Year One, AD

Dad died 14 days ago. I keep thinking it’s only been a week.

I tried to write about it for weeks, the inevitability of it. I have unpublished posts filled with grief, anger, and anxiety. He was a difficult man and hard to know. Though he was materially generous, his heart went unspoken; his mien did not encourage empathy. As his children, our relationships with him were complex and often frustrating.

But we loved him, too, so dearly. For all his faults (and mine, for I have many) he was a good father and a good man. He was strong. My mother created our world, but my father was its foundation. His presence was essential and understood. The last two weeks have been filled with distraction but, in moments, I have the curious sensation the floor has dropped out beneath me.

The last ten years were hard on him. Mom died (tomorrow marks a decade) and it was a loss from which he would never fully recover. A series of health problems, bad doctors, chronic pain and depression followed, slowly stealing his mobility and damping his sense of humour. His final struggle was with a cancer that made it almost impossible to swallow, which seemed especially hard, since food was his last real pleasure. At the end he was tired and painfully thin. He was ready and we who loved him could not wish anything other than an end to his suffering.

We were with him. I’m glad of that.

Now we are without him.






10 thoughts on “Year One, AD

  1. Your father sounds a lot like my father, a man of generosity and good humour and a dark side which only his family saw and made us kids incredulous when people would talk about what a great, kind man he was. Well, maybe our fathers weren’t all that much alike. After he died, I kept wanting to call him to ask a question about gardening or tell him about something I’d read or seen. No matter how complicated the relationship, there is a huge gap between having a father, and once having had a father. You have my deepest condolences. I know that even though he is no longer suffering and there is a sense of relief at that, it does not lessen the grief you must be feeling. If I could, I would come over with tea and homemade bread and a hand-knitted shawl. ((((hugs))))

    • Thank you. Really. In fact, I think our dads might have been very alike. Dad adored us and bragged about us to everyone–but he had a tough time giving (and receiving) compliments directly, and it made it hard for us to feel we had his approval. He held a lot of things back all his life and the longer it was his habit, the less he felt he could change (though I sometimes felt he wanted to). It was hard to see how unhappy it made him near the end. No matter how many people are around you and love you, when you’re dying, you’re on your own.
      About a week after he died, I found myself reflexively dialing his number to ask if he was listening to the CBC, which was airing a particularly awful piece of music. I will miss that–and having someone to ask about gardening and renovation. And, you know, just to feel like if everything went to hell there was someone to rescue me.
      It’s a strange thing, to feel like a middle-aged orphan.

  2. Deepest condolences to you and your family, g. The last two lines you wrote above are profoundly beautiful. He suffered from a very cruel kind of cancer in the end, and you all surely did as much as you could to ease his discomfort, and suffered yourselves when it didn’t seem like you could do enough.

    This hits me very close to home on more than one level in my life. My 91 year old father was very ill in an ICU a week ago, but he has rallied and is recuperating at home. I felt myself on the brink of a loss as deep as the ocean, but this was not his time. There will be a time, though, and every day between now and then is precious.

    • Oh, Anita–the feelings you describe are still fresh in me. In the weeks (and months) before dad died, we had many moments of feeling like it was the end. It was overwhelming fear followed by profound relief. But (and I hope this is some comfort) when the time came, letting go felt right, too. Mortality is built into us.
      I hope, in this time, you and your father and family find your deepest reserves of affection, patience, and love without condition. Even when we can’t say all the things we want to, love and gratitude finds a way.

  3. I’m very sorry for the loss of your father. Both my parents are still living, so I can only imagine the empty place he left. I’ve spent most of my life trying to sort out my relationship with my dad. He was military and everything was black & white. He was also a hitter. He would hit me before I even knew I’d done anything wrong. I was an angry child and left home the day after I graduated from high school. There were years of non-communication, but we gradually made our peace. Recently stories of his childhood (and of his siblings)have been told at family gatherings, and he was a much better father than his own father was. He took what he knew of being a father and improved on it the best he could. It sounds like your dad was also a man who did the best he could. Hugs.

    • I’m sorry your relationship was so fraught. I can’t remember my father ever raising a hand to any of us in anger or frustration, and I’m glad of it. He never spoke of his childhood and, by now, almost everyone who knew anything of what it was is gone. We’ll never know what his ghosts were, but you’re right, he did the best he could. He tried hard to be a better man than I think he believed he was–which is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s like his unhappiness and regret kept him from feeling like a good father, which he was. Does that make sense? I feel like he never understood how loved he was.
      I’m glad you’ve made peace. Lots of people never do that. It’s something you should feel proud of, that you have the resolve to move past those destructive feelings–and to know you have the strength to do it again if you need to. (I always thought getting through a heartbreak could make you braver when you set out to love someone or something else.)
      I was angry, too, and still am in many ways. But I also know I tried to be good to dad when things were hard, and he to me, and we did love each other so very much.

    • Thank you. And you know, it’s fine–for all the words or a handful. When it comes to loss, we all feel it, even if knowing how to articulate it is difficult. I’m touched and grateful.

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