When My Father Died
My father died on a Thursday in June. I found out that very night that he had suffered from a massive heart attack and that my mother; who has Alzheimer's had called the ambulance. However, no one knows how long before she realized that he was in need of help. It could have been instantly. Even with her infliction, she is full of compassion and the need to mother everyone around her. It could have been after he fell and didn't respond to her. The ambulance came and left my 85 year old mother alone; not knowing that she couldn't drive to follow, didn't understand what had happened or was not supposed to be out of the sight of a loved one.
A neighbor found her on the curb, hugging herself and crying. Alone. They recognized her and took her to the hospital. They stayed with her and didn't dare tell her that the man she had been married to for 65 years was only alive because of the machine he was connected to; furiously pumping air into his body to keep a sense of life present. His heart mechanically being forced to beat. His brain, already dead.
Many of my siblings that could afford the ticket and the time off boarded planes en route to the sunny peninsula...six to be exact. Four of us had to stay behind because we couldn't find a way to finance the trip. My mom was taken home in hysterics and my father's body died completely while on the machines that were forcing him to stay alive. He died alone.
As a child, I adored my father. As an adult, I avoided a relationship with him. After the birth of my son fifteen years ago, the memories of the abuse came rushing back into my life and it took me seven years of therapy to try to come to grips with what the man I clung to had done to me both physically and emotionally. I came to forgive. Tried to understand the socio-economic components that had driven my father to misuse his fatherly authority. Part of me could accept the reasons but most of me could not permit an allowance of he or my mom as part of my life. Instead, I did what many girls do who look for a father figure...I chose partners that needed mothering and raising and couldn't understand why I couldn't find success. I eventually married a man just like my father...he is the father of my son and my daughter. It was my marriage to him and the birth of my first child that opened the sealed vault in my soul that had contained the vivid images of behaviors I knew to be wrong; even at a young age. It was my divorce from this man that helped me realize what an impact abuse can have on an individual and that I certainly didn't want to be with a mirror image of a person that I so desperately tried to avoid my entire adult life.
I could still say I felt love for my dad. I just didn't want him in my life. Something inside of me had been taught repeatedly that you should forgive and forget. Move on. Treat others as you want to be treated. The problem is; I was being trod upon and became a rug on which people could wipe their feet. I did forgive but I just couldn't forget.
It was two weeks before my dad passed when I called him and told him that I looked forward to he and mom moving back north. I expressed how I had hoped that as adults, we could form a bond that would allow us to become friends as adults. He expressed that he too looked forward to getting to know me for who I had become. Then, he died on me.
There has been no closure for me. We buried his ashes. We had the mass. The reception afterwards. I am still gaping inside for I never got the chance to know who my father really was beyond my memories as a child. I do recall pleasant memories as well. Traditions he had set up that I still cling to. His low, deep, rolling voice as it sang old songs and feeling as if he could single handedly calm the violent sea. His trust in me as a teen and allowing me more privileges than he had the other kids in the family. I suppose that I will have to sit at his grave some sunny day and let him know how he both helped and hampered my life. At least he will listen and I can have my say. I pray for closure on my part. I believe his chronic, physical suffering his last 10 years on Earth was his own type of closure with God and his repentance for choices he made and regretted. He only stayed mobile and breathing to care for my mother who knows that he has passed and cries nightly; frantically calling family to ask why she is now in a "prison" (an assisted living facility near most of us now) and what heinous crime did she commit to be put there. She doesn't remember the daily visits from her kids. The lunches out. The laughter shared through the day. She only knows the loneliness she feels each evening when she looks over at his rocker and remembers he is gone.
I mourn the loss of hope for my father and I. I cry over the fact that he died alone. No one deserves to die alone. I am saddened over my own internal war of wanting to allow my father into my life but not being able to emotionally. I am still feeling like that little girl with the wide eyes, wondering what I would have to do to get my dad's attention and affection.
Talking to a dirt grave and a tombstone wasn't what I had anticipated during my last phone call to him. I will bring a blanket with me, eat some praline ice cream and share it with him (knowing the squirrels will eat those sugared treats), as it was his favorite. I will let my voice be heard after all of these years and maybe, just maybe...I will receive some type of sign from my father that he is as sorry as I am that the choices he made in parts of his life caused him to lose a daughter who so desperately wanted to be the light of his world.