Not At All How I Imagined This

I said goodbye to my father today. 
He could not be roused out of his sleep. 
I kept delaying because I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want this to happen like this. Truthfully though, I don’t think I had spent much time “imagining” how this would go down at all. But in the end it was what God deemed would happen. In that moment it was just me, Mom, and Dad in an ICU at a hospital at a few minutes before noon on a Wednesday morning in January. 
The dude next to me on this flight home must think I’m nuts. I’m stifling tears while I type on my phone. There’s a gin and tonic or two on the tray in front of me alongside my laptop which is playing an episode of Air Disasters. Hey, it’s one of my favorite shows. Who cares that I’m watching a show about planes crashing while I’m on a plane. Face those fears, son. 
Mom and I had gone over to the hospital this morning. My brother-in-law gave us a ride. He had his three sons with him. My nephews are young lads – 11, 10, and 9 years-old. The three boys, who are such fine young men, were sneaked into the hospital so they could see their grandfather. I stood there for a minute with them before the nurse “suggested” we take them out to the waiting room. “Too high a risk of infection,” she said. What struck me was how optimistic they were. The innocence is perfect. “Pa, they said, we hope you get better soon so you can come play with us again.”
These boys think he’s coming home. Also, my sister, having learned from our father, clearly raised these boys like they were the Fighting Sullivan’s based on their demeanor and the fedoras they were wearing. Good going, Dad. 
They left. 
I took my mom downstairs for some coffee while the nurses put a feeding tube into my dad. 
Then we came back. Mom sat by the foot of his bed. I stood near the end of the bed where his head was. Something… I don’t know what it was. I turned toward his head in time to see him open his eyes very wide. “Oh hey, Daddy.” I said to him. He mumbled something that sounded like “Hey” back to me, then closed his eyes and put his head back down. 
I knew it was time. I had decided at the very last minute that I should indeed return to my own family. To not do so would go against everything the man taught me. My family must come first. I need to be present to them. Waiting around for his death would be wrong for me since my wife and children needed me. I needed to go.
My dad never, ever made me feel like I needed to be brave. He never played the “man card” thing with me. Growing up, he was always practical but above all very loving and very finely in tune with human decency. I knew it wouldn’t bother him what I was about to do. 
I looked at my watch and knew it was time. 
I leaned over his head. It was strange making that determination – that this was the moment. I just knew it would have to take place sooner or later and American Airlines wasn’t going to wait for me to make up my mind. Resting my head on his bald skull, I kissed him. Then I put my head down. And I started sobbing. After a moment I said “Goodbye Daddy. I love you.” I knew that my mom was probably also very sad seeing her son shaking like this.
I felt the warmth of his head. Even though it’s been months since he lit his pipe I swear I could smell Prince Albert. I held on as long as I could. 
Finally I walked over to Mom and gave her a kiss and told her it was time for me to go. We had a brief conversation. Told her I’d be back soon, I’m sure. She’s a rock. She told me the other night “I can’t imagine life without your father but I don’t want him to suffer anymore.” Her devotion to him is so beautiful. 
She told me “He was always so proud of you.” That made me want to cry again. I told her “He was a good father. It’s hard not to be a good son.”
I’ll see you again, Dad. I love you. 

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One response to “Not At All How I Imagined This

  1. Sorry to read about such a loss. Take care

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