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January 24, 2023

A love story for my dad

Grief is a strange thing. It come in waves. And all you can do is feel your feelings and ride the wave as it carries your heart back to safety.

Today would have been my dad’s 83rd birthday. He passed away on April 28, 2021, the day before my birthday. At the time when it happened, all I felt was numb and disbelief that he was gone. He has been diagnosed with cancer and was him through chemo and radiation in the months leading up to him taking a fall and breaking his leg. He was hospitalized and had surgery to repair the damage to his leg. His bones had been weakened by the radiation to that area too treat the bone cancer in his femur which contributed to the break.  He was doing well the first few days after surgery and my mom said no need to come see him, she would let us one when he was home and we could come visit then. There were restrictions due to Covid so only one person could be in the room with him anyway. A few days later, things took a turn for the worse. My mom called she told us that we should come and see him because he didn’t have much time left. I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to understand. I wanted him to be fine like he was before. He was my dad. My rock. He couldn’t be dying.

My daughter drove as we made our way to Portland. It was a three hour trip from Seattle. It’s good that she drove because I was in such a state of shock, I don’t remember going from point A to point B. All these thoughts rushing through my head. He was fine yesterday.  What happened?? Why is this happening? I’m not ready to lose him yet. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. Talking to his nurse when we arrived, she explained that his cancer was worse than I had been told (always wanting to protect us) and the trauma of the broken leg and surgery to repair it was to much for his body. She called it the perfect storm. It was a storm that he wouldn’t survive. He died at 3 AM the next morning. My mom was there with him. She was sleeping and the nurse woke her up and told her it was time. She held his hand as he took his last breath. She didn’t call us until later that morning, she sat with him for a very long time. They were married 57 yrs. I wonder how you learn to live without someone after that many years? It’s hard to imagine.

I’m very thankful that my son was able to be with him the day before he died and watch a baseball game with him, their favorite team was playing that night. Dad was in and out but seemed to focus not when the game came on. They loved watching football and baseball together and would talk about sports for hours.  My daughter sat with him and held his hand and talked to hill. She was able to tell her grandpa one last time as she left that night “ I love you grandpa” and he replied to her “I love you more”. It was the special thing they said to each other since she was a little girl every time they would said goodbye. She needed to hear that one more time. My younger brother was there making sure his blankets were covering him because he kept kicking them off and he was giving him swabs of water because he was thirsty but couldn’t swallow at this point. It was heartwarming to watch him take care of his dad. My older brother lives in Arizona and was trying to find a flight to Portland. There were none available that night so he was booked on a flight early the next morning. But my dad didn’t make it that long. To be honest I don’t know if my brother was emotionally and mentally prepared to see my dad that way anyway. His 33 yr old son had passed away a few years before from a MRSA infection. He was still struggling from the loss as you would expect. I don’t know if you ever get over that type of loss. Maybe it was better he didn’t make it and can remember my dad healthy and strong and not sick in a hospital bed, the life slowly leaving his body. Because it’s something you never forget.

They had moved my dad to the comfort care unit. They were allowing us in 3 at a time. I’m thankful to the nurses for looking the other way and letting his family spend that last day with him. They looked beyond the rules and regulations and let us all crowd into the room with him at one point to soak in those last moments with our dad, her husband and their grandpa. For that I am forever grateful. He needed us there and we needed to be there.

I sat and held his hand for the longest time. I didn’t want to let go of him. I wanted to hold on to him forever because maybe if I kept holding on to him, he wouldn’t go. This was the man that I have loved my entire life. His hand felt so small and frail in mine. I sat there thinking, how could I go on with my life without him? It seemed incomprehensible. He taught me everything. How to ride my bike, how to drive a car, including a stick shift and that was no small feat! He showed me how to do my taxes. He would always wash my car when he was washing his, although he made me pay him $1.00 for that service! But he did a great job so it was worth it. He helped me and my ex-husband when we bought our first house as we muddled through everything that this entailed. He was always there when I needed advice. Always there to help out all of us out if we need anything. All we had to do was ask. Nothing was too big or to small for him. It’s what he did. He loved talking to people and getting to know everything about them. He’s was so much fun to be around! He has so many friends and was always the life of the party. He was a hard worker and he took good care of his family. And oh how he loved my mom! He would tell me that I was the most beautiful girl in the world… after my mom. I loved how much he loved her. It was special.

About a year after he passed, I was speaking to a spiritual advisor and she told me he was there with her, he wanted her to tell me to finish writing my love story to him. I was shocked and started crying because I had started writing a story a few months prior to the appointment called “A love story for my dad”. I had been struggling to write anything more then the title at that time because every time I started, it was too painful. It has taken me until today to finish it.

I don’t think there is a day that goes by, that I don’t think about my dad. I can still hear his voice when he would greet me when I called or came through the door. I can still hear him tell me he loves me. I can still hear him chuckle when he something struck him as funny. And on his birthday I can still hear him tell me “ yes, you were the first to wish me happy birthday” because I always tried to be the first to call. I think even if I wasn’t , he would say I was because it was a game we played every year.

So if you are seeing this dad, Happy heavenly birthday! I hope you are playing a round of golf with your friends and having a nice cold beer after to celebrate. This is my love story to you. You are in my thoughts every day and I know there will be a time that I will be with you to tell you Happy birthday and hear you chuckle as you tell me, yes you are the first. I love you dad.

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