We had a party on Easter weekend anyway. We called it the ‘Thank God I didn’t marry John’ party. My girlfriend and her family still came from Guelph and we had a marvelous weekend. As the party progressed – someone yelled out “Who’s glad she didn’t marry John?” and I waved my hand as hard as everyone else present. It was a wonderful party – and exactly what I needed.
I had cried for weeks after he left and wasted hours going over every little detail I could think of to see what I had done wrong. But in the end it wasn’t me who had been in that hotel room with the ex-wife. I hadn’t stepped out of line and into someone else’s arms in the weeks before I was to be married. I raised a glass to his wife’s efforts. She had been furious about his upcoming marriage and had tried everything to keep him from going through with it. And she had won. More power to her.
Cid was happier than happy for me. During the party he stood with his arm around me as he hugged me to him. His eyes twinkled every time he looked at me and I hugged him back. I knew I had almost lost him and my heart paused every time I thought about it.
Those six weeks had brought about many changes. While I slowly healed from the surgery and the mental anguish, my father was slowly losing his battle with cancer. Although they had removed the cancer and his esophagus, the cancer had come back and was attacking the rest of his body. He had spent the last year and a half doing what he loved best. He had opened another store in a mall in Calgary and had spent his days running it. I gave him credit for doing this at this time of his life. He could have so easily spent his last years doing anything at all.
Although almost five years had passed since he had last spoken to me – he hired a man to do the mudding and sanding of the top floor of the barn when I was too sick to continue on my own. He had heard about the failed wedding plans and this was his way of letting me know how he felt.
Now, as we rejoiced over John’s infidelities, my thoughts were on my father as he lay in a hospital room during his last days. During that weekend, I asked my best friend to go with me when I went to visit him. I couldn’t go into the room alone after all the years of silence between us. I thought a visit from her would help in so many ways and I was right. His eyes widened when we walked into the room and I kissed him on the forehead.
“Look who has come to visit!” I said as cheerily as I could and babbled on about the party. I was so nervous I was shaking and tried to cover it up by fussing about the room. It was obvious that he was in a lot of pain and I called a nurse to see if it was time for any of his medication. They brought a cocktail of different painkillers and we sat quietly as he drifted off to sleep. When we left my girlfriend took my hand and held it tightly.
“I know he’s been nothing but a prick to you – but nobody deserves to die like that.” I nodded and let out the tears I had been holding back.
My mother had hired nurses to sit with my father around the clock. I called her and told her I was taking over the job and that I would stay with him 24 hours a day. When I walked in with my little bag, his eyes widened again but he didn’t say anything. I helped with feeding him and moved his legs when it became obvious that he couldn’t. I worked lotion into his feet to ease the bedsores that had suddenly appeared and called the nurses for a cocktail when he couldn’t take the pain anymore. I sat for hours and held his hand, sometimes resting my head on it, unable to speak.
The sister in Ontario had been calling endlessly and I had to field the calls as he didn’t want to speak with her anymore. Without a phone in the room, the nurses forwarded any phone calls to one that hung on the wall in the hallway. During one of those endless calls from the east I listened to instructions about telling Dad about all the prayers that they were doing and the ones he should be doing himself. As I leaned my head against the cool wall I heard him calling my name over and over. Throwing the handset on the receiver I raced to the room where I found he had half-fallen out of bed. I winced as I helped him back into bed knowing I was hurting him. But hearing him calling my name – after all those years….As he closed his eyes and rested, I went into the bathroom and sobbed.
His pain was taking over quickly and he often thought he was back fighting in the war. During one of his more lucid moments I talked to him about the wedding plans falling through.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll meet your future husband in a ditch somewhere.”
I turned my head slowly and looked at him but he had closed his eyes and slipped off again. I couldn’t believe that he would talk to me like that on his deathbed.
He died on April 5, 1997. I wasn’t in the room at the time. My mother and sister had arrived and sent me home for some sleep. When the phone rang at 2am I roused my brother and we went back over to the hospital. Dad looked like he was sleeping as we stood around the bed. His shrunken body was not the one that had towered over me in the kitchen that day while his fists pounded my body. Those fists were still now, never to open and close in response to his anger. While the family stood around helplessly, I removed his slippers and covered his exposed feet. Lifting his head gently I removed my mother’s special pillow as I whispered, “Oh Dad.”