Saying Goodbye to My Dad

Today at 10:31 a.m., my dad closed his eyes for the last time. When he did, a part of me died with him.

I’ll accept your condolences but please check your religion at the door. And don’t talk to me of your God and His wisdom and mercy. Not today. Not today. I believe in God, I do. But not today. Not today. Today, I feel He abandoned me and my father when all I could do was hold his hand and rub his head and tell him I loved him; when all his doctors could do was increase his pain medicine and escalate the frequency with which he received them, and swab his mouth with plain gelatin to make up for the water he could no longer drink, the food he could no longer eat.

The first time I, went, alone, to visit dad in the hospital, I arrived in his room while he was still downstairs in radiation. A nurse walked in and asked who I was.

“I’m Larry, his middle son.”

“Oh, you’re the one who lives in Philadelphia!”

“Yes, how did you know that?”

“Your dad talks about you. He talks about all of his sons.”

My dad talked about me. He owned me as his son. He owned me as I own myself, in my imperfection, in my boisterousness, in my rowdy affection, in my gayness. That meant the world to me.

I stayed at the hospital in his room on more than one occasion. One morning when they brought him his breakfast, I got up and added cream & sugar to his coffee and opened the packet containing knife and fork and napkin. Having done that, I speared a section of omelet and moved the fork to his mouth. “I can feed myself,” he said sharply. I handed him the fork and picked up my overnight bag. Dad would need help feeding himself. But not today. Not today.

As I walked away, he asked, “Are you going home?”

“No,” I called over my shoulder. “I’m going to shower and change. Holler if you need anything.”

A few weeks later, I got caught in traffic and missed having lunch with him. When I arrived he was eating ice cream. Judging by how melted it was, he’d been at the ice cream eating for a while. And he was wearing more ice cream than he could possibly have eaten. I watched him struggle to bring spoon to mouth but did not offer any assistance. When he finally, accidentally, upended the container of ice cream, I said, “You’re all finished,” and quietly cleaned up the mess he’d made.

Saturday as I was on my way to New York to visit, Dad’s doctor called to say Dad had begun his “transition,” and we’d better come at once. I called my brothers and getting on the New Jersey Turnpike, I settled in the left lane, and depressed the accelerator until the speedometer read “90.” I was the last to arrive at dad’s bedside. It was my younger brother’s birthday. Dad, unmoving, eyes, closed, unable to speak, slept on peacefully, his breathing strong. Dad was dying. But not today. Not today.

My dad died today, four days after he began his “transition.” Instead of crying, I’m remembering all the conversations we had in that hospital room; I’m remembering what he told me about his funeral and that he assumed I’d write his obituary. Instead of crying, I’m focusing on the myriad things that need to happen now, on all the things that remain to be done. I know I’ll cry—Daddy deserves tears, and my bruised heart needs the release of tears.

Yes, I’ll cry. But, not today. Not today.

Read a previous post about my Dad and me, A Gay Son's Musings About His Dad.

Comments

  1. As i was reading i was able to visualize every moment you spent with your dad. I felt the warmth of love through your words. May the memories of your dad continue to live on in you and your family. Yes, today and every day.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Mama. I think you're right. At first I thought I no longer have a father, then I realized I will always have a father, even if he is not here in the flesh, but he will live forever in my heart and memories..

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    2. This was very moving Larry. And I am glad that you had special time with your dad. May he forever be in your heart and a part of you.

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    3. Thank you. I am so grateful for the extra time I got to spend with him.

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    4. larry, this was very strong, sad, happy . i feel your sadness by every word you wrote.
      im sure you will forever keep him with you my mom and dad went the same way. l
      randy froelich. n.j.

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    5. Thanks Randy. I'm grateful for the time I got to spend with him and for the opportunity to say a proper goodbye. He was such a special man, I hope I did him justice in this post.

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