Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Stuff of Life (part 2 of 2)

Click here for The Stuff of Life (part 1 of 2)

As I got older, my relationship with my dad followed a pretty typical trajectory.

We saw each other pretty regularly, but our stubbornness and different opinions about how to live our lives remained.

Then as my dad got older, his health began to deteriorate.
He was in and out of the hospital. 
Finally, his wife called and told me that the doctor had determined the cause of his latest sickness was a tear in his heart. It was a risky surgery and my dad didn't want to do it. 
The doctor was going to send him home and set up hospice.
I drove down to Portland, knowing this could be goodbye.


My dad was in surprisingly good spirits. He was happy that my aunt and uncle drove over to see him, and that he was surrounded by family. 

It made me happy to do little things for him. He was frail and not eating much, so I was happy to bring him pumpkin shakes from Burgerville and that he would drink them. It felt like my special job.

Shake on Monday
But on Wednesday when he didn't want the shake, I put it in the fridge. I noticed he hadn't touched the shake from the day Tuesday, or finished Monday's. He was getting worse.

My brother and I dealt with our grief the best way we knew how. 

A hidden gift was the time I got to spend with my dad. Now I understood the lollygag. We'd just sit there, sometimes talking, sometimes holding hands, me usually crying.  His heart was so open. It was a new phase of our relationship.

On his last day, dad told the hospice nurse he was ready to go. She said it was pretty unusual that he would say that in front of us. It was a privilege that we were there up until his last breath, as heartbreaking as it was to see him go. 


In the days after my dad died, the richness he left became more apparent as we told friends and family and they shared their memories. 

We all agreed unanimously about the spot to spread Dad's ashes.
It was in Oysterville. You can smell it before you arrive.

It felt like the richest, most fertile spot along the peninsula.
Dad would have loved it.

My dad's wife, her daughter, my brother, his wife and their two daughters all joined in.
The fast moving water and the windswept blue sky felt like vibrant life, still moving. The mounds of oyster shells gave off their fecund smell while they waited to host the next generation. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Stuff of Life (part 1 of 2)

After my dad died, my family gathered on the Washington Coast to spread his ashes.
We only had general ideas so we drove around to feel out the right location.
Too marshy at this spot. Only my brother and my dad's wife even got out of the car here.

* * * 

Growing up, we joked that I must belong to a different family.

My family was always late. I have many memories of waiting until it was a reasonable time to leave for school.

So when I could, I'd latch onto the other family, living next door.

Which was great, because my family was on a completely different schedule.

When we took a family road trip to Montana for my great grandmother's birthday, I spent about half the trip  riding with my cousins because they were traveling on a timetable. 

My family wanted to stop and check out ghost towns, have picnics, experience the countryside. 

There is a whole subset of family vacation photos taken while I was traveling with my cousins

 I wanted to leave on time, I didn't want to lollygag.

At Halloween, we couldn't ever buy costumes.

My dad always designed our homemade costumes.  

I wanted things tidy, inconspicuous and normal. 
I wanted to live in a suburb, eat at McDonald's in 15 minutes and have parents that watched 'Happy Days'.

My parents, and in particular my dad, had strong ideas about how we were going to live: we were building our own houses, living communally with another family in a rural, conservative town, we were weird and didn't even have a TV for four years.

My parents were preventing me from Living My Best Life....

--- to be continued...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Look out 2011

Reflecting on my year, this drawing blog has ranked high on the 'What's Good' column.

Because I'm working on another drawing post, I'm channeling my pictures there. So now I must try to use my words. I have so much heartfelt gratitude for those of you who have encouraged, read, commented on, talked to me about and shared these drawings. I've loved doing the drawing but your responses and feedback really turn it into something vital.

New post -- part one of two -- coming this week.
thank you all