Friday, October 12, 2012

Saying Goodbye To Daddy

 My father died 4 months ago today. I wrote this 4 months ago and never posted it. I want it here so that I can remember........

Last Monday I was getting ready to do my afternoon baby program when my brother called. Not texted, CALLED. And told me that the doctor said if I wanted to say goodbye to my dad, I had better get there.

He had spent the last 2-3 months first in the hospital for a broken bone in his spine, then in the nursing home from hell for rehab, and  back to the hospital for pneumonia. The last day I really spent with him was 10 hours in an emergency room, a day I will never forget. The experience was horrific because of the surroundings and yet I am so glad I had that day to take care of him!

He was in the hospital for a week, then in a different, better nursing home when things seemed to be getting better.

A week ago Friday he started having breathing problems and went back to the hospital. It  was one he had been in often over the past decade for his COPD and for pneumonia. Many of the nurses knew him there and his pulmunologist was there and wonderful to us.

After a very scary Friday night he seemed to rally on Saturday. That day my brother went to see him and my father was coherent and chatty. But by the time I called Sunday afternoon he was hallucinating and when my mother tried to get him to talk to me, he couldn't even use the phone correctly. The last thing I heard him say was something about going shopping in a big department store on the Henry Hudson Parkway, where there are no stores...

He got agitated after that and they gave him something to calm him and he went to sleep.

When I got there around 10 PM Monday he was still asleep and never regained consciousness. I got to stay with him and talk to him for a while when I sent my mom and brother out to dinner. I hope he heard me.

He made it through the night, but Tuesday afternoon his breathing and blood pressure began to drop and around 5PM his breathing stopped. My mom and I were there in the room, but he went so quietly and easily that there was really nothing to see. Just that he'd gone.

The doctor hugged us all and told us it was a "dignified ending for a dignified gentleman", the sort that we all should have.

I came home the next day after my mom and I had a protracted struggle with my brother over a funeral. All Dad wanted was to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered on Cape Cod. He emphatically did NOT want a rabbi or any such. Nor did we want my brother bring his in-laws and (really) the family maid/nanny to any service!

Mom finally thought of getting someone from Ethical Culture. Initially it looked as if no one could come but the leader from the Riverdale group said that he could. So after we dealt (ugh) with the funeral home, I came home to spend the night and be with Alan and the girls and then we all drove back the next afternoon.

Friday we went to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx near our home. They have a beautiful old chapel there built by the Woolworth family. It's a beautiful, green place.

It was just the 10 of us. My mother, his wife of almost 52 years.The Man, SC, JR and me. My brother, his wife, my nephews (12 and 8) and my niece, 5, who didn't get what was going on. My brother had been convinced that the boys would be very traumatized by the coffin, etc, but the sad thing is that they loved my dad but they barely saw him because my brother and his wife seldom is ever brought them to see my parents. It's my girls who knew him and loved him as their Grandpa Jack, and since sadly, they have been to funerals for both of  the Man's parents, they knew what would go on and knew what it was all about.

The Ethical Culture leader was wonderful. We had spent an hour with him before the service and he had gotten a good sense of my dad from us (mainly Mom and my family, my brother came late) and he spoke well. My brother spoke and I was proud of him. It wasn't a stuffy sort of thing it was from his heart. My sister-in-law read a poem which I could have done without, but it wasn't overly mawkish--Dad hated stuff like that. And  the Man spoke about my father, whom he had come to love as his father too, especially in recent years when my father-in-law slipped away from us.

My brother and his family went out and took Mom. And then the Man, SC, JR and I put our hands on his coffin and said goodbye. We walked behind as they rolled it out to the crematory and we stood by together as they took it in.

And then we all went to Wave Hill, a beautiful place high above the Hudson River. It used to be an estate--Mark Twain once rented it for the summer--and now it belongs to the city and Mom and Dad went there often.  The sky was blue and the river view gorgeous and the flowers lovely.

Finally, we went to Tombolino's--the Italian restaurant that Mom and Dad loved. The Man and I were married there, 18 years ago. We spent 3 hours eating and being together.

Saturday, the Man went downtown to be with 2 of his brothers. SC, JR and I took Mom to the New York Botanical Gardens--where we went almost every weekend when my brother and I were kids and we saw the Monet exhibit.

Sunday we said goodbye to Mom and headed home via the Cape May Ferry and the Eastern Shore of Maryland where we ate a seafood dinner on a deck above the water of Kent Island Sound. And came home.

I still cannot truly believe that my dad is gone, that I'll never hear him arguing with my mother again, that I'll never see him teasing the girls or talking with the Man about WWII. I can't yet bear to take his number off my phone. I called the home phone the other day and his voice is on the machine and it was impossible to hear it and believe he's died.

My mother called yesterday to tell me that she is not having her second round of chemo this week because her hemoglobin is too low. There is also something going on with her antibodies--not sure what but it meant the transfusion had to be done specially.

She has lost my dad and is heartbroken but not emotional about it the way my brother expected her to be(!) She told me she's had 20 years to prepare for this. And though she will miss him, he has not been himself for a while, and he has been in such pain and discomfort for so long that she can't help but feel relieved at having the burden of his care lifted from her. I experienced a little of that work myself and am in awe of my mother. I hope that the chemo will continue to help her and that she will be able now to come and visit us and stay for a while. She will drive us crazy, but we love her and want her to do so.

1 comment:

enupoo said...