My little corner of the world was brighter and more reassuring with him in it. Dads have a way to make something better when it isn’t. Their words of wisdom and guidance, shared and spoken out loud for us to learn from, gives comfort and hope to see things through in moments of uncertainty.
And when Dad’s health was invaded with uncertainty, he continued to want us to be okay by trying to make things better, even though he was suffering.
He was always poised and moved through his angst and pain with grace and dignity. Dad was a towering pillar of strength and determination who stood tall during the affliction that eventually brought him down…he lived in pain but didn’t lament, he was uncertain but didn’t burden loved ones.
He had a gentle way about him. An ease of presence that we were drawn into. His charisma was only outshone by his glistening eyes accompanied by his wicked smile that signaled something clever and amusing was up when it crossed his lips. Other times, his smile was genuine happiness accompanied by a twinkle of something wonderful in his smiling eyes.
Handsome, oh yes indeed. He was the original debonair man of style with his signature mustache and sometime goatee.
He was a man of extraordinary intelligence and a man of extraordinary humbleness. Humility was his signature characteristic. Dad was approachable and well regarded by all.
He had a great and sometimes cheeky sense of humor. But the best part of my Dad… was that he was so darn mischievous. So many fantastical stories of his playful nature became legendary tales.
Dad was human. Did you just smile? Sometimes, I had to remind myself that superheroes on their down time are human beings with all the vulnerabilities of mortal men. And my Dad was just as human and more sensitive than he let on.
I am moved by this tender quality that complemented such a strong and intelligent man. He was the first man I respected in life and looked up to. I so wanted to be just like him. When I told Dad this, he kinda smirked and looked puzzled. I actually caught him off guard and before I could take the point, he quipped, “you’ll never be tall enough”… so the score was even.
As I grew older, I realized his aura that myself and others were drawn to, was just his essence of being. It’s as simple as that.
Dad had a beautiful ease about him that made him comfortable to be around. And in my eyes, he was bigger than life and the man who all other men in my life had to live up to.
And as Dad’s days on earth began to set with the sun, I wanted and needed to know more about him, from him, in his own voice. My Dad wasn’t one to share intimate feelings or emotion out loud. But he and I shared everything we needed to say, with words and without. We had a comfortability with each other that transcended any words that could fill a moment. Our eye contact, our look, said a million things. I have been told I have that look that transcends words and gets right to the point, so thanks Dad, it comes in handy every now and then with the kids and husband!
So were there any shortcomings about Dad? Yeah, he left too soon. Research and meaningful treatment were years away.
If Not Now, Then When?
We talked a lifetime of conversations in your hospital room…
…if not now, then when? I asked you everything I could think of and to my amazement, you asked me too. We shared moments of our lives that were surprising, gossipy, joyful, disappointing, hopeful and “what the heck”. We talked a lot about you and growing up, career, family, relationships and why you did things in your life as you did…and why I did things in my life as I did.
Why is it that we didn’t do all this airing and sharing of our lives earlier? What is it about life’s setting sun that makes some people wanting to do a lifetime of thoughtful, honest and heartfelt catch-up in a whisp of time?
As Dad wasn’t one to share intimate feelings or emotion out loud, I think he just wanted to release it all out. To leave it here instead of it disappearing with him when he passed.
Growing up, Dad, didn’t overtly express his emotions; but he had a way to show how he felt without really saying it.
I found this particularly brain wracking at times when I was trying to win him over with my opinions; and it was unnerving trying to do so when he didn’t show any indication whatsoever on his face, for me to gage how I was doing.
Dad was a man of quiet reserve; but when he spoke, people listened. He usually, no wait a minute, he always had interesting, witty, and “whatever, Dad” things to say.
And maybe, just maybe, I can still hear his voice when he slyly told me that just because he didn’t say anything at times, didn’t mean he didn’t know. Uh huh, that would be you, Dad. It’s the quiet ones you have to look out for, because they’re always listening intently!
It was a pleasure to listen and hear from him, his personal thoughts of our lives and family in his words, in his voice during our time together in hospital room 5319.
I listened intently as you talked. I appreciated our time. I miss you.
I spent most evenings and nights with my dad at the hospital. Some nights he was restless and couldn’t sleep, so we talked. And others, we were good just being…being together; which didn’t need a lot of words after awhile. They were familiar, comfortable moments with him. It reminded me of our time watching Columbo together when I was a little girl. I used to sneak downstairs and hide behind a chair while Dad watched the TV. And just at the right moment when I figured he wasn’t looking, I would creep up to him, crawl onto the couch and curl up against him. Then as the show’s ending credits rolled, I snuck back up to bed. Dad and I reminisced about Columbo and I asked him why he never commented on my ‘stealth’ like visits to watch with him when I was younger. He simply summed it up by saying, “It was just our thing”.
So, Dad and I would have our own occasional movie day in room 5319. I brought my portable DVD player, movies and, yes, Columbo! We enjoyed his favorite movie treats that he loved, like red licorice sticks, tootsie lollipops and beer, the pretend kind. It was just our thing!
We always kept the blinds of his hospital room window open. I would turn off the night-lite and we welcomed the night into our moment. Sometimes, I would lie on the bed beside him or other times pull a chair up along the bed and rest there. When I fell asleep lying with Dad, I would wake to dawn with my hand on his chest feeling for the rise and fall of his breathing. I wouldn’t move; just content for that simplest of moments.
When Dad still had his voice, he would softly ask me to pull the blinds down to the brightness of the rising morning. And before I left, shortly after breakfast, I would lift the blinds up, so Dad could look at the outside world he once lived in. I’m pretty sure we became a little competitive after awhile of who would wake up first to request the other to do the blinds. We both knew it would be me anyway, but for some reason, we seemed to be keeping score.
In a tender moment one morning, just before I anticipated Dad and I beginning our morning ritual with the blinds, Dad whispered that it was in the morning, like this, that he wanted to go…
...we pinky swore…
And when that first morning came after his voice fell silent, I spoke the words for him. But I only pulled the blinds down just enough to shade the bright, as we both knew the blinds wouldn’t move for the rest of the day.
And in time, another first morning came when Dad’s eyes closed to the outside world, so I just left the blinds up. We had stopped keeping score and I conceded in what I thought was a rather gracious sportsmanlike gesture, that he was the winner of the most blind requests. Now, I’m pretty certain I saw a smirk ever so slightly at the corner of Dad’s mouth smugly whispering back at me, ‘I know’. For the rest of the mornings thereafter, the morning sun was welcomed to stay awhile, warming on his face. He could no longer see the outside, but he would feel it.
I look back now, as I do every now and then, revisiting snippets in a lifetime of memories of my father…
…and I think I can still hear what your voice sounds like in my head, Dad, but I know I’m fooling myself. I’m just sad that I can see you, but the sound of your voice has long gone silent.