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. 


Marcine said...

very sweet e!

sarah-anne said...

This was such a beautifully written and illustrated piece. I really related to the image of you and your father talking, with the bubble of common ground, only it being my mother and me.

The Process said...

eileen, so tender. this is a beautiful piece.

David said...

Excellent post. "your dad gave me my first dark beer." Great insight into the man. And I agree with sarah anne, the 'common ground' bubble is so true and, thus, so very funny. I suppose we all have our different common ground bubbles with dad.

Thanks eileen.

Glad Doggett said...

This is lovely. Thanks for sharing your beautiful, touching story.

May you all find peace.

Laura Moraros said...

This was beautiful Eileen - thank you for sharing with us.

Jazzie Casas said...

I'm a single dad of 2 age 2 and 5. I find your site so interesting and helpful. I hope I have much time each day to drop by and check your site for recent post. By the way thank you for sharing this.

Sarah Overman said...

So beautifully captured, Eileen.

Anonymous said...

So worth the wait, Eileen. I can totally relate. Your Dad was an extremely interesting guy and he holds a very special place in my personal pantheon of MEN. He taught me a love of three things: Architecture, Beer, and Counter-Culture.
I am saddened by your loss, but love that you have the courage to share the experience.
Mike Ogle

Eileen said...

Wow, thanks for the nice words everyone. I broke it into two parts because it was sort of a heavy job. Appreciate you sticking with me.
David, I think my dad would love your thought that the 'first dark beer' provides good insight into him. Mike, your comment would make him really proud. (I teared up a bit. Again.)
Sarah-Anne, thanks for sharing your thoughts about the 'common ground'. Always gratifying to know when there's some resonance.

Cathy Tittle said...

I've read this post many times Eileen, and just wanted you to know how close it hit home with me.

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