Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gratitude 4: My earthly father who now lives in heaven

Today, I am grateful that my dad is dead.

My dad's reality for the last 6 years of his life wasn't fun. The few months before Ben was born showed me a dad I didn't know. He was vague. He had a lost, lonely, despairing look in his eyes. I worried about him driving by himself. I worried about the tone that was in his voice: one of hesitation, confusion, a grasping for conversation that was new for a man who usually had more than enough to say. He lost interest and enjoyment with his coffee shop friends - people whom he had spent hours with everyday for years and years. It was awful. I remember that his diagnosis - which came when Ben was 10 months - was awful, but it at least explained why my dad had lost himself in so many strange ways in a year.

We crossed so many milestones. There were the good times after his diagnosis when he knew what was happening but was still with us. I spent Thursday afternoons with him for a few months during this stage. We would go get a coke and drive around my old hometown. We might see a friend or family member and chat with them. He knew who I was, he knew who my kids were, and he showed his love in so many ways - he held the door open for me when we walked in the gas station; he hugged my kids and patted their backs with his large, familiar hands; he said thank you for the tomato-macaroni soup I made him. But he wasn't himself; he didn't see our emotions anymore; I hit myself in the head with the pantry door one day when I was just on my way to go home; I left in tears of sadness and pain, but he couldn't see those emotions. He didn't register Amy's tears one day when we all met with his therapist, seeming shocked when it was pointed out to him that she was crying. He didn't know that my mom's heart was breaking when he left to go live in the rest home and she rested her head on his shoulder and cried. So many tears shed with him unable to understand any of them.

The last few years I both dreaded and loved spending time with him. I put on a cheery face and a happy voice. I told him stuff that we did. I showed him pictures and took his picture and pretended he understood what I was doing and knew who I was. I repeated myself incessantly if I said a phrase that he responded to, even a little, just to see if he would respond again. I tried to do the talking for two, but I knew deep down that there was really only one: me.

But now: I know he knows who I am and hears my words. And that has been the case since August 5, 2011.

He comes me on my runs, putting grasshoppers on the trail to remind me that he is there (I don't know why he chose grasshoppers, but that was his mode of communication a few weeks ago as I ran on the Jordan Parkway.) He comes to my kids birthday parties, an uninvited but welcome guest. He reminds me to watch over my mom and love my sisters. He comes back to me all the time in music and pictures and memories and silly phrases. He has so many hopes for our family's future and he's praying on the other side that those things will come to pass in their time. He sends off his great-grandchildren to this world with a hug and many pats on the back and a silly joke that might border on inappropriate. They leave heaven knowing him. Luckies.

I feel him now more than I ever could when he was trapped inside his mind for so many years, and I am thoroughly, 100% grateful he is able to do that. He missed so much.  He was so limited on earth for so long. I know there was some sort of recompense, some sort of solace for his soul, though I don't know what it was. But now he is free and doesn't have to be bound by the constraints of this world. By dying, he became the father he couldn't be on earth.


Amy Sorensen said...

This is what I meant exactly.

When I talked (I think it was in my talk) about my moment in Yellowstone when I stood by the little pool that was named Arrowhead, and I could nearly feel his soul tugging towards me. But it was trapped. Now he is free to come to us, in grasshoppers or as a shadow on a new baby or however else he chooses.

It is good to know he is free and not tugging against the restraints of his body.

Melanie said...

I'm happy for you and sad at the same time. I'm sorry that it happened the way that it did and that drew the pain out for so long for you and your family. But I'm happy for the times when you can be at peace with his passing. And it never hurts to have someone pulling for us on the other side. ;)