There are 5 stages of grief I’m told. I’m floating between denial, anger and deal-making. Those are the only 3 I know. Acceptance is a long way off.
Dad is gone. He died at 5:30 in the morning on January 10th, 2012. Pretty shitty way to begin the year. That’s anger. I can’t believe he’s not coming for dinner tonight or next week. That’s denial. And I’ll do anything to have just one more conversation with him, tell him just one of the many thoughts floating around in my head looking for his ear. That’s deal-making.
Dad was always the quiet one at our house. Quiet and strong. Mom made the rules. Mom enforced the rules. Dad jumped in the pool with us and wrestled us around in the water. Once Dad broke down the bathroom door when I was in the tub, ears under water, reading a book. Apparently there was a lot of yelling and knocking involved, but I didn’t hear that. Dad drove. Dad paid. And Dad loved….very quietly (except for the bathroom incident) and very deeply. He was so grateful that we were family, that he had met Mom, that he had met us. Only days before he died we talked about how lucky we were to be the kind of family we have always been. We talk and laugh. We support one another when life hurts. When I was growing up we ate dinner together nearly every night and now I do the same with my children. Steve, Emily, Benj and I all want it that way and that’s thanks to my dad and my mom. They raised us to be a family that likes one another, supports one another, talks to one another, helps one another, listens to one another, loves one another.
When my mom and sister were alive, they were my best friends. We didn’t always agree, but they were the two I always turned to for advice and comfort. Then Carol Lee died. And Mom got alzheimer’s and slowly her mind melted away until she was gone too. Dad and I spent a lot of time together both while Mom was ill and after she died. We sat together at Greenhills, where Mom lived her last 5 years, listening to Rodolfo play his guitar or drinking coffee with Marion. Dad came for dinner a lot and we talked in the kitchen about life, about family, about us. Sometimes we went to his house to eat or play. When the kids had an event or a show, more often than not Dad was there too. We became closer than I ever imagined we might. I learned who my dad was in the last few years and our relationship blossomed. He became my best friend, my confidante.
Dad was with us for a month before he died. He was not ready to die, but his body was no longer able to live. Dad didn’t want to be a burden to us, he didn’t want to disturb the rhythm of our family, and I think part of him was afraid to have us see his body fail. But we wanted him here. I wanted to be the one to give him his medicine. I wanted to be the one to shop for him and cook for him. I wanted to be the one who sat at his bedside and asked how he was, what he needed. I wanted to be the one who loved him, minute by minute and day by day. It was a blessing and an honor to spend this difficult, intimate time with my dad.
I love you Dad and I’ll miss you forever. I hope that wherever you are you are listening because I’m far from ready to say good-bye.
If you’d like to add your memories of my dad, please add them below. I’d love to hear from you. ~Leslie