Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Daddy's Girls ~
"The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity."
~Jean Paul Richter
This is one of my favorite photos of my sister Jessica and I with my dad.
My sister is still pretty small in this photo. I am about 2 1/2 years older than my sister and I am trying to figure out how old I was in this photo. Jessica was born on September 7 and my dad's birthday was September 14th. I must have been three or four months shy of turning three years old. I just look so long for being that old! When I look at this picture I see two little girls with a young father. The love already speaks volumes to me. NOTE ~ It came to me later and I couldn't help but smile, 'Well... my dad wasn't that tall and had short legs, which could be why I looked so long laying on them.'
My dad lost his brave and courageous battle to cancer. I never heard him complain... not one time. He was only 59 years old. My dad had made it through a year and two months with this disease. Without chemo, they told us he had maybe three to four months to live. There are moments in a person's lifetime that stand out more than others. It's details are penetrated to the core of your soul and are absorbed. That is not to say those other moments don't mean as much. The last week of his life was like this for me. Super Hyper-detailed.
Thanksgiving, for some reason landed on the 29th of November. I remember checking and rechecking the date to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong (my mind was all over the place back then). I thought it was strange for Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of the month of November.
My dad fell down twice that week and I remember having to tell him as I sobbed, he was going to have to be patient and wait for me to help him when he wanted to move; I was also watching my nephew who was a toddler at the time. My sister Jessica and her boyfriend were taking a break in their relationship and she decided to move in with dad and help me take care of him; I couldn't have done it without her. My dad expressed to both of us, how important it was that he stay at home; his home. My dad needed constant care. She had a baby and the only way we could both take care of dad was to do it in shifts. While I was at work, she was with dad, and then, I would get off work; I would then pick up my nephew at the daycare and go to dads, Jessica would be going to work. We were like passing ships in the night. While I was with him, he would periodically go over his wants and wishes with me.
That last week, the doctor (who happens to also be my husbands doctor) told us there was nothing else he could do for my dad. Hospice was to come in on the following Monday after the holiday. Meanwhile, our son Rob had an appendicitis attack on Monday night (the same night my dad fell down), and then surgery on Tuesday morning. We were all in the hospital standing around Rob's bed after the surgery, and I can remember following Rob's eyes to the door and seeing my Nina wheeling my dad in a wheel chair into the room. I couldn't believe it! My Nina said, "Your dad was quite persistent and not taking no for an answer, he wanted to see his boy (Rob)." My Nina also shared with me in private, she felt by some of the things dad was saying, he was afraid he wasn't going to see Rob again. Without responding, I understood. Later, when I had time to think about it, my dad did pass away. He must have known or felt his time was running out. Rob got to come home on Wednesday and was very careful traveling to be with my dad on Thanksgiving.
Friday was interesting. My dad was very talkative and towards the end of the night, he was hallucinating and then just like that (snapping my fingers), he seemed fine. Charlie decided to stay with him and told me to take the kids home and try to get some rest. I did. Charlie came home about 4:00 in the morning and no sooner he got into bed and the phone rang. It was my sister telling me daddy woke her up telling her he didn't feel good and to unlock the gate, he called 911 and the ambulance would be there any minute. I threw on some clothes and drove to my dad's to get my sister. When I got there, she thought it would be better if we took separate cars and I went on to the hospital.
As I drove to the hospital, so many thoughts raced through my mind and I remember feeling like I couldn't get there fast enough. When I walked into the emergency room, my dad was sitting up and wanting a cup of coffee. The nurses were trying to take his vitals and were whispering to each other how low they were. The phlebotomist couldn't get any blood from him. They came in to take an x-ray and I remember telling them that my dad had cancer, and tried to catch them up to speed. Someone else tried to take some blood from him and I remember telling them, calmly... to just quit. I could see my dad's body was shutting down. The nurse asked me, "Do you want them to resuscitate your dad in case his heart stopped beating." I said, "No." My dad watched me as I gave them my answer. and he gave me a smile. Another nurse asked me the same thing a little later and again, I said, "No." My dad smiled, reached for my hand and squeezed it. This was one of the "wishes" my dad went over with me. I had my instructions.
All the while, he kept asking for a cup of coffee.
I had to leave the room so that my sister could come in and be with our dad; the emergency room had a "one visitor at a time" policy. It was then my turn and this time, I brought him a cup of coffee. Apparently, he asked Jess to get him one too, and she did against her better judgement (my dad had heart problems and coffee was a no-no). Daddy thanked us both for the coffee, although he had difficulty keeping it down. I would clean him up. I felt Jess needed a turn, and we switched places. I no sooner sat down in the waiting room and my sister screamed for me. I ran into the emergency room and our dad had a heart attack. As he died, without even thinking what I was doing, I immediately looked up (as if he could see me as he left his body) and I said as tears streamed down the cheeks of my face, "I love you daddy." Jess and I stood there holding each other for quite a while. When we let go of each other, I took the oxygen tube off of his face, then took his glasses off, placed them in my pocket and shut his eye lids.
I have often wondered if that cup of coffee and the caffeine had a significant role in his heart attack. Did he know? It's interesting how the mind starts the "what ifs," and takes a life all of it's own. It was time and he knew.
We stayed with him in another room for almost five hours until the rest of the family could get to the hospital to say their goodbyes; my dad wanted to be cremated as soon as possible. I held his hand and felt the warmth that his body did have at the end dissipate. I looked at his hand and knew that would be the last time on this earth that I would see it in the flesh, it would only be in pictures or my mind after we left him. It was so hard leaving....
It was about four years later, Jess called crying and said she had something to tell me that was eating her alive; she felt horrible. It was about the day daddy died. As she sobbed, she told me the nurse came in and asked her if she wanted them to resuscitate him in case he had a heart attack and she didn't want me to be mad at her but she said, "No." I couldn't believe she had carried that around for years after daddy passed away. As she told me her story, I could see how heavy it weighed on her heart. I felt so bad for her and told her that was what daddy wanted. He didn't want to be put on machines or connected to tubes. Dad held on as long as he could at home and I think he knew when it was time to go to the hospital. He was the one that made that call because he didn't want us to have to do it. I explained to Jessica that I had two different nurses ask me the very same thing. I told her that dad smiled at me the first time I was asked, like he was proud of me. The second time, he smiled again and held my hand and squeezed it as if he was letting me know, he knew it was hard for me telling the nurse that, but at the same time, again, he was proud of me. My sister and I cried together on the phone. She had no idea. I apologized to her for not talking about it afterwards. I just knew it was what he wanted.
As I look at this picture, seeing the three of us sleeping peacefully and then jumping forward to the day we lost him... it was also just the three of us. My dad with his two girls and all the memories in between. No suffering or tragedy nor deeply seated pain could ever over shadow the bond that we retained. He will be in our hearts... always in our hearts. We're together, though apart. How lucky are that we have those wonderful feelings and memories. We are lucky, lucky daughters. And to have husbands that are such great fathers too! We are blessed!