This post was originally entitled “I am nothing but feelings.” You’ll see.The phone rang at 10:46 AM on November 17. It was a Monday so I was at work when my parents’ home number flashed on my cell phone, making my heart jump to my throat.
“Hello?” I answered, feeling tense.
It wasn’t Mom, calling to tell me she was taking Dad to the hospital. It was Dad, sounding fine.
I willed myself to breathe again.
Dad said he felt bad for not calling more. He just called to chat.
For years, Dad didn’t know my phone number – seriously – and it drove my mother nuts. She gave him grief about it constantly, writing the number on notepads in the house and entering it into his seldom-used and seldom-seen cell phone. But I always told him the same thing: I know how much you love me.
Still, it’s a surprise when Dad calls. A great surprise. I drop everything for him.
We talked about The Voice, which he absolutely loves. The bromance between Adam and Blake cracks him up. But he has a new favorite now.
“I feel like I want to be his friend. And I love his hats!” -my 78 year old Dad re: @Pharrell#thevoice#dusty
— One Chicklette (@1chicklette) November 18, 2014
Dad asked about my cold and told me that he’s feeling good. The last three years have taught me not to take that for granted. Tomorrow is not assured.
Holidays are different now. On Thanksgiving night, I cried in my childhood bedroom thinking ahead to the day when I will no longer have a dad.
I used to save projects for Dad. A necklace that needs fixing. A shelf to be mounted on my apartment wall. He was my own personal McGyver. No challenge was too great for Dad.
But now, Dad is often physically vulnerable. I don’t ask him to do things for me now because I know it would break his heart to say “I can’t. I’m so sorry, Jen.”
My father seems to be fading like an old Polaroid. Sometimes I think about asking if he’s scared. And by scared, I mean about dying. But that’s a door I can’t open. Even thinking and typing the word feels like a betrayal.
Dad spent six days in a hospital two hours’ drive from home last week. His condition, pulmonary hypertension, is very difficult to manage. He has an excellent specialist who does everything you’d want a doctor to do, from calling the house to check in between appointments to visiting my father in the hospital, even though he’s out on vacation.
But getting Dad back on course takes time and tries his patience. He hates the hospital food, and the hospital twin bed and worst of all, the hospital TV that doesn’t offer a guide or menu. Fortunately he loves the nurses (and they love him).
I call a few times each day, trying to encourage and distract him.
“At least The Voice is on tonight, Dad.”
“You’re right, Jen. I can’t wait. It’s good to have something to look forward to.”
“I love you, Dad. So much.”
And then I hang up and cry. I can’t let Dad know how scared I am.
December 18 update: Dad was just diagnosed with shingles.
For the final update, click here.
And now I’m crying, too. I miss talking to my dad on the phone, though, he rarely called me. He never said “Hello” just started talking when I answered, usually to say “I’ll take (enter team name here)” and give me the point spread. We bet $1 on all kinds of games. He never said “goodbye” either. He did not watch “the Voice” but did watch American Idol. He had a “good” list and a “shit” list that he kept and scored people accordingly. It was less painful to just watch the show than to have him describe each of the acts to me!
. Keep calling him and cheering him up. Sneak food in for him if you can visit. I smuggled more food into the VA hospital than I’d care to admit. I snatched blankets from the other floor which he swore had warmer blankets. I pretended pepsi’s were mine when really they were his. It is just what you do.
I’m thinking of you and your dad and sending warm wishes your way.
Thank you, Hollie. Much appreciated.
Painful period of life, Jen. Enjoy what your Dad still can do and the moments you still have, as much as you can. My dad passed away of a heart attack at age 66, just-like-that, 11 years ago, on Dec. 15, the day after my birthday. The day before he called me up to lecture about how I was doing something wrong about not having my 9-year-old daughter “become a Bialczak.” And I got annoyed. Geez. So your way, and I am so sad for you feeling his slide to your very core, nevertheless allows for very tender moments for you to grab onto with all your might. Happy holidays.
Thank you, Mark. It helps to know I’m not alone.
I miss picking up the phone and hearing “Hi, Sis”. I still keep his number in my phone. His windbreaker is in my closet because when I touch it I remember how it felt under my hands when I hugged him. I miss talking to him when the Cowboys were winning – or losing. I miss his big hands and bigger heart. I was his only daughter and he convinced me I could do anything a man could do – maybe better. He struggled to breathe at the end – my own breath would literally catch in my throat at the thought of ever losing him. It’s been nearly 5 years since he died – it still hurts but the edges feel a little rounder, less jagged. Does that make sense? I envy every girl who still has her dad. I guess I’m just saying I know how you feel. Trite, but true.
Carolyn, your comment touched my heart. Your grief is palpable and knowable to me. This Christmas, I’ll hug my father extra for you. Jennifer
I wish I could reach out and hug you. You’re doing everything right my friend. So thoughtful and caring and perfectly wonderful as a daughter. Your dad is as lucky to have you as you are to have him. Enjoy everything about him. Don’t worry too much about anything else. I miss my dad every day but I’m so grateful for everything we did together in person and in spirit. Hugs!!!
I can tell you that you’ll always have your dad, no matter what. Hang in there.