windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean heart)
[personal profile] windinthemaples
I didn't get my brother's phone calls, I was sick and had turned my phone to silent. Yesterday afternoon, though, I got an email from Daniel that I needed to call my brother. I called him and he said, "Oh, hey Rachel. How are you doing?" and I said, "I'm alright, sick though. Is something wrong?" and he said, "Yes, something is wrong. Dad passed away."

As I understand it, staff at the assisted living facility he's at found him yesterday morning, having died in his bed. The coroner expects it is a cardiac issue, and given my father's medical history that is very likely. He was 69 years old.

My father weathered (and at times miraculously survived) a series of health crises. He has been code blue and resuscitated, on ventilators and then revived. We have sat at his hospital bed, in vigil, more than once and in more than one city. It is just unbelievable that he is gone, truly and irrevocably gone, and we didn't even get a phone call as warning. It feels like there has been a mistake. I didn't know that our last phone call was going to be our last.

He was really down last week. He only picked up my phone call because I left a rambling message that began with "Dad, are you there? If you're there, pick up! Pick up, pick up, pick up! Well, I'll tell you about me..." He hadn't seen much of my brother and was isolating himself in his room. He was having all his meals delivered so he didn't have to get out of bed or socialize with anyone. I bullied him, albeit good-naturedly, to take a shower, put on fresh clothes, and to take his next meal in the cafeteria with the rest of the residents of the assisted care facility. He said something about how he had nothing in common with those old people, those infirm and forgetful. I lashed back, in disbelief at his snobbery, saying he had everything in common with those people--he also had trouble moving around, needed care, was in poor health. (It turns out they all outlived him.) He said he had to go to the bathroom and he'd talk to me later. He was cagey, never promised to get out of bed, and I said, "Okay, well call me back if you want to talk."

Those were the last words I ever spoke to my Dad. His spirits did improve, though, and he went to dinner at my brother's mother-in-law's house on Saturday and then ran errands with my brother on Sunday. Things were fine, we never expected to lose him this week, no matter how fragile we knew his health to be.

I wish I'd been kinder, in my words and in my thoughts. I wish I'd known the last time we talked was going to be the last time. I wish he'd gotten to see our new home, the one we'd be staying in here in Florida. I wish he'd been able to go to Disney World with us, to experience it with his grandchildren after so many adventures there with his children. I wish his life had been better and more fulfilling. It is tragic that he died after decades of waiting for renewed health in order to live. The tragedy wasn't his death, as that was something he yearned for as a perfect respite from suffering, but in the waste of his life and his potential all the years before. What a shame, what a shame, what a shame how much mental illness stole from us all.

I was digging through boxes of old photographs, looking for something appropriate for the obituary or the visitation. A letter from my father, written on the back of a piece of church bulletin dated July 15, 2002, fell out onto the table and was overlooked until I'd repacked the rest of the box. His scrawled handwriting leaps off the page. It wasn't one of his cruel letters, but one of his kind. It says, in part,

"You are very special and a wonderful daughter--I am proud of you! If you get a little discouraged, just get healthy and think of Michener's quote on character!!!!"

(Which, with a little Googling, I believe is this quote from my birth year--"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth times.")

He went on to say, "(never give up, you have great genes) (you have Viking and Scottish Highlander blood--great potential) (not to mention Irish grit and determination) (BRAINS +)".

He wrote about Vietnam after that before closing:
"LOVE,
FOREVER,
DAD."

It was kind of an extraordinary find yesterday, a letter I never remember receiving saying everything you'd want a Dad, forever gone, to have said.

He was so sick, so, so sick, and yet I know that he loved me. He really did.

IMG_6931

~*~
I had no idea how devastating his loss would be. I couldn't have imagined that I'd be surprised when he died, that it'd be so sudden, so unannounced, so final.

IMG_8764
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windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
windinthemaples

December 2015

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