One year ago today, my dad called me at midnight and asked me to come back to the hospital to sit with him through the night. He didn't need me to bring anything but me. I remember his exact words and they engulf me with a huge pang of grief. I had about an hour and a half of sleep under my belt when the telephone rang. Not going was not an option. He would have done anything he could have for me and now it was my turn to pay it back.
I remember driving back to the hospital, it had only been about three hours since I'd driven home from there. I remember thinking horrible thoughts in my mind en route. I remember crying with the helplessness I felt. I remember worrying about what was going through his mind. It was crystal clear being alone with his thoughts wasn't something he enjoyed. I wondered if he knew something we didn't. Was he trying to get in as much time with us as possible or was he merely relying on us to help whittle away his restless hours when he had no visitors? I remember thinking how lucky I was to be able to skip out on work the next day so I could sit with him through the night. All this in only a 7 minute car ride. I tried my best to pull myself together before walking into his room, for his sake.
I remember just having casual conversation about the usual stuff. I remember thinking during the entire mundane conversation that I wanted to ask him how he was truly feeling but afraid it would be too hard for him to talk about his true thoughts with his daughter. I remember how nice the nurse was to us that night and how accommodating she was to me when I told her I wasn't leaving. I remember watching Saturday Night Live with him. I remember massaging and rubbing lotion on his sore back and exercising his feet and legs. I remember constantly running to get him warm blankets and tucking him back in over and over because he was so restless and uncomfortable. I remember sitting for three hours just watching him sleep, so grateful that some sleep, any sleep came to him. I remember thinking how horrible it was that our roles had reversed and now I was watching him sleep (like he'd done with me as his child), feeling relief that for a short period of time he wasn't hurting or caught up in his own mind. I remember taking some time while he slept to write him a note about how I felt about him and how much I loved and respected him in his little visitors journal he was keeping. I remember thinking, I'm always better when I can write stuff down, rather than actually trying to speak all my thoughts (I've never been so grateful to write anything down in my entire life and I'm so relieved I did it. I know that he read every word and knew how I felt without a doubt). I remember when he woke up and he immediately looked for me and then smiled at me and said, "hey honey", clearly happy to see me sitting right where he'd left me. I remember him asking me who was standing behind me when it was only a wall and me thinking has 'someone' come to take him from us??? I remember hoping it was only the drugs making him see things, but he asked me a couple of times about the man standing behind me. I didn't know then what we'd come to find out a mere four days later...perhaps he was seeing his father. I'm not sure we'll ever know. I then remember getting up the courage to ask him how he was really doing and forcing him to address his thoughts with me. I'm sure he was still sugar coating it for my sake. He was bummed about all the stuff he was going to be leaving behind, and sad to not be around to share in his children's lives and watch his grandchildren grow , and angry at himself for all the hardships he had done to his body to cause this. He was feeling helpless that there wasn't anything he could do for us going forward. He was frustrated with the system and how the doctor's had failed him. He was frustrated with the lack of use of his legs. He was worried about my mom, and he was worried about all of us for different reasons. He was grateful for his family, all of them. He wanted to see every one of his siblings and they all put whatever shit they had going on between them aside and came to be by his side. They're dedication during his hospital stay never waivered. He told me how loved he felt and was a little sad that it took the big C to finally know how much his siblings and family respected him, flaws and all.
We had the best talk. I can't look back on it with regret. I raised the difficult question and like I said, I'm sure he sugar coated a lot of it to protect me, but I feel ok because I asked. I made him talk to me. Maybe that's not what he was looking for when he called me. Maybe I failed him at keeping his mind off of things, but if that's the case, he never tipped me off or asked me to stop talking to him about serious stuff. The lingering questions about his frame of mind will likely always haunt me but I think that's mainly because I was helpless to bring him peace.
I am going to always cherish that night and hold our conversations and time together close to my heart. I still have a hard time believing he's gone. I find it surreal that it's already creeping up on a year now. I look back on the past year and think about the stuff that's happened and happening in our lives and think of the things that would have made him laugh, yell, cringe, roll his eyes, shout with joy, cheer loudly, and given him something to look forward to. I know he's missed by many. It's pretty clear how much he's missed in my house though. There is a permanent hole here and I'm pretty sure that's not going away anytime soon. This is a profound sense of loss for us and some days the loss is consuming. Today is one of those days.
I've never appreciated getting woken up at midnight, having to get dressed and venture out into the early springtime chill more than on April 5th 2011. Thanks for the phone call dad. It was good to hear your voice. I love you.