No Answer…

As part of my usual evening routine, I typically call my Dad (Pop-pop) about 9PM. I have done this virtually every night since my Mom passed away almost six years ago. I call partially just to check in, to make sure Pop-pop is OK. I call because I love my Dad, and these calls have allowed us to grow closer since my Mom passed away. And I call just to tell him “Goodnight” and that “I love him.”

I did not call tonight. There would have been nothing but a recorded message. My beloved Pop-pop passed away Wednesday morning, 08 October 2014 around 1:15A, after an extended battle with cancer. My call would have gone unanswered.Telephone off ReceiverIt seemed weird tonight, not calling Pop-pop. Granted, our conversations have grown shorter and shorter these past few weeks and months, but tonight my night feels a little empty. I remember reading once somewhere that it takes twenty-one consecutive days to create a “routine” but only three days to break that same behavior.

I think it will take me longer than three days to “forget” about calling Pop-pop. I love you, Daddy-O, and already miss you terribly.

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I’ll Love You Forever…

I have just come home, having spent the past two days with my Dad (Pop-pop). It was a beautiful and heartbreaking visit, a time of learning new terms (urine output, barrier creme, vacant stare, resting comfortably) as well as leaning a whole new list of “non’s:” non-verbal, non-responsive, non-engaged, non-emotive.

My father is dying and, no matter how much I wish that weren’t the case, it is true. It sucks…

When I went home Sunday afternoon, Pop-pop could still talk. His eyes connected with mine – we had (brief) conversations. Over the course of Monday, conversation moved from simply “Yes” or “No” responses to a thousand words spoken only with a look, a glance. A question was asked and the response could be seen in my father’s gray-blue eyes. Those “conversations” were beautiful and perfect, simple and easily understood. Gone was all the BS pretense of father/son, parent/child, man-to-man, etc. Left behind was simply a beautiful exchange of pure love and affection, flowing wordlessly between the two of us. Something as simple as a sip of water became a massively-appreciated gesture, and was rewarded with a powerful, loving glance that I will never forget. The emotion was raw and unvarnished – again, pure in its essence, It was amazing.

I felt a bit guilty when I left today, telling my Pop-pop goodbye and that I would see him again soon. I think he knows I was lying as much as I know it, too… I suspect that, very soon, Pop-pop will be moving to the next step on his soul journey, a moment that will make me happy and very, very sad, all at the same time. It is a painful paradox, this transition. Leaving behind the finite, earthly life we all have and moving forward, ahead into the next step, the next evolution of the blossoming of one’s soul. Words fail me tonight (except all the non’s). Much like Pop-pop, I cannot communicate how I feel with words now.

I hope my Pop-pop knows how much I love and will miss him; I am sure he does but I suppose I wish I could hear him say it one more time. But then I remember “that” look, and I know my hope has already been fulfilled. Sleep well tonight, Pop-pop. Sleep well…

letting_go_byBTW, the title of this post comes from a beautiful poem-made-children’s book, named “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. You may read the entire poem here, and read the back story about the poem on the author’s website by clicking here. When you read the poem, please substitute Pop-pop for Mommy. Thanks.

A Few More Chats

My father’s health continues to deteriorate; today, hospice started Pop-pop on morphine.

He is a “rally-er,” my Pops, but I fear this may be the final leg in a long and arduous journey for him. I want my Dad to be pain-free. I want my Dad to not suffer. Most of all, I want Pop-pop to be free of it all.

Don’t get me wrong – the fact that this is happening tears me up inside. But – in an over-simplified analogy – it is sort of like when you are in fourth grade and it is the last day of your summer vacation. You know what is coming. You hate that it is, but it is inevitable. And so, you savor every single minute until that first class comes.

For me, I will savor every minute till that last breath comes…

When my Pop-pop crosses over, I imagine it will be in a place/setting that looks something like this:benchPop-pop has always loved the outdoors. He will open the door to a place green and beautiful, and my Mom will be there, waiting for him. I imagine my Mom seated on this bench, my Pop-pop walking up behind her, surprising her with a sweet kiss on the neck, and then they will embrace, look back for just a minute and walk off hand-in-hand down the path.

I will be happy and sad; happy that they are reunited and sad that they are both away from me. Selfish, I know, but honest.

And so we wait – my siblings and I here with Pop-pop now, and my Mom, waiting for him on the other side. Like I said, I will be sad when he makes the trip but happy for him, too. Till that time comes, I plan on talking a lot with my Dad (although it is hard for him to answer back), and telling him how much I love him/what a great Dad he always has been, how I will miss him and what to tell Mom for me (I actually “talk” with my Mom all the time but Daddy likes to always have something to do, so carrying my message to Mom will maybe make his journey easier).

I hope the grass is even greener than in this picture. I hope the air is sweet and there are birds singing (Pop-pop loves songbirds). I hope it is beautiful beyond my imagination. And I hope I can take comfort in knowing that Martin and I will have one more angel watching over us…

Tired

Every time I hear my phone – be it a text message beep or an actual ringtone – my heart stops for a minute. I always wonder if this will be “the” call.

Pop-pop is fading rapidly now, and whatever residual, foolish hope I and my siblings may have held for a miracle now seems unattainable. My Dad is getting ready to go on to Heaven, or a higher plane, or whatever terminology you prefer. I do not want him to go but I cannot bear to see him suffer.

Well-intentioned friends and family members have suggested we say to Pop-pop that it’s OK. You can go. The really sad thing is, I think they are right. And, I have come to realize that maybe it is not Pop-pop that doesn’t want to let go, it’s me…

You are tiredIt’s a strange feeling, you know, getting ready to essentially become an orphan. No matter how good or bad one’s parents are/were – and mine are/were pretty great – once they leave, once that anchor falls away, we are left alone. I mean, I am lucky – I have an amazing spouse (I love you MSW!), a small but frickin’ outstanding circle of true and loving friends and a pretty great therapist, LOL! I will be fine. But there is definitely an uneasiness hovering nearby me, waiting. Waiting till I am “alone” with my life, with no one really to answer to about it. It is a pretty overwhelming feeling at times.

I am thankful for the loving parents I got. Folks that know me well know I believe we all “pick” our parents – I got a flipping amazing pair. Perfect in their imperfections, my Mom and Dad were a great gift to me. I love them both very much. I miss my Mom every day, and worry now that – regrettably and unavoidably – I will soon miss my Pop-pop every day, too…

I know Mom is waiting for him, and I know he is waiting to see her again. My parents loved one another for fifty-one years, a record I hope to match in my own life with Martin (I have to live to be 100, but I accept the challenge!) My Dad has always been a little lost without Mom and, while I know my Mom has had good company these almost seven years since her crossing over, I know she will be happy to see my Dad again.

My cousin Vickie recently said to me that every one is 33 years old in Heaven. I’m not sure where she got that intel but I like the idea – my Mom and Dad young, beautiful/handsome and very much in love again. I hope Vickie is correct…

 

Pop-pop’s Fridge

I have been absent from blogging for a few days.

empty-deskThose of you who follow my little blog know that my father, Pop-pop, is terminally ill. Hospice has been called in and, as they say, “Now we wait.” It is a heart-breaking time and, frankly, it sucks. A lot. My siblings and I are taking turns staying with Dad now – he cannot be alone.

My father, once a robust, contrary guy with an opinion about anything and everything, now spends his waking hours – which are getting fewer and fewer – in an adjustable bed in the living room, watching TV for a few minutes at a time, sometimes with the sound blasting and other times with the sound muted, the closed captioning scrolling across the bottom of the screen. And all the while, my sister, brother or myself sit across the room in a recliner, or even closer on the nearby sofa, talking with Pop-pop when he feels like talking, making sure he has a drink or the daily paper (which he never reads, he just likes to “have it”), adjusting pillows and blankets and helping him with the TV remote. Increasingly, he just surrenders the remote and tells us to “Watch what we want.”

Did I mention that this really sucks?

I love my Pop-pop, and am angry that he is so sick. I am angry that doctors took so long to finally “figure out” WTF was wrong with him (why do we have to rule out everything before we arrive at diagnosis?). I am angry a bit with my Dad; seems he may have suspected he was sick over a year ago but, like all men I guess, we think he avoided seeking treatment or even a diagnosis, maybe because he was afraid of what he would find out. I get it, I do, but I am mad. And selfish, in a childish way – I don’t want Pop-pop “going anywhere…”

But now we are faced with the reality that is, well, reality. This past weekend, I went to my Dad’s house and spent the night, Sunday through late Monday evening. Pop-pop lives an existence without wi-fi, computers or internet anything – I mean, he really does still have a rotary phone at his house. So, no blog posts. Plus, I had more important things to do.

Rotary-Dial-Phone

We had a nice overnight, my Dad and me. We just kinda’ hung out, had a bite together and then he mostly slept. I slept on the couch right beside his bed. It was a beautiful time for me, sad as the situation is, but I am thankful Pop-pop and I had that time alone together. It was a bit surreal, though – I mean, I have always heard all the expressions, you know the ones: “Life is one giant circle. Parents become your children. In the beginning, parents give you life and, at the end, you help them exit theirs.” They are all true.

As the evening progressed, I helped my Dad eat – he wanted a Bacon Junior Cheeseburger, a few fries and a Frosty from Wendy’s. At this point, we are all worried less with nutrition and more with making Dad happy. He ate half the burger, about a half dozen fries and maybe half his small Frosty. As I pulled his bed tray away, I looked at him and told him how “good” he had done, much as he had done to me as a child when I ate my dinner. I wrapped the burger and fries (I ate the Frosty!) and put them in the fridge. Inside the fridge, I saw other recent left-overs – three McNuggets here, one KFC chicken strip and a barely-touched mashed potatoes on the top shelf, two-thirds of a Burger King something and a few onion rings on another shelf. As I nestled the most recent left-overs into the fridge, I stood crying silently in the kitchen, out of my father’s sight.

McNuggets

The fridge that had burst with food when my Mom was alive was now all but empty, save for half-eaten fast food meals. a bottle of apple juice and goat cheese.

Yes, goat cheese. Pop-pop recently mentioned that he had always wondered what the heck goat cheese tasted like. So, on my visit, I brought him some to try. I spread goat cheese on three crackers and brought them to him on a small plate. He ate one, said it tasted “all right” and now he would be able to say he had tasted goat cheese…

goat cheese

My sister is staying with Pop-pop the next few days. I wonder what she will think, looking past packets of honey mustard dipping sauces and shriveling French fries, when she sees the goat cheese. I hope maybe she gets the chance to share some with Pop-pop, too…