Friday, February 29, 2008

'The Man' Tales - I Tried My Best

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.”

19 comments:

dawn said...

Dying of cancer is a horrible way to go. In the end we are just the same as everyone else, a shell. The character we are when we live is what is left behind in the memories of those we touched. and for some it is not as good as others.

I Beatrice said...

Very moving. And you did all you could. It would have been good if he had found the words to say sorry at last - but perhaps after all it was implicit in his attitude towards you at the end?

Either way though, forgiveness and love have got to be better than hatred and bitterness. There must have been some healing for you in it, at least.

Breezy said...

Aims you really did have a lucky escape there with that missed wedding. I am humbled by the way you took on the care of your father. Many perhaps most even without the history would not of given that level of care ((hugs))

Lola said...

I really can't comprehend your capacity to forgive. I can't imagine how you care for an abuser like that. Am I too cruel?

softinthehead said...

I guess that's what they mean when they say "turn the other cheek". I'm not sure I have it in me and hope I won't be tested to find out. Beautifully written as always. Ditto what everyone else said. You're an amazing person.

Amy said...

You are wonderful for continuing to support your dad despite his cruelty to you. I hope knowing you did everything you could for him gives you some sustenance. I don't think I would have had the strength to continually try.

babooshka said...

I dropped by to say i tried and enjoyed your porridge tips (lola life) and found myself being genuinely moved by this post for very personal reasons.

lisa marie said...

Cancer is a horrible death and I hope I am hit by a bus before it takes me.

I'm ever amazed at a child's love for their parents no matter what. I always ached for my "dad's" affection and never got it. I think you did what you needed to do for your emotional health and that is best. :)

The Rotten Correspondent said...

You're a better person than I am. But I completely understand needing that paternal approval so badly.

Retiredandcrazy said...

I "nursed" my mother through cancer and felt completely inadquate and guilty all the time. She never complained and was a great strength to us all. That was a sad, sad story but you had the chance to say goodbye and built bridges.

david mcmahon said...

I was beside both my parents when they passed away. I know exactly how you felt.

merry weather said...

You certainly did try your best and gave him a lot of care - it was very moving to read. I'm not sure how I would have reacted in such a situation - you are a very good woman I think.

aims said...

Dawn - It is certainly a terrible way to die and I don't wish it on anyone.

Dearest B - I think there was some healing in it. But - why did he have to carry that nastiness to his deathbed?

Breezy - I think I was still trying to win his love - don't you?

Lola - I don't think you are too cruel. I understand completely what you are saying. But as I said to Breezy - still trying right until the end.

SITH - I hope you don't have to find out too. Some things you just don't want to know.

Amy - I can at least say I tried. And it has always stayed with me.

Babooshka - Thank you for dropping by! I will not pry into your personal reasons - but know I feel for you if you have gone through something similar.

Lisa Marie - Why are some parents like this? Why hold your own child at arms length and be cruel to them - even right up to the end?

RC - And why is it that we need it so badly? Why is it not just given by a parent?

Retiredandcrazy - I tried very hard with that bridge building. And yes, at least I got the chance to say goodbye. I knew if I didn't go - it would have ended on 5 years of silence.

David - It is gut-wrenching - isn't it?

Merry - I don't think any of us know until we are faced with that. And then the decisions we make during that time haunt us for the rest of our own lives...

travelling, but not in love said...

I've done the bedside vigil a couple of times - and it's hard enough when that person has only shown you nothing but kindness and love.....when it is someone who has been cruel to you, I can only imagine how strong you had to be.

Seems you showed such dignity in providing care to your father in those last days - he must surely have realised the amazing person that you are.

Daryl E said...

I am glad you came to terms with your past and were there for YOURSELF as well as your father .. its hard to lose a parent no matter what they are like .. you are clearly an amazing person.. and I am sure you will meet someone who deserves you!

David sent me.

John-Michael said...

I too was with my Dad during his last days. I understand the torture of all of those unresolved and unspoken things that must forever be left to the disposal of Eternity.

Your generous and eloquent unfolding of your story is a treasure that will return to you benefits as yet unknown ... for in giving of your Self ... you enable Life to give back.

I am blessed by your giving.

karoline said...

what a wonderful thing this is you have shared. so very moving...you were a blessing to him and i hope your thoughts and memories reflect the love you shared in your last hours together...

k

aims said...

TBNIL - I really don't know if he realized that - he was the hardest person to read beyond his obvious anger.

Daryl E - I did find someone amazing - and not in a ditch either!

John-Michael - Thank you for your very kind words.

Karoline - I still wonder if he saw what I was trying to do...

Canadian flake said...

Wow you are so much stronger than I could ever be. I have a history of abuse with my father ...I have tried to find forgiveness but could never take care of him like that.