It’s becoming real. Up to now it was this thing that would happen, way off in the distance. I hoped for it sometimes. I wanted it to arrive so I could be freed of the perpetual Sword of Damocles and finally get going with my own life. (No one forced me to press pause for 5 years… it was my own overdeveloped sense of responsibility driving me). At the same time, the pause came in handy for helping me recognize and appreciate the moments. The good ones. The real ones. I am savoring them, because when he’s gone, that’s it.
Last night, we had a moment. We got home from the hospital and settled into our comfy clothes. We drank. We smoked. (Not so healthy, but at this stage of the game, anything goes). Dad was well enough to go down the stairs to his beloved basement TV lair. We ordered a movie on demand: Doubt. The opening scenes show a small, dank alley with fire escapes galore and windows one on top of the other. “Colleen,” he said emphatically, “If ever you saw what the alley I grew up in looked like, that was it.” He added a detail that didn’t appear in the film: musical rovers playing accordions would stroll down below, and people would drop change out the window in appreciation. The order of nuns in the film, Sisters of Charity, is the same one that ran his school as a kid. I asked if he got sent to the principal’s office much. He said as a little boy, no. But by high school, he did spend a fair amount of time there. It sort of came with the territory of being a natural born comedian … After all, he was voted “Class Clown” his senior year. (Dad’s always been proud of that.)
Technically speaking, hospice means that the patient isn’t expected to live more than six months. I read somewhere that it is common for melanoma brain tumor patients to have strokes and go into comas. They go to sleep one night and they never wake up. Time estimates are rough, however, and each patient is different. Because my Dad is still walking (albeit very feebly) cognizant (albeit increasingly confused) and functioning (sort of), it feels like he still may have a little while (a few months as opposed to a few day or weeks). They had told us 3 months back around Christmas so clearly these are subjective assessments.
Last night I was thinking of how weird it will be when I can’t watch TV with my Dad anymore. It is surreal how a person can be present one moment and gone the next. Especially when that person was so central to your world, for forming you. My Mom was talking about the shocking finality of it all. The cycle of life. One day, 64 years ago, my Dad (Andy) was born. He was a vibrant little baby boy with red curly hair. Years passed. Andy got married. He and his wife had three children. They lived a good life, mostly. And now there’s another two year old walking around with curly red hair. Andy’s grandson, my nephew Liam.
What to make of that. I take it as hope. Building, a future that’s always coming. Even after we and those we love leave. It makes me so grateful for my family. To me, family is everything. Not just the blood relatives, but the people who you choose to make up your tribe. Friends, spouses, colleagues. The people you count on and trust and dream on. My Dad was an only child and didn’t have a big family growing up, but created an amazing network of people who loved and cared for him during his lifetime.
Came across this Alex Haley quote that expresses how I feel and gives me a lot of comfort:
“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”