Big black train comin’ down the track
Blow your whistle long and long
One minute you’re here
Next minute you’re gone
One Minute You’re Here– Bruce Springsteen
Been a minute since I had a chance to visit Dad in person and I don’t know how I feel about it.
He wouldn’t care.
That’s not an educated guess, it is what he said.
We talked about it and he was blunt as he often was.
“I’ll be dead. Won’t matter to me how often you get there, but if your mother asks you go. Your sisters too.”
I was 49, but those words hit me like I was 10. Doesn’t surprise nor bother me.
Hasn’t been long since the last update here but it feels like it.
The laws of physics, time and space don’t apply when you are at the bedside of your father in hospice.
The days claim to be 24 hours but they are actually 24 years in length and they grow longer as the drugs that make him comfortable send him into a deeper sleep.
As his pain decreases so does his ability to interact and eventually you reach the place where they say to keep talking because he can hear you but you don’t get confirmation.
There is no hand squeeze, head nod, wink, smile or external indicator of such. Just your faith in the nurses that he really can hear you.
There is a terrible gurgling noise coming from Dad that is hard to reconcile with comfort but the hospice nurses assure us he isn’t bothered by it.
He isn’t thrashing around or doing anything to indicate he is so we believe them.
I was 49 when Dad went to hospice and a little past 65 when he checked out. Hard to believe, but time and space really does operate differently there.
“Is he gone?”
Got that question multiple times from various people who followed the Facebook page updates.
Only answered a few because there were things to do that couldn’t have been done until Dad was done.
It was 104 the day of his funeral and I would have been sweaty even if I hadn’t been shoveling dirt to fill in his grave.
But it magnified by the moment and the labor.
I was in no mood to be questioned by anyone so when the Rabbi told me to take a break I snarled a bit.
“I am good Josh. I will walk out of here under my own power.”
I let him take the shovel for a moment and grabbed some water. He was of great comfort, our kids had gone to pre and elementary school so I knew him as more than just a guy on the pulpit.
“Did you yell at the rabbi?”
I don’t remember who heard the exchange and asked about it, just the question and that when they asked I had resumed shoveling.
Don’t remember if I offered to throw them into the grave or if I ignored them, either are possible but I lean towards ignore.
I knew years before Dad was sick that I would be shoveling that day. Sometimes manual labor is a more effective way to grieve for me and a final gift.
The gravediggers didn’t know him and it would have been just another day at the office for them.
I am not bothered by them not knowing him. There would have been no reason for them to.
It was easy enough for me to shovel and I wasn’t the only one. Friends and family joined in too, I knew they would.
I never wanted to enter the club of people who have lost parents but no one gives us a choice about admission.
We all enter it and one day my kids will look back upon me and wonder why I couldn’t fight off what got me any longer.
It is kind of a silly and childish idea, this sense that somehow our parents beat death but it is hard not to hold onto it.
If you looked at the medical records of the last five years or so of Dad’s life you’d say he was pretty ill but if you asked his grandchildren they wouldn’t describe him that way.
Don’t think most if not all of his children would either.
We knew that he had collected a few illnesses but nothing stopped him, he just slowed down a bit. Hell, I remember standing in his hospital room in New Jersey many years before and listening to Mom say she wasn’t going to let him die.
He didn’t and she gets much credit, but Dad still gets the bulk of it. He just bulldozed through.
So I can say reason and logic made it clear that pancreatic cancer would have its day, but I didn’t expect it to win as quickly as it did. Hell, I am certain he had it for far longer than anyone knew, so maybe he did what I expected but we didn’t know it.
Makes me feel a little better to believe that.
Anyhoo, a while back an old friend reached out to ask my thoughts on a parent dying and I told them you can look at the purpose of pain in a couple of ways.
One is to tell you to stop doing something that is hurting you and the other is to remind you of the importance and value of a particular relationship.
So if it really hurts to lose someone you could see it as a symbol of a gift you have been given.
Can’t say if that helped or didn’t because grief is individual and there is no obligation to look at things in a uniform way.
Started writing this post early Sunday morning and got interrupted and then distracted by things.
Didn’t pick it back up until early afternoon so here he we go with a quick finish.
Been laser focused on a couple of things because I inherited or was indoctrinated with Dad’s need to figure out and fix a couple of things so I haven’t been able to rest or relax.
Three years feels like thirty seconds and in some ways like 30 years.
Been many hard moments but so much good stuff, it is hard to believe I couldn’t share any of it.