I miss my dad almost every day. I say almost because some days I like to forget about the things that bum me out. And thinking about my dad usually does. Not the part where I remember him fondly—but the part that comes after, where I remember that he isn’t a phone call away anymore. I miss my mother, also. Some days I miss my mother so much it hurts—especially on the days when I miss my dad. She was the one woman on this earth who had the power to always make me feel better, no matter what. Always. Mothers are some kind of magical people who bring joy to the hearts of their children no matter what age they are. And I will admit to a secret of mine: I keep a journal of letters written to my mother. I started it when I moved away from home. I tried to give it to her when she was lying in a hospital bed dying from cancer, and she refused it, telling me to “keep going.” So I did. This is what makes me feel close to her again and brings me comfort.
So let me try to connect these thoughts together: My darling mother, the most amazing, most beautiful, most kind woman I’ve ever known to exist, was diagnosed with cancer in 2010—less than one year after she finally saw her only child marry. Things had been good.
And then things became bad.
My mother passed a mere four months after her diagnosis. I was awake at 3:30 a.m. when hospice called the house. I had had one final outpouring of love and emotion alone at my mother’s bedside before we called it a night and went home to rest. That was the night she passed and I was the one to receive the call.
At 3:30 a.m., on that fateful night, I walked into my parent’s bedroom and woke my dad from his fitful sleep. I held him as I gave him the news he already knew was coming and I felt a man’s heart truly break. Forty years they spent by each other’s sides. I couldn’t blame him for giving up.
Fast forward about two years. I was happy to see my dad finally livening up a little. He learned to cook and balance the checkbook and figured out where the grocery store kept the bread. He even reconnected with a cousin halfway around the world and finally took a long vacation to visit. I was so happy that he was finally coming out of his shell. He had a lady friend he spent time with; she would visit and cook and take him out to see things. Again, things had been good.
And again, things became bad.
Around two months after my dad’s trip, he woke up in the night feeling funny. He didn’t think much of it, other than maybe that he was coming down with something. He got up in the morning, went to work, as usual. About an hour later, a friend saw him leaning against the wall for balance, and then my dad went home. His dear friend thought this very strange behavior for the old man, and he called him. It was then that my dad admitted that something wasn’t right and that he thought he should go to the emergency room.
That afternoon I received a call from this friend—my dad had suffered a stroke. A minor one, they told me. He was doing okay. He was upset that his friend called me and told me and he tried to convince me he was fine.
I was conflicted. Was he fine? Did I leave work and make the five hour drive to see him right away? I went through this so many times with my mom, I decided to go that afternoon. He said he didn’t want me to go, but when I saw him, his eyes showed me otherwise. I saw so much in my dad’s eyes from this time until the end, that I felt it was a shame that I never got to know him so well before then. A damn shame that he never let me in until it was almost too late. And still I ask myself if that was my fault or his.