my father died yesterday. he was very young and sick only briefly. i was not prepared to deal with this life passage until i was at least the age he was.
my siblings and i were able to spend his last few weeks together with him. he slept most of the time we were there. exhausted from morphine and from the cancer that was devouring him, he napped on and off like an infant.
to be near to him, i crawled into his bed and lay along side him, like i did when i was small. now he was the small one and i felt timid and hesitant, afraid that i might crush him. it was so strange to see my once tall and strong dad now delicate and fragile. i lay with him while he slept, sometimes my eyes open and staring at him, sometimes i slept too. other times i closed my own eyes to see him the way he was, the way i need to remember him.
losing a parent is bewildering. watching anyone face the end is heartbreaking no matter what the relationship. the flood of memory is vivid. while i lay with my father, my mind turned to what he had been to avoid the sight of what was now. he was a quiet and mostly patient man but he had a slow burning rage that showed in lightening fast bursts. all facets of him came rushing to me while i stared at him. i could feel his patient, nimble fingers untangling my six year old braids, his hand steadying me on my first bicycle, the sound of him whistling while working in the yard. and i also could feel the shudder of doors slamming, hear wheels screeching out of our driveway, see cookies whizzing past me and smashing on the kitchen floor during a particularly tense christmas.
as tears silently slipped down my cheeks, i wondered what my dad was thinking as he lay still next to me. what regrets or hurts is he mulling…what victories is he savoring? in the middle of my musing, i fall asleep again. when i wake up my dad is looking at me too. i know he is not seeing me as his aging hipster daughter with hair bleached platinum and eyes puffed from crying in my sleep. he is seeing me as he remembers too…his little girl with hair naturally the color of a dandelion puffs he held for me make a wish and blow away in a single breath. like me, he would like to let pass our tangles and explosions and be at peace.
which is perhaps the most valuable lesson my dad taught me. from him i learned the complexities of relationships. i learned that good people do rotten things and rotten people have their valiant moments too. that everyone feels, loves, cries, hurts, fears and laughs... everyone has needs and dreams that may or may not be fulfilled but we keep wishing and blowing on dandelion puffs and watching the seeds blow away, carrying our hopes to the wind…