I just read a little blog post about someone’s “gram” and it brought clearly back my last talk with dad. It wasnt the day he passed, and it wasnt really the last time we talked, but it was the last time that his eyes looked at me clearly, the last time we had a conversation, and I am saddened and a little ashamed to say, the last time he comforted me . Here was my dad, MY DAD, frail and brittle, hair askew, sweater buttoned wrong, sitting in his chair at that damned nursing home that my mother made me return him to — comforting me. In all the sludge that was dimming his brain, through pain and fear and dementia that caused him to lose touch with all of us — he pulled out the strength and love to say to me that night ” It’ll be alright Cindy. I love you , I love you Cindy” and when I lay my head on his shoulder and felt those bones where there used to be strong muscle, I cried like a baby. And, good God, so did he.
I had gotten up from the table at home, announcing I was going to see dad. Mom had made me take him back to the nursing home a few days before and i knew she hadnt been to see him that day ” Oh Cindy, he just sits there, he doesnt know if Im there or not” and I wanted to see him . My oldest and her family were there for dinner, she offered to come with me but I said, no, he’ll be tired, Ill just go in, talk a bit and help him get to bed.
When I walked into the TV room, there he sat, uneaten dinner on the tray, swollen arm resting at his side. “Hi honey, wheres your mother?” I sat and we talked. dad began to cry ” what did I do to deserve this? Im not a bad person, I did bad things, I shouldnt be here…” On and on. I didnt know if he was in 2011 in the nursing home or 1946 in the Navy. I didnt know what era or decade or what it was he thought he had done, but I told him over and over, “daddy you did everything right. God forgives you for every mistake you ever made. its ok. its ok.”. His hands were cold, and as I wrapped his sweater closer around him I remembered Taresa had made pie.” I brought you pie dad”. he devoured it. And then he cried again. No more than 2 weeks before his death, small and rattled, sad and so sick, he cried out. I couldnt take it. I said “Im sorry daddy, Im so sorry” and he looked at me, eyes clearer and said “Its alright Cindy, its alright. I love you”.
I called for Taresa and my husband to come to the nursing home. I couldnt put my dad in that bed in that corner of that room. I couldnt. But I wasnt strong or determined enough to pick him up and put him in my car and bring him home. Home to die surrounded by things he loved and people he loved. They came, and dad cried some more, and Taresa looked into those eyes and knew that her pop was still in there.
So many regrets. Why didnt I take a leave from work to care for him? mom said she couldnt, said physically she couldnt and ‘would you want to be here all day with a man?” which tells me something of her mental state….Why did I let her call that ambulance and take him back there? Why didnt I make them take the damn stent out of his arm, the one that “made him ready for when he needs dialysis” which he never needed….why did I not question the care, the bandages, the rapid decline. I wasnt in denial, I knew my dad was dying fast, but I couldnt make it right. So many regrets. I wish he was here now to tell me one more time that it would be alright.