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.