Monday, May 14, 2012

The Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that there isn’t a word to describe the role that a child assumes when a parent goes on ahead.  For the spouse, there is “widow” or “widower,” a term that comes from an Indo-European root meaning “to be empty.”  

The truth is that, without my dad, part of me is empty too.  Floating around in that empty space is grief, a state of being in many different emotions, not the least of which is regret.

Several months ago, I read the book House Rules by Jodi Picoult, and a line from the book really stuck with me:  “Living with regrets is like driving a car that only moves in reverse.”   I know in my head that’s true; regret, especially in a situation like this, is an exercise in wheel-spinning.  It certainly isn’t going to help anything, and yet it’s still present, pushing questions and thoughts and other emotions into that empty space on a regular basis.  

Of course, I wish we had found out about the cancer sooner – soon enough to have done something about it!  Even if earlier detection didn’t result in a cure, maybe it would have given him longer to live.  Even if more time wasn’t in the cards, maybe earlier detection would have resulted in less of a loss of function for him so that he could have enjoyed the time he did have left.  

Beyond that, I think the remaining regret is entwined with disappointment, in some cases because of things that happened or had to be done and in others because of things that didn’t or just weren’t possible.  

I wish we’d had time to investigate other options for him and that we could have talked to him about those options, both from a medical standpoint and other choices related to how he wanted to spend the time he did have left.  He said he wanted to go to a beach, but that was when we all thought he was going to get better and so that got added to his Bucket List for when he was feeling better, which of course never happened.  I regret that it just wasn’t to be for him and that, no matter how hard we tried or how much he deserved it, we couldn’t make that happen for him.

Dad on the beach, when he was healthy

I wish it had been possible for us to be sure he knew he had so many friends who loved him.  I will always regret that we didn’t encourage more people to visit him when he was sick.  We didn’t, because we were trying to protect him, but the end result wasn’t what we expected or intended and for that I am so sorry.

The grief counselor has helped me to see that I would still have what-if’s and second thoughts to consider in hindsight if we had gone a different route, though.  For example, if we’d said no to having him go to rehab – then we would have wondered if having he go would have helped him get stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If we’d taken him to the beach in lieu of treatment, we’d have wondered if making another choice would have extended his life or even possibly cured him if we’d sought treatment.  And, in either case, he would have been miserable anyway.  The chance for quality was squashed by the tumor.

"[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."  ~Steve Jobs