I’ve been dealing so well with my dad being gone that I was beginning to wonder if I was in denial and if one day it was going to hit me, a wall of grief just slamming into me and knocking me off my feet.
Life goes on. The sun still rises in the morning and sets at night (or mid afternoon, these days), and life “as usual” just resumes. Except my dad isn’t here, so it’s a new normal, and I have to get used to that.
I asked my therapist what she thought about my handling everything so seemingly well, and whether or not she thought I was in denial. She said, “I think that depends on what you did in the days leading up to your dad’s death, and what you did in the days immediately following your dad’s death. Were you involved and spend time with your family, or did you withdraw, and not want to be with anyone?” I thought about it for a minute, and then said, “I spent the last two days at the hospital with him… and the day he died I went to the funeral home with my mom to make arrangements… then I spent the next few days putting a photo slideshow together… and then I spoke at his funeral.” She said, “I think you’re going to be just fine.”
The thing is, you can go about your daily life and not need to worry about making time to grieve. Because grief makes its own time. I can be having the busiest day ever, running from place to place, trying to get a million things done, and suddenly I’m crying as I drive, thinking that it can’t be possible that he’s gone forever, and that I miss him so much it physically hurts.
I don’t have any regrets about his last few months. I don’t feel that anything was left unsaid. Although it was awful to see him suffer, we were blessed to have 4 months with him in which to say everything we needed to say. He knew I loved him. I knew he loved me. And I wouldn’t trade one single moment of those 4 months – the long hours I sat with him in the Cancer Centre and in the oncology ward were gifts. I know the hours it took for each blood transfusion dragged on endlessly for him, but so did each and every day. For me, they passed quickly (too quickly), and I will never forget the days I was lucky enough to be his chauffeur – both in the car to get him to and from the hospital, and as the official pusher of the wheelchair (mind the bumps!).
It sucks – totally, utterly sucks – that my dad died. It totally sucks that I’m never going to see him again. It sucks that he’ll never know my children, and that my children will never know their awesome, fun, silly Grandad. It sucks that there will always be one fewer at family dinners than there should be.
But I’ve been thinking about these things lately and I’ve come to a few conclusions.
When my brother found out that his then girlfriend was pregnant, he was no where near ready to have children or become a father. But he learned quickly, and Carter has since become a joy for all of us. Maybe he came into our lives when he did because he had a mission – his arrival meant that my dad got to experience being a grandfather. He got to enjoy his grandson – and boy did he ever enjoy him. He so often would smile when we spoke of Carter, and say, “what a lovely little boy he is.”
When I met The Accountant I had no idea how quickly my life would change. Suddenly I wasn’t single, I was dating a man who wanted a future with me, who not only didn’t mind me musing about what was to come, but enjoyed joining in. We hadn’t planned to get engaged until the summer, but he asked me to marry him on the first day of spring and I of course excitedly said yes. If that hadn’t happened, if we hadn’t already been engaged, planning a summer wedding would have seemed outrageous, too fast, too sudden. Maybe I met The Accountant when I did because he was also part of a bigger plan – his presence in my life allowed my dad to see his only daughter get married, and allowed me to have my dad walk me down the aisle and “give me away.”
I knew, a week before my dad died, that we were coming to the end. I knew, even when his doctor was saying that we just had to keep him going another 10-15 days, that that was not going to happen. The Accountant’s dad was supposed to come visit the weekend of the 16th and 17th of October, and about a week before that I had him cancel the visit. At the time I said, “we don’t know what will be happening at that point, and I’m exhausted anyway and not really up for hosting guests… and, if my dad dies that weekend, what are we going to do then?” The Accountant, who, bless his heart, doesn’t think that anyone is ever going to die, said, “do you really think he’s going to die that soon?”
And I said yes, because I don’t know how, but I somehow just knew it would be that weekend.
So in the week leading up to that, while my dad was getting weaker and weaker, I began to do something, without thinking. Every time I was at my parents’ house that week before Thanksgiving when he was at home, I made a point, when we were leaving, to say a purposeful goodbye to my dad. Even if he was sleeping, I would wake him gently to tell him I was going, and that I would be back the next day. And then when I left the house, I would grab my BlackBerry, pull up a note pad, and frantically type the words we had spoken. Because I was panicky that I would forget, and if the call came that night, if my mom called to tell me he was gone, I wanted to KNOW that I would remember the last words we had spoken to each other.
The day my dad died, as my mom and I were driving back from making arrangements at the funeral home, I told her that even though I had been with him when he spoke his actual last words, nearly three days earlier (“oh, Christ”) and that they made me smile in just how “Dad” they were, and even though we had had several conversations before that, I was choosing to remember the conversation we had had a more than a week earlier, on Thursday, October 7th, as his last words to me.
Me: “Bye, Dad.”
Him: “Bye, kid.”
Me: “I’ll see you tomorrow okay?”
Him: “Okay, see you tomorrow.”
Me: “I love you.”
Him: “Loves you too.”