Friday, July 5, 2013

At Least A Thousand Times More

Today is the fifth of the month, and, like the fifth of all the other months that have marked the time since I last spent time with my dad on this earth, it's not an easy day for me.

Every month I wonder if there will ever come the fifth of a month on which I won't feel this way.  I don't think so, at least not for at least a thousand times more or so.

I thought I could make it through the day this time around without writing about my dad or my grief, a new kind of milestone that I feel a weird kind of obligation to reach towards, even though it seems unnatural - and, truth be told, so sad and disrespectful I can't really allow myself to think about it much.  

It's been 30 months.  My god that's hard to believe.  But not as hard as it is not to be able to talk to him except in the format of a one-sided conversation.  

Today I've been thinking about the last time I saw him before we knew he was sick, which was on an extended family vacation in upstate New York.  My husband, my daughters, and I hugged my dad and my mom goodbye as we headed off towards our respective gates at the airport at the end of the trip; I don't specifically remember hugging my dad then, but I'm sure I did.  And I'm sure I thought I would see him at least a thousand times more, with both of us happy and healthy.

I can't help myself from thinking back to things that happened when he was sick, and sometimes the memories and the visions of those things haunt me - like how I used scissors to cut the hospital bracelet from his wrist both times when he came home from the hospital - and how the way I felt when doing so was so completely different on each of those occasions.  The first time, he was still recovering from brain surgery and we were still reeling from the news of the devastating diagnosis and preparing for him to go to Duke for the treatment that we thought would save him.  The second time, we had brought him home on hospice, to save him from the spiraling misery that was going on in the hospital, with hope of a different brand.  The second time, I saved the bracelet after I'd cut it from his wrist; I put it in my purse as if that made sense or a difference in anything that was going on. 

I think back to the packed-up box of stuff from his office, the contents of which would seem meaningless, perhaps junky even, to a stranger but were of exactly the opposite to us in value. I don't know where most of that stuff is now; I guess it doesn't matter, except for when it feels like it does.

I can clearly remember the moments during which the news of the diagnosis was delivered to us, and I remember so well the feeling of hope that the statistics wouldn't, and didn't, apply to him, or to us.  It was as if that Hope was our magic carpet, our oxygen, our blood; to live, we needed to believe that he would live.  I sometimes wish that I didn't remember some of those moments or the rapid decline and the series of let-downs and failures and disappointments from the second and final time that we spent with him in the hospital; that was like being caught in a fishing net, and it forced us to reconsider what we thought about almost everything.  I try to think back to the full weight of the feelings of helplessness, of guilt, of terror, and of powerlessness that crept in during that time, before they were overtaken by resignation and different shades of the previous emotions. But I'm not sure; I think they just gradually took hold of me over the course of the last three weeks of his life, and I have to say I haven't quite shaken most of them yet.

At the end of that trip to upstate New York, my immediate family ended up being stuck at the airport in Albany because of a delayed flight due to thunderstorms across the country; my parents made it out on their flight on time.  After they's gotten home, Dad texted me to check on us and commiserated with me about the inconvenience of the lateness of our adjusted schedule.  "I hope you make it home ok," he texted when I told him that our plane had finally been cleared for take off, the second-to-last time he would text me, ever.  And only five months later, I said goodbye to my dad for the very last time, and, in the early hours of the morning later that night, I laid my head down on the pillow to try to sleep and found myself crying so hard that tears threatened to fill my ears.  I tried to stop but couldn't, and then I squeezed my eyes shut and felt that same message flash from me to my dad:  "I hope you make it home ok," I thought between sobs, and then I added,  "I miss you, I can't believe this whole thing happened, and I don't think I can make it without you" - thoughts that would run through my head at least a thousand times more between then and now.


  1. Hi Stephanie,

    I'm finding lots of comfort in reading your posts because I, too, lost my father from cancer (only 8 months ago). When he was diagnosed with liver cancer, the oncologist said it was Stage 1, only to find out a few days later that it was actually Stage IV. He received treatment for only one week, which weakened him even more, and before I could even try to understand or come to terms with everything, he was gone. I'm having a terrible time coping with everything, and even though we don't have solutions, it is always nice to read words from someone who knows exactly how I'm feeling. Thank you for sharing your words with the world. Hugs. <3 -KL

    1. Hi! Thanks for the comment and for reading. I'm so sorry for your loss; 8 months is so early in the grief process, and I'm glad you are able to find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I think in some situations like yours and mine in which death occurs so soon after the initial diagnosis, it can feel like a sudden loss - and in many ways in was. Sometimes I think my family and I suffer from PTSD as a result of our experiences from my dad's diagnosis and subsequent death; it's definitely unchartered territory in situations like ours and so, so tough to make it through. I wish for peace and love for you and hope that in time the good feelings that come from the memories of your time with your father override the feelings of sadness and grief. Thanks again for reaching out. ~Stephanie