A Letter to Dad

Dear Dad,
It feels silly to me to be writing to a dead person, and especially to be writing to a dead person to whom you never really wrote much in real life (we could always just pick up the phone). I'm feeling all bottled up, though - I need to write - and I miss you. Since I can't call you, and since I promised you as you were dying that I would keep talking to you, this seems like the best choice. So here I go.

I've gone though stages of missing you so far...but I feel like I can't take any credit for it as I've mostly been a passenger on this grief train so far. I was so angry - angry that I didn't have more time with you, angry that you didn't take any time to say or write proper goodbyes to your children or grandchildren, angry with how things sometimes were between us. I've been grateful, too, for the time that we had, and for the family that you left us. I've also been plenty sad.

I know I should be relieved that your suffering is over, and I remember feeling that way as you were dying - relieved that the suffering would soon be over. It was so crazy, watching your body shut down, and watching you slip away. I felt like my sisters, Nancy, and I were participating in the most extreme labor of all time, but at the end our reward was not a new life - or was it? I suppose you have been rewarded with a new life...but most of the time it feels like a lot of nothingness to me. We went through this crazy and magical journey together and at the end of it, you were gone. I don't think I ever understood the intense complexity of the human body until I saw how hard Nathan had to struggle to make that journey from my body to the outside world, and then again, and even more so - watching how hard it was for you to leave your body at the end.

I'll always remember what Nancy said after you died - that she wanted your tshirt (which we had cut open so that we could cool down your body - burning up from infection and fever) because "He fought a battle in this shirt." You did fight a very strong battle, and I was never so proud or inspired by you (even though you have done much to make a daughter proud) as I was at the end.

It's good to write - because I WANT to remember your stinky navy battle t-shirt instead of what I've been thinking about all day, and that is watching the funeral home workers hoist your empty, broken body into the body bag. I've been stuck on that image - my sisters and I, sitting so close together, with our brave cousin Kevin in the room with us, watching such an unpleasant scene because we knew it was the last time we would ever see you as you were. For the first few weeks I kept wanting to be back in that room, to see you again, even if it was just the broken body.

It wasn't all horrible, the laborious end...and I think you know that because I felt like you were so there - either in the body or watching from somewhere. I want to remember all of those precious moments, too - how we played your ipod, played your "recently played" playlist on shuffle, and how the most amazing songs came on, one right after the other. "The hardest part is letting go not taking part", "How can you just walk away from me, when all that I can do is watch you leave? 'Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain, and even shared the tears..." It was so supernatural...like we had our own little death playlist.

The things you said were so funny, and so cute as well...well, and before the very, very end, just as bossy as usual. "Pam, you hurt me more than you help me!" "Pam, you are TOO aggressive." (Both were true, but I was trying my best to make you comfortable and to make you understand that I insisted on helping you, also.) I will never forget how, when I spent that last night crying over your medical records, wondering why I had never demanded to see them before, wondering how things had gotten to where I thought they now were (with you dying before I had even realized that we were actually at that point), and I went into your bedroom, tears streaming down my face. "Dad, I'm so sorry - I never wanted this suffering for you!" and you said, (between horrible groans, and in that voice you had near the end when it was so hard to understand you - like you were so far inside yourself, or halfway away, and couldn't articulate), "It's ok, Pam." And me, "I love you Dad." And you, "I love you Pam."

And one of my most favorite exchanges, which I only remembered today at Mass when the congregation was praying for "those who have gone before us" - I told you to look for Mom, that she would be coming for you, and you said, "Where is she? Send her in."

Well, I hope you are together...and I hope you are with God as well. I feel like you must be, because I see signs of God's goodness and what I like to think of as your protection (though my sisters think I am crazy) in Julie and Tyler's move back to Michigan - in his good fortune with his job hunt, in their good fortune with the house hunt, in their good fortune with their safe drive and some pretty cooperative and amazing children (only 2 years old and 7 months old!). Sometimes it feels to me like things are working out so well, that it could only be a parent's love, nudging things in the right direction. I'm going to keep believing that, because it makes me feel like there is some benefit in having both parents on "the other side"...and so, thank you.

I'm sure you know, with the omniscience that death may or may not bring (but I like to think it does bring), that I'm doing fine - or at least I will be. I have faith that I won't spend all of my weeks walking around in a grey cloud, that I won't find tears rolling down my face like a crazy person every week in church. I know that you probably went through this same thing, after you lost your brother and dad, and then again after you lost your mom, and then again after you lost MY Mom/your wife. Eventually something will pop up that will spark some of the life back up in me, but until then I will just keep waiting patiently. And missing you.

Anyway, dear old Dad, thanks for the talk.

Love, your eldest daughter,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful. I only wish I could get my feelings out like you can! I miss my mom terribly. Your message was wonderful!