My father was called this morning, he no longer waits. My feelings are bittersweet as I’m so pleased that he no longer suffers, but like most, I wanted him to stay with me and somehow miraculously be healthy again. I’m so glad I got to speak with him yesterday and say those oh so simple words, I Love You. Sadly, I already buried my mother 14 years ago, so these emotions are all too familiar, my heart is heavy with grief and I feel so ~ alone.
One might ask, how can you feel alone when you have a great husband and two beautiful sons as your family? Let there be no confusion, I love my family and my life; but there’s a cord that is struck when a parent dies, you can’t help but feel ~ alone.
My Dad was the last connection…to my beginning.
He’s half of the duet that made me, cradled me, taught me to walk and talk, instilled my morals and values, and always told me how proud he was, sometimes directly, but mostly in subtleties.
My father was in God’s waiting room for three and a half years. He never had the chance to bounce back from postoperative cancer complications and later his cancer returned. It was difficult to watch him struggle, for a Dad is always the strong one, physically and mentally. He never complained. He was the consummate problem solver and negotiator for work challenges, having been in management and worked with unions for many years. He was the handyman whom I lovingly nicknamed Earl. At every visit to my sister’s or my home he would survey the land and see what projects needed tended, roll up his sleeves and dive right in.
Proud isn’t a good enough word.
I’m proud of my father. He was one of five children born to Italian immigrants. His parents never learned to read or write English, but wanted to be a part of the land of opportunity and gave as much as they could to their children. My father worked literally from the ground up as a jogger in a pressroom, to a pressman and then into management. My Mom and he wanted more for us and so we became the first generation to be college educated. I wear that medal proudly, never take it for granted and never forget where I came from and the sacrifices that were made to help make that happen.
I’ve often joked that no one loves you like your mother; no one wants to truly know all the crazy you’re buying and selling or is interested in the everyday mundane details of your life. She is your biggest cheerleader when you attempt something new or when you’re in the dumpster thinking you can’t accomplish something. Now I say, no one loves you like a parent.
My Dad did a fine job of being a Dad; especially, once my mother passed, he did his best filling both roles – as best as a man can. He was there for his four grandchildren’s births, played, read and giggled with them. He continued the tradition of his father and bought savings bonds for his grandchildren’s milestones and birthdays. Unfortunately, my sons have no memory of him when he was healthy. Gratefully, my boys can watch videos where he taught my eldest to walk with his push truck and drink from a big boy cup for the glimpse of the man he was; but their memories are clouded with a wheelchair, oxygen and Grandpa sleeping a lot.
I never envisioned being without.
Life is never how we plan it. Honestly, I never saw my children without my parents; but they are. It’s sad for me whenever there is an event in their lives, whether that is grandparents’ day at school, a call to tell they advanced to the next level in swimming, scored a goal in soccer, or to share their report card. We’ve made adjustments in our lives and find others who want to participate in that way. We are very blessed to have a great circle of friends and a few extended family members that have so willingly stepped in and filled that void. Moreover, there are others who influence our sons’ lives that are unaware of the impact they have, just by taking a genuine interest, making them feel safe and cared for.
It has to be difficult to be in God’s waiting room, especially when your body fails you and restricts you from living life to the fullest. Every night when you shut your eyes, you wonder, will I wake? What a challenge it must have been to see no cooperation from your body or progress in your health, but have to wait…patiently…to be called.
What happens now?
When I think of him in the afterlife, I can only envision one of those sappy movie scenes where my parents are running toward one another in a beautiful field; so happy to see one another after all these years. Later, after finishing a round of golf, he’ll have a bourbon on the rocks, read the paper and listen to a little Louie Prima, while my Mom makes dinner. I hope that’s how it plays out for them, together, reminiscing of old times and eating popcorn while watching their children and grandchildren’s lives play out.
With my parents gone, I have become “the generation.” There is no one before me. I pray for the grace to fill such big shoes and pass on the wisdom that was passed onto me. I will surrender to the sadness of my father’s death and fully embrace his ending to allow for a new beginning to unfold, but that time is not now. Once the clouds lift, once I’ve taken the time to revere what once was, what will be will be well worth the wait.
“When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone.
They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.”
~ Mitch Albom