Several weeks ago, I drafted this post:
We're in a morbid race right now. Which shall come first: the birth of Christ or the death of my father?
Don't ask me which one I'm hoping for.
Christmas Eve, if Dad's up to it, Mom will load him and an overnight bag into the truck and make it here about 4 p.m. or so. Maybe a little earlier. It depends on the weather. We'll open gifts and pretend then everything is normal. Dad will get to give Gavie the gift he chose for him some weeks ago, a rock polisher. True, it's a toy meant for older children, but how can I tell my father no? My son has a fascination with small objects, the tinier the better. Gavie has one purpose when it comes to rocks and coins and, recently, little plastic frogs: to hold them. That's it. He holds them. And he will hold them. All day long. God help the innocent who tries to take them off if him.
The answer came, finally. Dad passed on December 24, sometime around 6 a.m. while I slept upstairs in my old bedroom and Mom slept on the couch on the living room, next to his hospital bed.
Death took its time in coming for him, something my I quietly raged about -- and still do. I fail to see the point in his suffering, dear readers. Why did he linger for twenty months? Why did he have to spend his last days in a semi-comatose state, too weak to do anything, so drugged for that pain that he barely knew where he was? Why couldn't he have slipped away just a week previous? Before he was confined to his hospital bed and before suffering the indignities that total helplessness brings?
We never talked about his impending death, Dad and I. For all the time I spent with him these last five months, we never had a single conversation about it. We talked about the present. We spoke carefully, avoiding verbs such as "will be" and mention of 2006. When the future insisted upon conversation, it would be about the upcoming holiday or December 17, the day I was to compelte my MS in leadership and business ethics, something he was so proud of. Short-term seemed safest. Less cruel.
On Thursday evening, the day he quit responding to us and slipped into that comatose state, we thought that the end was near. Not two days away. That evening, though, Dad opened his eyes and looked at me and my brother. Just stared.
"I love you, Dad," I said. For what else is there to be said?
He continued to stare for a moment, and then closed his mouth, as if to speak. For that moment, I saw my Dad again. Not the pale, hollow-cheeked stranger that had replaced him. For that moment, I even thought he might answer me. But he didn't. He couldn't. And within the span of an eternity or a nanosecond, his eyes went unfocused again and his mouth sagged open.
The horrible, shallow breathing that I was already used to began all over again. It was the sort that made you think each breath was the last one, made you hope it was the last one.
It's over now. Today was one week to the day of his death. I've already returned to work, having done my grieving these past twenty months. We celebrated Christmas for Gavie, and my husband and I are having a Christmas party this month. I might even send out Christmas cards for January 25th.