My father and I didn’t always have an oh-so-loving relationship. Growing up I believed he hated me, but of course today, I know he didn’t. I remember being a pretty difficult child and being his youngest of seven, I’m sure he had enough shit to put up with before I came along. I didn’t obey my parents too often and could get pretty damn fresh back in the day. So, I can see why I was yelled at many times and “grounded” quite often.
My father passed away just days ago on January 11, 2014, and I’ve been spending most of my time thinking about him. I think about the last thirty-three years having him in my life and how lucky I am to have seen a man, especially my father, overcome extraordinary obstacles—so many times.
He served on the USS Ticonderoga in WWII when the kamikazes hit. He’s beaten three different cancers from his early fifties to his late eighties and during the mix of all that, he quit drinking cold turkey during my high school days. Without a doubt, my mother played a major role in his achievements. She never left his side and she never let us down as a family.
I’m still processing his loss and I’m shocked by all the emotions I’ve been experiencing. The car drives are by far the absolute worst! My family has lost four other family members in the past two years. It’s been very difficult to accept their losses, but my father’s passing is by far having the most impact on me.
I wasn’t expecting my father to pass because he had gone into the hospital for one thing, and unfortunately declined from there. I still believe the hospital’s lack of effort and communication played a role in his rapid decline. I’m still angry and not sure how to let go without being able to confront the staff of the hospital. I believe, or maybe I’m just needing somebody to blame right now, but I believe I would be able to accept my father’s passing easier if I knew the staff did everything they could. I truly feel they didn’t.
I’m definitely not an expert on grief, but I do know there are many phases. I think one of the last few phases, “acceptance” becomes more challenging before the acceptance and healing become easier. I’m currently in what I believe the “guilty” phase of grief. I’ve shed so many tears in the past weeks; I am numb and mentally exhausted. I lay in bed at night thinking of my dad and how each day I feel is getting to be too “normal and routine.” I feel guilty going about my day and not shedding as many tears. What if he is watching down and thinking, “ They’ve already moved on…” Obviously I haven’t, but do our late relatives know we have them in our thoughts every moment?
I wake up every night around 4 a.m., think of him right away, and have trouble falling back asleep. I sometimes wish he would send me a message, but then I get startled right away and change my mind. It just feels surreal to me; I can’t believe he isn’t here.
What I know for sure, as Oprah would say, our energy never dies and our soul moves on once it has reached peace within that particular individual. But then what? I’m still unsure about the ‘what comes after that.’
Is he okay? Was he really ready to leave? I have to force myself to believe that if he let go, then he was ready, but I just don’t know for sure.
The only thing that comforts me now is that I got to spend plenty of time with him and he was aware of my husband and I expecting twins, which made him happy. He even said that he thought we were having two boys. I honestly have no regrets and was able to say my goodbyes even though I wasn’t ready to do so.
I’m going to close with a letter to my Dad.
“It’s Not Goodbye, It’s I Hope and Pray to See You Again.”
There will never be enough words or time to tell you how much I love you. Whether you know it or not, you have taught me so many life lessons in the past thirty-three years. Your imperfections, your courage, your strength, your heart, your laughter, your kindness, and your, at times, stubbornness have been wonderful to examine and soak in.
You’ve taught me to see the “little things.” I know I’m not the only one to notice that every time you walked into somebody’s house, you would always state a compliment. You always noticed a change in their home if it was your second or third time back. You appreciated the little things in life, and it was refreshing.
You’ve taught me to do a little less complaining and take each moment for what it is. As you would say, “Well, it is what it is, we’ll just have to take it one day at a time.”
You’ve taught me to work hard and not be lazy. I remember when you owned those restaurants you would come home and count your money and then hand us each a hard earned dollar. You worked every day until they forced you to retire, but even then you didn’t stop working hard and fighting each day.
You’ve taught me to clean the paintbrushes after using them. Rob now understands not to question me because he would typically throw them out and buy new ones each time. I would say, “My dad would kill me if I threw them out.”
You’ve taught me to turn the lights out when I leave a room. It took years to click in, but now I am constantly turning lights out of the rooms when nobody is in them.
You’ve taught me to not waste food. I love leftovers just like you and I hate to see food go to waste. I love how you never lost your appetite, even at 87, and during your last days in the hospital. I know all of us will never forget your favorite—oatmeal and anything with blueberries.
You’ve taught me to have humor. Well, try to. You always had a sense of humor and I loved how you were never that grumpy old man. Whenever you could fit a joke in, you would. You really knew how to make others smile, and your kind disposition always shined through.
I could go on and on, but for now I will say I miss you so, very much and wishing you a happy birthday this April—We will be slurping down your favorite ice cream cake and thinking of you.
I'm not saying goodbye... I hope to see you again and until then, you will be part of my every day.