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.