Thursday, June 07, 2007

One Year

One year ago today, I blissfully slept through the phone's repeated ringing from 6 AM until noon.

One year ago today, after I awoke, had a leisurely breakfast, and wondered at having slept so soundly for a change that I actually felt rested for the first time in months, I listened to my answering machine.

One year ago today, I raced to the hospital, berating myself for not hearing the phone ringing or the messages containing my Mother's voice, that became more frantic with each message, until she screamed "For God's Sake, WAKE UP!!!" before slamming down the phone.

One year ago today, I arrived in the ICU to find my father gasping for breath but, thank God, alive and conscious and able to talk--though I couldn't understand him very well because the EMT's left his dentures behind at the nursing home. He'd been found unresponsive in the morning and they'd called 911 and they'd revived him. He was in acute kidney failure.

One year ago today, I consoled myself with the belief that because he was now conscious and coherent and in the ICU where they were doing everything they could to get his kidneys to function again, he'd pull through and we'd be able to go home in a couple days and resume our "normal" lives.

One year ago today, after talking to him for a little while, Dad told me two very important things: "I want you to keep going with your Parelli thing" and "go take care of Mother now and make sure she's all right". Neither caused me much concern because he'd been telling me these things for months now, every time we saw each other.

One year ago today at approximately 2:50 PM, I paused at the door of the ICU room and called out "I love you, Dad" over my shoulder, almost as an afterthought, because of course he was going to be all right, and he called back weakly "I love you, too" and I went downstairs to call my sister, fully expecting that I'd have good news for her later about his turnaround and improving condition.

One year ago today, at 3:31 PM, my Dad left us forever.

He coded in the ICU while I was on the phone to my sister. They got him back and were about to put him on life support when he coded again, and despite all their efforts, he wouldn't come back. I cannot believe an entire year has passed already since he died. Three hundred sixty five days.

I miss him. Of course I do. Trouble is, I can't figure out if I miss him or if I miss the person I never got to know.

See, my Dad was very quiet and reserved. He didn't like talking on the phone, so the person who called and talked for an hour was Mother. When the three of us were together, he always sat quietly in the background, listening to Mother and I chat away. Occasionally he'd offer up a carefully worded sentence or two. He was great with giving advice (short, polite and to the point), such as how to fix this or that, or what to do about something financial. He was the Reminder Guy: remember to check the oil in your car, remember to file your taxes, remember that such and such is due.

He had a repertoire of stories from his past experiences that were told over and over (until we knew them by heart): about when he was stationed in India and they ran over a huge snake laying across the road (all the way across the road and you couldn't see either the head nor the tail); or about Grummeeya, his helper boy that called him Memsaab and said "I see chinee, I kill chinee for you" (this was during the war, when he was stationed in the CBI China Burma India Theatre and the Chinese bandits that came over the mountain into the camp were very dangerous to them, please no offense to my Asian friends) and begged to be taken back to the States with Dad when he went home; or about his little Arab pony Slipper. There were many more stories, but they were told almost as if he'd rehearsed them, word for word. We'd ask questions, he'd answer, but again—it wasn't spontaneous, it was well-crafted.

If it was down to me and Dad, conversation was so awkward. Sometimes I felt like I was talking to a tree. I know he loved me; but getting him to talk was worse than pulling teeth. It was such an effort. I asked Mom if he opened up to her; she swore he did. Well, he didn't open up to me. I longed for that father-daughter relationship where the Dad and the kid had heartfelt conversations and peeled away the layers of their personalities together like sharing a secret. But that's hard to do with a silent man beside you.

But I remember him as a very kind, gentle, sensitive, helpful man who worked hard, and made it his life's mission to make Mother happy. He wasn't quiet out of meanness; I don't know if he realized how much his silence felt like rejection. Trust me, I tried to talk with him about it. Still, nothing came of it. That's frustrating. I know from the large number of distraught friends and colleagues at his funeral that he was a well-respected, well-loved man, and his friends knew him deeply. They were the ones who got to see another side of him. He and my sister, whom he adopted officially when he married Mom, had intelligent, profound, grown-up conversations about all sorts of things. (Mother's first husband, my sister's father, died young, and she and Dad married when my sister was nine.) I felt like I was the only one in the crowd who felt like a stranger to Dad, like everyone else got more of him than I did.

I've been wondering if I miss what we could have had if he'd opened up more than I miss his actual presence. Then again... maybe he was one of those people who could sum up his feelings with brevity (a trait I obviously didn't pick up on, LOL) unlike my Mother and I, who need(ed) more than a sentence or two to truly explain ourselves. Maybe my knowledge of him came more from observation of visual cues than from verbage. Maybe I knew him as deeply as I could. Maybe he showed me rather than told me who he was.

The trouble is, I'll never know, because he's gone a year now, and that's the part that hurts the most.



At 10:33 AM, June 08, 2007, Anonymous Stick said...

I know it's hard. I'm thinking of you today.

At 6:16 PM, June 08, 2007, Blogger Sheepish Annie said...

I wonder if, perhaps, your Dad's caution in giving of himself to you was an effort to make sure that what he gave was his very best. It's taken me a long time to realize that about my own father. Sometimes people hold back a bit in order to make sure that what they do offer is valuable. Your love for your Dad is so very touching and the loss you feel over his passing is such a powerful reflection of your relationship with him.

Thinking of you and hoping that the day and the memories bring a little bit of comfort, even if in a small way. ::hugs::

At 1:27 AM, June 09, 2007, Anonymous tiennie said...

I'm so sorry....

Thinking of you.


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