I don’t even know how to start this post, I guess I just need to start typing and see what happens. On Monday my father passed away after a long hard struggle with the aftermath of a stroke and dementia. It’s a really weird feeling. Both of my parents are now gone. All of my blood relatives are on the other side of the Atlantic. Although I am married, and I have a number of wonderful friends, there are times now when I feel so totally alone. I can’t quite explain it. Maybe it is just the fact that I will never see my parents again. Being an only child – they were *my* family.
My dad was a wonderful man, but he really wasn’t much of a grownup. I think that was a lot of his appeal to so many people – especially children. My mom always was the grownup – she was the one who made sure that everything that needed to get done got done. This doesn’t mean that my dad was a deadbeat. He wasn’t at all. He worked hard and supported our family financially. He did all of the “man” things around the house and he did them with pride.
By not being a grownup I mean that my dad was the person who had creative ambitions and a very silly sense of humor. He was the person who followed his passions wherever they led him. Like a child, he was filled with wonder – even when he was an old man. He delighted in nature. He spent most of his free time behind a camera lens. When he wasn’t behind the lens he we sitting in front of an editing machine. When he wasn’t sitting in front of an editing machine, he was taking 100 mi Saturday morning bike rides. My mom on the other hand made sure the bills were paid, the savings were squirreled away, the pantry was stocked and the house was clean. She took a lot of pride in all of these things. She was a homebody and that made her very happy. Personally, I don’t think that was a great trade-off in a relationship, but I think they both were very happy to have their own separate passions.
For the last 9 years since my mom passed away I have taken care of my father. For the first 4 years, it wasn’t much more than providing moral support and financial advice. Frankly, during this period I sort of covered my eyes and pretended not to see the warning signs of someone who was struggling with managing his day to day life. During the last 5 years it was so much more. After his stroke, I took over all of his finances. My husband and I cleaned out his house and sold it before the housing market crashed. I made sure he had the best physical therapy and rehab after his stroke. We moved him close to us into an assisted living community that really grew to love him. I did my best, even though I dealt with people who sometimes told me that I didn’t do enough. According to some of his friends I should have had him move into my own home. I think that they were in denial about how ill he really was. My home had stairs and steep hills. My father had enough problems negotiating getting out of bed in the morning. I just wanted him to be safe. I wanted people who were capable of taking care of him to do so.
I have to admit, in some ways I am a lot like my father. I have my passions, and I follow them, consequences be damned. I’m not a good nurturer. I’m not patient. There’s a reason I don’t have my own children, it’s because my lifestyle and my personality aren’t compatible with that kind of responsibility. I feel like I introduce enough chaos into my life all by myself, I don’t need any more.
Dad, even though you were only a fraction of former yourself near the end of your life, I will miss having you as part of my life. You had a smile for everyone. You enjoyed all of the simple things in life. You delighted in the outdoors and in wildlife. You weren’t the perfect father, but you were the perfect father to raise someone like me. Rest in peace. I love you.