Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hanging Up His Hat

One week ago today I buried my father. We said our goodbyes on a windy hillside, warmed by the the possibility of his reunion with my mother. Although he battled with pain and ultimately, sickness, for some time, the actual end came surprisingly fast. His suffering finally over, I am surprised at how I am unable to share his relief. I guess no amount of preparation readies you for the stunning reality of loss and the emptiness that follows.

For nearly five years, my father has been the object of my steady, if not constant surveillance. From the moment my mother entered the nursing home with dementia, I telephoned Dad twice a day. I returned home more frequently, bringing chocolate chip, sugar and peanut butter cookies and a variety of dinners I had prepared and frozen in single-serving containers. I washed his dog, mowed his grass and carted his leaves to the dump. He was my project, my pet old man.

After my mother's death, he tearfully expressed his desire to join her. "I wish I could lie next to her. It would be so much easier for everyone if I could just 'pop off'." His pleas were heartfelt, but not easy to take over the long haul. My attempts to redirect his sadness were not always successful and exhausted me from time to time. A "spoonful of sugar" may work for the general public, but not the Harrisons. We can be a moody, dramatic troupe, with a hint of the martyr. When we find a funk, we tend to stay there until we're good and ready to come out. Makes you want to stop over for a spot of tea, doesn't it?

So now he's gone and the whirlwind of funeral planning has passed. The flowers have been donated or given away and I'm left with just a few thank you notes to write. While I am grateful for the opportunity to take a breath and get my own house in order, I will miss my care taking years. I complained about the running back and forth, the ramping up before each visit and my father's weeping on a dime. Wouldn't you know it, I'd do it all over again. I used to think people were crazy when they said that, so I guess you can consider me certifiable.

Goodbye, Dad. I love you.

Thomas J. Harrison April 17th, 1926 - November 3, 2009

1 comment:

  1. Joan...(deep breath)....endings and beginnings are so hard. I love reading about your Dad and the bond you shared. Your honesty and humor comes through in your writing and I am a big fan! I am going to FOLLOW you so keep writing!