I Miss You Poppo
This was written March 16, 2009, a little over a month after my father passed away…
It’s been just over a month. I was just sitting in my living room, looking at the hardware on the walls near the dining room, where the curtains hung for not even one week. His empty recliner faces the dining room just below them. How is it that I was picturing him lying prone in his hospital bed when he was only in it for a little over a day. The recliner was his bed, his throne, for the last part of his illness, when the pain was too great to get in bed.
Every morning, as I walked down the hallway to his condo, I said a little prayer as I got to the door. G-d, please let him be ok. And every morning as I let myself in, he looked up at me and his face lit up. Once I got in, after he asked how I was, it was often one demand after another. But those first looks were something I’ll remember forever. It was like a child who’s face lights up when he sees his mother; in many ways, that is an appropriate comparison, for by that point, we had come full circle and I was then more his mother than his daughter.
Who could have thought that we would have been given such a gift just by the deterioration of his health. For the better part of that last period of his life, I like to believe the pain was mostly controlled. As the nurse told me, when I lectured him about taking pain meds as he needed them, it was his choice. I couldn’t make him knock the pain out completely. He wanted to stay coherent. So in those long days, that stretched out seemingly endlessly at the time, we talked. A great deal. We had the best conversations I could have ever hoped to have had with him. And we never would have had them if it weren’t for his inability to keep plodding on with his daily life.
He constantly worried that he was a burden on me. How could he have been? While my father had his faults,I never doubted his love or that he would always be there for me. His frustration when I wouldn’t take the roads he believed I should stemmed from his trying to shield me from anything that wasn’t what he wanted for me – which was only the best.
While I had days where I felt overwhelmed by what I was doing, I never lost sight of the alternative – that if I didn’t have it to do, it would mean he was no longer here. There were times, such as when his hospice nurse would say he could have months more because he was doing so well, when I questioned how I could continue this pace one more day, let alone three more months. Yet that was always followed by the feeling of how could I not? It was always better than the alternative, of not having him physically here anymore.
There were so many days when I felt like the energizer bunny, keeping a cheerful face at his house as I fluttered around taking care of him and performing the multitude of tasks there, then going to the business, out for supplies, back to his house, back to work, to the bank, back to him, and then trying to find the energy to give my kids what they needed from me. However, there were also many days when I didn’t have the energy to do my frenetic dance and would lie down on his comfortable couch and fall asleep. Invariably I would awaken feeling bad that I hadn’t been awake for him to talk to, to ease the lonliness he must have felt at being alone so much of the day and night. Yet, he would just look at me and tell me he loved it when I slept there because he liked that I was there.
On his last afternoon, in a brief period of semi-consciousness, he held my hand and repeatedly told me he loved me, kissing me over and over. I like to believe that part of that came from my mother, as she was unable to say it more than once while she lay dying.
I take great comfort in the fact that I was able to give so much back to my father. He was such an amazing man, always giving, always making people smile. I’ve always felt bad that I wasn’t near for my mother’s illness – I was away at school. I always wished I could have done more to show her how much I loved her in those brief months of her illness. In caring for my father, I was caring for both of them. And I believe I was able to truly give back to them what they have given to me.