Dad - Part 6
At age 84, my dad died at 11:30 am on Saturday, June 24, 2006. My brother called me early in the morning to tell me that dad had suffered a mild stroke but, according to my mom, had recovered very quickly and was resting comfortably. A few hours later he called again to say that dad seemed to be in some distress and that mom called for an ambulance. Dad’s heart stopped just before the paramedics arrived but, even after many attempts at resuscitation and a remote consultation with a physician, he was pronounced dead at the scene. My brother said that he died quite peacefully.
As I’ve indicated in prior “Dad” entries, my dad and I have had a stormy relationship for most of my life and now… at the end of things, I find myself feeling somewhat unemotional about dad’s death. I have not yet shed a single tear for him and, at this point in time, I’m not sure I will… or can! My emotional bucket has long been empty where my dad was concerned, and I’m not sure I can arbitrarily fill it up just to realize some feigned emotional relief for myself.
So, I’m not sure how to feel about this. I think other people (with the possible exception of my dear wife who knows me just a bit too well) will expect me to wail and grieve and carry on – after all, that’s what they’d do if one of their parents died. But I just don’t feel it. I can’t seem to summon up the feelings. Many years have already passed since I started to grieve for the loss of a relationship with my father and now the loss of his physical body is like the last vestige of the process… so that now my grieving is complete rather than just starting. I’m not sure my mom will appreciate the difference, but I know my brother will.
As I write this entry, I’m on my way to
Not a single day has passed since dad’s death that I haven’t thought of him. I think that maybe in some strange way, this is his revenge. All those years when I didn’t think of him at all, are now coming back to haunt me. At any rate, after 3 weeks, I’ve not shed a single tear. At this point in time, I don’t think I ever will.
My friends at work have been very nice, and many of them have sent a card or stopped by my office to express their condolences. They ask how I’m doing and, truthfully, I say, “I’m fine”. I think that when they hear this, they believe I’m being a brave soul and that dad’s death really bothers me – because the death of their father would bother them. I’m pretty sure they don’t know the sort of relationship that dad and I had and that, except for thinking about him more now than I used to, I am okay with things the way they are.
Mom is still upset, of course. She tells me that, from time to time, she’ll turn around to talk to dad but he isn’t there… and then she cries a bit. She’s been befriended by a group of “coffee women” who have invited her to join them each day for a coffee and chit chat. The women are all in their 70s and 80s and are all widows. I think it’s good that she has these women to talk to – they all share a common experience.
In my talks with her during the week following dad’s death, she told me – much to my surprise – that during these last couple of years when dad was most dependent on her, when he got uppity, she’d yell at him, calling him (among other things) a “bad-tempered bastard”. This was nice to know, really. It was nice to know that she had no illusions about dad’s behavior; she had not forgotten that the man who insisted that “his wife’s best interests were always his primary concern” had, 21 years earlier, had an affair.
But, she had been dad’s primary caregiver for several years now, and I believe she is now missing her former duties. Her entire day revolved around dad’s care, and now… nothing. She doesn’t know what to do with her time; she doesn’t yet know how to deal with her freedom.
And life goes on.