I had a strange moment a few days ago in the middle of Coles. I was in there rushing around trying to find some ingredient to a recipe and wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible to avoid the after school onslaught.
I was whizzing past the giant display of Father’s Day cards, and was suddenly stopped in my tracks. A feeling of absolute dread hit me and it had me standing in front of the colorful cards, quickly doing the math, working out how many days I had left to send a card before Father’s Day. Then a second wave of dread hit me and I kept walking..this was not something I needed to ever worry about again…I was too late.
I often have these bittersweet moments that come and go. They set upon me so unsuspectingly until reality instantly follows a nanosecond later. In the beginning I would have these moments often in first light as I opened my eyes, you simply forget and then just like that in the next breath in, you remember and the aching returns.
It is a very different Father’s Day to last year, in just 12 short months the difference leaves me feeling numb and disbelieving still.
My family and I all visited my father at his rehabilitation centre. I was thinking at the time what a difference it was to the Father’s Day before it, here my father sat in a wheelchair, life hanging precariously in the balance, so sick from the chemotherapy treatment, scared shitless he would never walk again, so frail and aged and weary…a year before that, a strong, indestructible giant stood handing out affection and torment and cheek and love by the bucket loads.
We had spent Father’s Day last year in the gardens of the rehabilitation centre, his grandchildren running around playing, not really understanding the somberness all the adults were silently feeling. We sat all day in the sun talking to dad, reading the paper with him, opening his presents. My sister bought him a hamburger from the take away shop as he had been craving steak for a long time after months of hospital food..and that was the best we could find for him. As each one of us arrived that day he would burst into tears, (a chemo side effect – making cancer patients become overly emotional on top of everything else they have to endure). He told us over and over and over again how much he loved us.
That, we have. Always.
I have all his gifts I gave him on that day, a book he never got the chance to read, moisturiser he would not get to use, to soften his skin..so sore from all of the drugs he was taking.
A month later, he was just out of intensive care after being on life support and we were told it was time to have the conversation about saying goodbye and giving up our solid fight…funny we were so terrified of the word palliative, and suddenly here we were..it dawning on us we would give anything to hear one of his doctor’s say that word now, because somehow we skipped that bit and it was all too late..so quickly.
As Father’s Day approaches, it’s these final days with my dad that I am thinking of. Trying to take in his eyes, his smile, his voice.
I can definitely remember the hospital room where we spent his final days with him. My sisters and my mother all by his side still not really understanding at the time, that all hope was lost and we were really losing him.
I remember the room, the light, the smells like it was yesterday. I remember feeling like I wasn’t as strong as my mother and sisters. I was flapping around the room like a trapped bird trying to escape..not able to handle being a witness to what was about to happen. I was his baby girl and I suddenly took on my role as the youngest..wanting to run and hide, wanting my sisters and mum to make it all better. I wanted those cold polished floors to swallow me up, I felt suffocated by the feeling that this was all out of our control, that it wasn’t fair and that he should fight harder and breathe stronger..
I also remember how it was dusk, the smell of bush fires all around us, and me needing air and looking across at the old washed out rickety glass doors he had in his private room….we thought private to give him time to rest and heal, they thought private to let him slip away in peace and with dignity…how foolish and naive we all must have seemed to them. The glass doors opened onto a balcony and we all worked hard to jimmy them open, they didn’t look like they had been open for 20 years or more. Finally air hitting my face and lungs, looking back into the room feeling disappointed that despite the cool air I was still with the lump in my throat and knot in my stomach unable to stop what was happening in front of me. Beyond the balcony my sister and I finally took in the beautiful bloomed Jacaranda tree in the courtyard.
We had all individually noticed it as we first entered his room, we commented to him, what a beautiful tree, and what a gorgeous view..all the while thinking in our minds, please don’t let be the last thing he sees…it was so perfect and lavender ..different sunlight flickering through it’s purple hues…heavenly almost..please don’t be a sign.
I was asked today by a friend if I would be doing anything on Father’s Day to honor my dad, and I said no. I now sit here and type knowing he deserves more than a no, and so his story I have decided to share.
On this Father’s Day whilst the pain and the memories of his illness are brought bubbling to the surface, I also want to in some small way put out into the world what a great dad he was.
He was everything a great dad is, and that’s all any kid could ask for.
He taught me to ride my bike and tie my shoelaces. He read stories to me, played board games and tickled me until I couldn’t breathe from laughing. He flipped me into the air so high and always caught me. He carried me to bed of a night, when I had fallen in heap in his arms after a day of play. He scolded me when I put myself in danger, and when I was a teenager he told me I could come to him and talk to him about anything and he would listen and love only.
It hurts more then I can bear he is no longer tangible, and time seems to be moving me further and further away from him.
It is a hurt I have never felt before and that I cannot share this Father’s Day with him in a garden somewhere is so very unfair, but it being a day to celebrate our dads, I feel I have done that now in a different way. I hope he would have approved. He loved being the centre of attention and an active part of any conversation…loved being right in the thick of things, so I like to think he would be pretty chuffed he was the star of this post.
I truly hope everyone who can celebrate with their dads on Sunday, enjoy a beautiful and special day and cherish those moments knowing how lucky they are.
Our family now needs to enjoy every precious moment this life brings. I constantly keep reminding myself when life’s teeny annoyances gain my attention, that I need to keep on breathing for dad, live my life for him and not let a moment be wasted.
Happy Father’s Day Dad, I hope you are spending it where you said you wanted to be, picking out the perfect fishing spot for you and mum to enjoy together one day.