Sunday, November 29, 2009

Note for my father

I won't be blogging much this month. Tough times - I have to take care of mother, move her into another suite, and do a lot of paperwork.

I wish I'd said more to Dad the last night we were together. I told him jokes and played him music and told him Mom and I would miss him, but there's a lot more I would have liked to have said if I'd known it was my last chance. Stuff, maybe, he didn't actually need to hear, as much as I needed to have said it; though I've said it many times over the last years, I would have told him I loved him, and that I hoped he knew I loved him. (I would have made that a question, actually - do you know that I love you?). I would have told him that I would take good care of mother, that I knew he loved us. The only real thing I said was that we would miss him so much. In the end, on the last night he was actually awake now and then, when I left him, he was sleeping - with Johnny Cash's American Recordings playing through the TV on the DVD player. I left a note by his bed saying I loved him, encouraging him to try to eat a bit, and telling him I would be there tomorrow. I had to go home and be with mother, who is not so independent these days, and to do some of the chores around the building that he was still doing right up until he couldn't. I didn't want to wake him to say these things, and to say goodnight. It seemed selfish - best to let him sleep, I thought. Maybe I chickened out a bit. I could say them tomorrow, I thought... we all thought he'd be around for a few more days, even the nurse I spoke to...

The next day, after they called us in to hurry, though I got to say many of the things I would have said the night before, with Mom and I holding his hands and sitting with him for his last few hours - I don't know for sure that he heard us or understood. I joined in when the priest came to read him his last rites (having moved off to one side, sitting with Mom at the foot of the bed). He would have been moved to hear me saying the responses ("Lord have mercy on us," "Pray for us sinners," etc). I also said the "Our Father" (most of it - that was the one that got me started, the old pull of it - memorized in childhood - making it impossible not to repeat it in my mind, and then to say it aloud; if I try to say it now I feel like I'm talking to Dad, not God). He'd wanted me to pray for him - one of his last notes for me read "Don't ever cry for what is, just pray for me" - but as a non-believer in any conventional God and a non-member of the church, that has always been difficult. It was easier to do it sitting beside my mother at his deathbed, especially since her aphasia from her stroke made it difficult for her to say the words clearly; maybe it took some of the stress off her, that I was saying the responses - the rite was being performed correctly, and she only had to say what she could. When Dad opened his eyes (just at the end, with "Elvira" playing on the mix CD), among the things I said - that I loved him, that Mom and I were there, that we'd miss him - was that I'd prayed for him. (I think I also apologized that he didn't get to make a final confession; he was unwakable, unable when the priest came, receiving the anointing without waking).

I hope he heard some of it, knew it was happening. He seemed to stir just enough that we seemed to be listening, sometimes when we spoke to him, or when the doctors or nurses or visitors spoke to him directly and clearly. His head would seem to turn a little, though he wasn't able to acknowledge with any other signs...

He was never really one for words, though - not compared to me! The many times I asked him if there was something more we needed to talk about, he didn't think so. These last few months - with my very stressful move at the end of September, my Mom's stroke, and the extra burdens on me and him both, to get our jobs done and keep Mom safe - we didn't get to talk half as much as I would have needed to. I had to go through his papers to find this note, which I wrote for him when he entered the hospital in 2007, to reassure myself that I said some of the things that I needed to say, because frankly, my regret at not saying more that last night when I knew he was listening has been eating me up and commingling with my grief and making my head hurt. (Literally - there's a dull throbbing in my brain that doesn't go away; my body does NOT feel good). I'm not sleeping so well, and I'm crying a lot. I'd be a total wreck if it wasn't for having mother to take care of; I'm not holding it together so well now, and maybe wouldn't be able to at all if I weren't needed. So it helps me that at least he got to read this, back in the hospital when he went in for his operation, two and a half years ago. He said at the time that it really moved him (though it was more like, "and that note - sheesh!"), and I'm glad he kept it (along with racing forms, notes about tenants, notes on his cancer, notes on mom's stroke, and other emails and articles I'd sent him, including some of mine).

This is a scan of what I wrote him, offered here as a public gesture of mourning. Thanks to those of you who have sent me condolences. I'll be heading to mass with Mom today to talk about the service for father; in case I don't get to say anything, it's good to put this out into the world.

1 comment:

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Our hearing is the last sense we lose. Your old man heard it all.