Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don't Worry About Me

As I watch the clock, I see that it is just 4 days shy since my journey as a Fatherless child began. Since my Father took his last breath.  While I had over a week to prepare for this farewell or perhaps even years in all honesty, I realize that it could have just as well been a century and I never would have been at a place where I was ready.

It began when my Mother found my Father, who was first diagnosed with emphysema and placed on oxygen in 1997, unresponsive a few weeks ago.  From there, we spent hours in the ICU watching him breathe with the help of a ventilator only to learn that on that day, the day before his 75th birthday, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and his lungs were collecting fluid. For the first few days in the hospital, he was mostly unresponsive, mumbling unintelligably. As you might imagine, oxygen deprivation to the brain can make for significant confusion, especially in the elderly, and during my Father's hospital stay, this comes as bit of an understatement. At times he was grabbing at the air, threatening people (which is COMPLETELY out of character for him) and making odd statements.  But after he came off the ventilator, there were a few statements he made that were crystal clear, one of which was,

"Don't worry about me. I've lived a good life."

He knew.  All along, during equal moments of pure confusion and muted lucidity, all along he knew that his body, having fought so long and hard, was ready to hang up the gloves. I initially was made to face some tough decisions regarding the end of his life, but my Dad, in the few moments of clarity he had, took the decision out of my hands and let me know he was ready. And after he reiterated this, he told me to go home, get some rest, and be with my baby.  So, I did. And he left this earth soon after. 
 And quite frankly, while I ache with sadness, I am at the same time relieved. He was tired towards the end, robbed of any quality of life and frequently spoke of a longing to move on.  He did so peacefully, knowing he was loved. I could only hope the same for all others.

But he is far from gone. So much of the world around me and so much of the memories speak of him, whisper that he is still here with me. How could he be gone when they are not?

I recall a moment a few years ago. I was looking at a picture I had just taken of my parents out in front of their house and was thinking that while it felt like it was the 'same old' at the time, that I would one day look back at it as the past, as a time that would seem so distant and that I would ache from the memory. I already do as it is never to be again.

My Daddy is...

Paint speckled on whites and paint brushes soaking in a jar of water in the kitchen. (he was a house painter)
"You deserve a beer!" after he came home from work.
Taking my girlfriends and I to theme parks and concerts.
Arms, deepened into copper after a day's work in the summer sun, and decorated with a tattoo of faded air force wings.
Roller coaster rides in open air.
Baby poop jokes told in a thousand different ways depending on what we were eating.
Classic country playing through static on an 8 track, a stack of old cassette tapes on his desk.
A gleaming solid wood box brimming with lovingly collected coins.
A 1984 Dodge Pickup truck sitting out front.
A belt buckle from the local country music station.
Colorful stories of the Air Force, from Fort Bayne, Georgia to England.
A soft heart for animals he tried to hide from most others.
And most of all, a love for me that I never once questioned.

Daddy, you will be missed more than words will ever begin to describe.  At last, peace is yours for the keeping now.


Michelle said...

Shelby, I am so sorry you lost your father. I know what you mean about being sad and relieved at the same time. we had a family friend get diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer seemingly out of the blue. She suffered for a year before passing. It was hard because every time we saw her we felt we needed to say good bye just in case. She was in a lot of pain and not doing well. It felt weird to wish for someone to die...almost wrong but I think it was better. She did not want to live like that anymore and we did not want to see her suffer. Death is a hard thing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!!!

'Murgdan' said...

Shelby--I'm so sorry for your loss. Thinking of you.

Kate said...

So sorry for your loss, but at the same time glad that he was surrounded by love and loved ones, and was able to let you know that he was ready to go before he passed away.
There's nothing worse than seeing someone kept alive in the ICU when they really shouldn't be (whether suffering, or with no hope of getting back to a quality of life that was meaningful to them).
He managed to meet his grandchild and see you become a mother, which I'm sure meant a lot to him.
I'm sure you'll have lots of great stories to tell your children about him in the future. He sounds like a lovely man.

Claudia said...

Oh, Shelby, I'm so sorry to read this.

cheryllookingforward said...

I'm sending you love, there's nothing in this world as wonderful as a daddy and it sounds like yours was a great man.

Sarang said...

Shelby, my heart aches for your loss. I am so sorry.

I'm glad you can take some comfort in the fact that he went peacefully and reiterated that he'd "lived a good life".

That's all any of us can ask.

You are on my mind, dear Monkey Sister.

The Swann's said...

I'm so sorry hun. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Tara said...

Shelby - I am so sorry for your loss. Yall are in my prayers.

Lorraine said...

Oh, I'm so sorry! Just because you might have seen it coming doesn't lessen the loss in any way.

I'm so glad for you both that he had those moments of clarity. Even though nothing will make this easier for you, it is a beautiful thing to be able to say at the end.

banditgirl said...

Thinking of you, M-Sis, as you are going through these difficult times. I am so sorry about your father. Sending you love.

Lost in Space said...

I am sorry, Shelby, so so sorry. A father's love can be a beautiful thing and it sounds like yours was this and so much more. Thinking of you as you navigate through this new and difficult chapter. Many, many hugs.

Another Dreamer said...

Shelby, I am so sorry for your loss. Keeping you in my thoughts.

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

I'm so sorry Shelby. Glad that you are able to think of happy memories right now.

lastchanceivf said...

I'm so sorry for you loss.

I've been dealing with the deterioration of my father's health since he had a massive stroke eight months ago (and he was the healthiest man I knew prior) and it has been so tough--after five failed IVFs I know he will not meet my children, if I ever have any.

I am so glad you got to hear those words from him...I hope I am so lucky.

Your memories were beautiful.

jill said...

So sorry for your loss :(

Anonymous said...

Shelby I am sorry. Thank you for the kind words and Daddy Is piece. I am going on vacation with my dad next week. I will make sure he knows how much I love and appreciate him.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your Daddy was a wonderful man.


Michelle said...

I hope you are doing ok with all that is going on. I have been thinking of you!

I wanted you to know that I have been taping Good Morning America on the weekends just to make sure I did not miss it. I am watching it right now and I am just so excited because you both did such a GREAT job! I am like I know her...well at lease online!

Anonymous said...

Shelby I am so sorry for the loss of your Dad. As someone who just recently lost my Dad too, I know how sore your heart is right now even though your head knows it's best that he's passed and is no longer in pain.

Thinking of you and praying for you.