Confusion.  Illness. Changes in decisions that had been in place for decades.  Falls. It felt like a rapid descent into craziness.   But the real cruelty fell when in May, Dad was taken to the hospital where he stayed for nearly a month with an infection that we were never fully told about.  His wife wouldn’t let any of Dad’s children speak with the medical staff, nor they with us, and she was incapable and unwilling to discover and share information.  We were on a sad and painful path.

Never a quitter, Dad worked hard to gain back some mobility.   He had less luck with recalling how he became so ill. None of us were able to help fill in the blanks.  From his rehabilitation at the skilled nursing, we moved him into assisted living when he was ready.  He seemed to be on a slow trend toward stable, heading out with my sister and cousin to a 4thof July veteran’s musical celebration.  We watched together the World Cup, rooting for England, over FaceTime. And then, another infection ravaged his body.

Back to the hospital and aggressive treatment for MRSA.  He became increasingly agitated.  Dad was uncertain how he got to this place but certain he didn’t want to be there.  No longer ambulatory.  Greatly confused.  A few weeks later he died.

None of these abbreviated points capture 2018.  Not only did I lose my Dad, but I also lost – temporarily – my joy and my sense of purpose beyond phone calls and e-mails.

I remarked to Roger one evening that my entire year felt like it was consumed with travel to the USA and nothing but sad and stressful events around my Dad.  Roger wisely reminded me that we attended two weddings, and two funerals.  Not exactly a Hugh Grant movie, but nearly.  He also reminded me that we replaced our generator, introduced Brock to our family, had a near house fire and replaced the radiators in the house.

All four seasons have come and gone since I last blogged and I can barely remember where the time went, let alone where I put my car keys.   At the same time, I can remember with clarity each conversation with my Dad, holding his hands, sharing a joke, kissing him goodnight, and singing a favourite song or two.

With my Dad’s death, I’m now an orphan.   What an odd feeling.  Accompanying the regular reminders that I can no longer ask “that question” of either parent, there is a freedom.  The worries of an ailing parent are now gone.  The historic relationship with siblings – largely defined by family history and dynamics – are being defined anew.

Calling to me are a few boxes of paperwork from my parents, which hold little discoveries which can put a smile on my face or cause me to sob deeply. I found my Mom’s high school diploma. My sister and I found our Dad’s naval pilot flight record.   There were birthday cards my parents sent one another over the years, saved for all their naughty sexual innuendo.   I also found the binder where Dad printed out every single blog post from Crockern.

It chokes me up to think he will no longer be sitting at his computer, printing the pages and carefully putting them into his binder, archiving our story.  As we move into the new year, I intend to take with me the energy and joy my father possessed.   Roger and I have a lot to do.

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44 comments on “Writing Dad

  1. Nitty says:

    I have been an orphan for a very long time Catherine – even my grandmother outliving my parents and all other family. An only child of an only child!! They all live on in us, all the quirks, all the fun and laughter and best to put aside the difficult bits. We are lucky to have had our time with them, so cherish it while you make new memories. Life is to be lived to the full (not a rehearsal!!) so spread the joy with your blogs, the everyday story of chickens, dogs, Roger and moorland bogs and your ongoing excitements and dramas. Laughter echoes and your Dad will surely appreciate it…..Happy New Year to you both and your menagerie

  2. Jason Hook says:

    What an amazing piece, and tribute to your dad, Catherine. Sending best thoughts. Jason x

  3. annettehope says:

    Dear Catherine,

    We are so very sorry for the hard time you have been through. We know how much you loved and admired this man, and it must have been awful to see the deterioration, and to feel totally unsupported by family in your grief for his suffering. You have had a dreadful experience which lasted a year. We feel for you and hope healing will begin.

    We have had a bad year. Our daughter Kerry, who was rushed into hospital with a brain tumour in August 2017, finally died two days before Christmas. She was at home with her husband and daughter (aged 20), and her sisters and their families were also there. We had seen her the day before when it clear she was far along the dreadful path. But before that we had seen her at least once a week and had together come to see that it was better that she should go – she said it herself, several times, just a few weeks ago.

    I did my screaming and crying on the Downs some months ago, but of course it is still hard to accept.

    Very much love and sympathy to you and Roger. >

  4. Catherine, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. We are preparing to cross the Atlantic in your direction to help an aging relative, so I understand the frustration and difficulties of distance. And I remember so well that strange feeling of becoming an orphan with the death of my second parent. Hold on tight to your memories and those little discoveries that put a smile on your face. Your dad sounds like a precious old soul. From Eastern Ontario in Canada, best wishes for peace and happiness in 2019.

  5. Donna Anfuso says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss! Sounds like you had a tough year but you also have so many wonderful memories of your father. Sending you lots of hugs and love on this New Year’s Eve and wishing you a wonderful and peaceful 2019 💜

  6. jllevitan says:

    Beautiful post. May 2019 bring better things.

    Sending you a big hug.

    Near house fire???!!!

  7. Paul Fallon says:

    Very touching Catherine. I’ve missed you’re blogs.You don’t really become fully adult until both your parents are dead, so excuses now, at least once a month please.

  8. J STEWART says:

    Dear Catherine

    What a beautiful, heartfelt piece. It has brought me to tears. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    Wishing you and Roger and the dogs a very happy new year and looking forward to getting together and talking and laughing and walking.

    With much love,

    Jenny

  9. Paul Blaney says:

    I’m going to share this with my mother.

    Great timing!

    Love Paul

  10. valbjerke says:

    My husband and I both lost our moms within nine months of each other (2017/2018) leaving us ‘orphans’ so to speak as well. I still reach for my phone to text my mom……my hubby still reaches for the phone to call his – hard habits to break.
    Among my moms things – an entire binder of all my blog posts printed out on nice paper 🙂
    Take care. Glad you shared your experience.

  11. Caryl Mills says:

    I am sorry for your trouble, it is hard to lose a parent, no matter how old you are. Becoming the older generation brings it home how short this life is and how we should cherish it. I have missed your posts so I hope that 2019 is kinder.

  12. Eileen says:

    Hi Catherine
    Thank you for sharing this moving blog.
    Wishing you and Roger a Happy New Year
    See you in 2019!
    Jerry and Eileenxxxx

  13. Sue says:

    Cath, this is a lovely tribute to your dad. So meaningful that he kept a binder of your blog posts!

    • I know. It was such a loving gesture. Even when I told him that it was all saved electronically, he just couldn’t stop printing, punching holes, and keeping them in a binder. Stubborn and loving in equal measure.

  14. I know the heartbreak of losing a parent under such difficult circumstances, but the memories are to be treasured also. God Bless and may this year be a good one for you.

  15. Mrs Mud says:

    What a heart breaking post. Sincerest sympathies for your loss.

    Wishing you a much more joyful 2019 xx

  16. Andrea Moore says:

    Dear Catherine,

    This is so beautiful, poignant and sad! Thank you for sharing this moving composition about your father. I am so deeply sorry for your loss and for the wretched way that things ended with his accident and subsequent decline and infection. That is so heartbreaking, beyond words. I do know that, from everything you’ve ever told me about him, he lived a long and hearty life and lived it well. I know and hope that eventually the memories of your father from better times will occupy more fully the space where grief holds your heart right now. I send you all of my love and hope that 2019 is a year of healing and lightness.

    With Loveyhearts and love in my heart! Always, Andrea

    Andrea Edith Moore, Soprano http://www.andreaedithmoore.com andreaedithmoore@me.com 919-599-6486 mobile

    >

  17. Christopher Brown says:

    Sorry to hear about the passing of your father. Remember the good times. Xx

  18. Ann Dawney says:

    Dear Catherine

    First, our heartfelt sympathies on losing your Dad, whom I remember you talking about… He will never leave you, I know.

    What an inspiring and sincere message – so thoughtful but also so spontaneous.

    Be strong dear Catherine. Such good memories will soon return.

    Much love from us both

    Ann and Mike

  19. So sorry to hear this sad news. This is a most kind and moving tribute to your dad, and (to a complete stranger) it shows how you loved him and how you must miss him. I hope 2019 will be kinder to you, and that perhaps we will be treated to more Crockern posts when you are ready. RH

  20. Anne Parry says:

    Dear Catherine,

    Thank you for your latest and moving blog about your Dad.

    How distressing that his last year was fraught with so many complications. Losing a parent at whatever age is always a hurdle to struggle over. As you say, it is a good time to renew sibling relationships and enjoy the shared memories.

    Thank you for your Christmas message, despite all you have been through, and we wish you a peaceful 2019 and energy for more projects.

    With our sympathy & love,

    Annie & John. (Parry)

    • Thank you Ann. I’m happy to have the new calendar year ahead and am looking forward to taking my Dad’s happy energy with me into projects and adventures. All the best to you and John for good things in 2019! C xx

  21. Anat says:

    May his memory give you gray strength! Xoxo

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