A year ago today I was in the third and final day of a workshop for secondary trauma, which was badly needed. I was hanging on by a thread at work. Luckily a friend from work was there, too, and I didn’t have to be the only one from my county. Amanda is super cool, and I appreciated being able to speak to her honestly about my situation with work, and life. It was nice to have a chance to get to know her better.
My father was clearly dying. There had been no week so obvious until this one. During the past year I’d gone through many phases of acceptance with Tom (my father). The shock of seeing him in liver failure, thirteen months before, was the first time it was clear that he might die.
I’m an only child. My father and I never had a close relationship, but he was my father and was always at the very least on the periphery of my life. My son and Tom had always been buddies. Before Jack had been born I’d been in arguments with my grandmother about whether or not I’d ever let my father be a part of Jack’s life. And then my grandmother died suddenly and I felt deep regret about those arguments we’d wasted our time on. She would’ve been glad that Jack and Tom had so much time together. Time she never got with Jack.
It was unexpected, but the week of the trauma workshop I had a feeling my mom really needed me. My father was getting more ill by the second, and when she called to say he’d been on the floor for nearly a day and she couldn’t get him onto the bed it struck something within me. I went over and I needed to help. I wanted to help.
It’s hard to describe the shape my father was in those last days. First of all, he hadn’t taken a shower for a while because he’d been too weak to do it. I had to touch him to help him get on the bed, and frankly that wasn’t something I’d have been willing to do several months earlier. But he was clearly dying. Something about your father dying makes it okay for him to be less than clean.
By the third day of the trauma workshop I was feeling better about work. In the sense that if I quit I wouldn’t be a complete failure. I might not have to kill myself, which I’d been pretty certain would have to happen if I quit.
It was a Friday, and when we got out of the trauma workshop I called my mom, and she said I should come over to see my father. That she didn’t think he was going to live much longer. I didn’t know what to think. He’d kept on living through everything that had happened, no matter how serious medically.
Yet, at the house, I could see that she was right. I don’t know if he even heard me or recognized me. It was an odd position to be in. My father was on his death bed, I wanted to kill myself, Jason and I had to go to an anniversary party at his work that night, and Jack had to stay with my parents. It was a little much to take in, but we went on with our plans.
There was a time I’d have done nearly anything to get out of going to a party at Jason’s corporate headquarters, but things had changed. I didn’t mind at all. I felt fine about mingling and meeting people. I was concerned about my father though. He’d never been so bad that I’d thought he didn’t realize I was in the room.
After the party Jason and I went to a local restaurant and I had a beer and a club sandwich with avocado. I told him my father looked bad this afternoon. Like, bad enough to die. But would he? Surely they’d make it through this night with Jack there.
But he didn’t make it. My father became more and more ill throughout the night, and in the morning on 10/24/09, he died at home. His last words to my mom were that he didn’t want to go to the hospital. Which made sense. Why keep him alive in the ICU until he died? It was right for him to die at home.
Jason and I went to the house in the morning, and Jack went home with Jason right away. He didn’t know my father was dead.
But he was. He was only 52 years old. I’m 37 years old. My father died young due to alcoholism.
The story is too deep to tell here. It’s all in the book (I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that, but it’s true).
Seeing my father dead, at home, in bed, was an experience I’ll never forget. I remember what he looked like as clearly today as I did a year ago.
This is the best I can do today. Just know that my father died October 24, 2009. And this weekend my mom and I will be together, remembering.