I don't even have a title for this post...or this day. It's a day I want to forget to mark one year. It's a day that always sneaks up and takes me by surprise, every damn year. It starts with a bad mood, then a melancholy feeling, and then a sinking realization.
It's an anniversary. And today it's 10 years.
10 years ago today, I drove to the hospital to meet with my mom and dad. My dad, in a hospital gown in surgery prep, answering questions like, "Do you smoke?" ("No."), "When's the last time you ate?" ("Last night.") and "My god who is this gorgeous girl who just walked in the room?" ("My daughter, Katie.").
Ok, that last one I made up.
But I was there, and I sat by his bed as he waited to be wheeled back. I can't remember what we talked about, except that I do remember asking if he was scared, and I remember trying not to cry. And then, they were ready for him so I kissed him and he kissed me, and I held onto his hand (and thought to myself, "When did his hand get so thin, and his skin turn to crepe paper?") as I wished him luck and told him I'd see him later.
I never saw him later. Not really, anyhow. I saw his body, in a surgery recovery room, draped in a coarse white blanket with morphine numbing the pain. I saw his face, a tube running over his upper lip and in his nose, providing him nourishment to counter the chemo ("Phase IV Lymphoma. Non-Hodgkins. He probably has 6 months, on the outside 2 years. Chemo will help prolong it. I'm so sorry."). I saw his shadow, hours after he coded and was brought back to 'life', face bloated and splotchy and eyes staring into some other world or maybe at nothing. I saw his pain and fear, the day I walked into his hospital room just in time to accidentally witness the male nurse trying to force his NG tube down the back of his throat.
I never did see him again. He was wheeled away from me on that surgical gurney 10 years ago today, and then *poof* he disappeared.
My dad. My kind, sweet, funny, wonderful dad. My dad with the blue eyes and the love of 50s music and old cars and trains and us, his family. My dad who taught me that "Being kind is what matters most.". My dad who took me to a high school football game once when I was in middle school and told me as we sat on the bleachers that he promised to let some other guy be the one to take me to the game some day but for now he was happy I was sitting with him. My dad. He never came back.
When he never recovered from surgery, the rest of us were left to recover from him. To learn how to live and be as individuals and a family, now that he was gone and this other person had come to roost in his body. He was alive, sure, in the sense that his heart beat and he had breath in his lungs. But dementia stole his sharp mind and soft edges, and left him confused and scared and disoriented. All the time. The hardest part has been learning to live with a dad who is dead in a body that is not.
But one lesson I've taken from this all is the lesson of gratitude. I am one of the lucky ones: the ones who had a dad for 21 years who helped shape me into the woman I am. He was amazing and wonderful and I was so lucky to have him as my dad. So rather than mourn him, I try to remember to celebrate who he was.
Even on my wedding day, when he asked me halfway through our walk down the aisle where we were.
Even when he gets panicked and throws a public fit and strangers are torn between repulsion at his behavior and repulsion at our reactions (or lack thereof) to him.
Even when I was pregnant with my first baby and a tidal wave of loss and sorrow and self-pity hit because although he would meet my kids, he wouldn't ever get to reach the full potential of the awesome Grandpa I knew he would have been.
And today, on this 10th anniversary of the day my dad 'died', a call from my brother closed the loop. "Jaimi's getting admitted to the hospital. She's being induced." My brother's wife, due any day with a baby girl, was losing amniotic fluid so her Dr suggested an induction to help get the show on the road before the loss of fluid became a problem.
My first neice...my brother's first sweet breath of baby love, began her entry into the world on this of all days. And while it's looking like she'll make the 10th her day, I can't help but feel a sense of peace and a closure of sorts. She chose this day, I believe, to mark with her presence. She chose to begin her journey to earth and give us reason to celebrate life on this day for a reason.
I will never stop missing you, Dad.
We can't wait to meet you, sweet baby girl!