Monday, November 23, 2009
Baby's got blue eyes.
And so does my dad. Apparently these gorgeous eyes run in my family. I, naturally, did not get them. I'd like to take a moment to raise a middle finger to genetics for that.
We had an early Thanksgiving at my mom's house on Sunday since she will be in California for the actual holiday, visiting her mom and sister as well as my sister. I don't think I'v ever blogged about my dad before, but though he and my mom are still married they do not live together. My dad is in assisted living because he has dementia. It's a long story, one I may recount in detail on another day when I have more time and less emotion. But the short version is that my dad died 9 years ago, in 2000, when he coded after a long and complex surgery to remove multiple cancerous tumors from his abdominal cavity (bladder, small intestine, etc.). Diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, we thought we had 6 months...maybe 2 years. In reality we had both much less time than that and much more. The man that went into the hospital that day in February (5 days after he turned 54 by the way) died there, and the man sent home in his place is a shell...a shadow. It...well it fucking sucks. But I usually manage to not feel bad for myself over all of it. I've been through the emotional gamut in the past 9+ years, but when I come out the other side I face this realization: For 21 years I had a dad who loved me, who adored me, and who helped make me who I am today. For that I am so blessed, even though he has no idea what year it is, is constantly wondering whether his parents are still alive, and cannot remember walking me down the aisle.
But there it is again. Because while I wish he remembered walking me down the aisle I'm so grateful he was there to do it. In January of 2004, almost 2 years past the date his prognosis told us he would live to see. It was hard when he looked at me, in my veil and white dress, carrying flowers and surrounded by people, mid-aisle, and asked me where we were. It was hard when, a few months later, I reminded him that Darrick was my husband and he got choked up and asked why he wasn't invited to the wedding. But he was there, and it meant the world to me.
But nothing in my life has been such a gut punch, such an utterly empty and lost feeling as knowing that my kids will never know my dad as I knew him and that he will never really know them. He's met them. He's talked to them. Every time he sees me with them, his first question is, "What year is it???" because in his mind it's sometimes still 1995 (and I am still 16) and I just know he's thinking All that work to raise a good daughter and she thanks me by having two kids while she's still in high school?!?!. He'll ask me their names, point and look at me incredulously while repeating, "That's YOUR baby?!?!" and shake his head. And once in a great while when Luca's feeling brave (because my dad is kind of scary to a 2 year old) he might even give a hug. But typically he seems to almost forget they are there.
Which is why, when we showed up to my mom's house on Sunday and I set the baby carrier next to my dad's chair, I was floored when he said, "Oh, can I hold him?" and pointed to Rohan. And so Rohan joined my dad in his recliner, and they stared at each other for a long while. Then Rohan smiled his golden smile and my dad laughed and grabbed his hand. And the two of them - two of the most important men in my life - fell in love with each others' smiles.