Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This Day In ...

My dad had been diagnosed terminal about two years previous, but he wasn't one who spent his time dying. He fought the dragon - his attacks of airlessness, the cruelty of pulmonary fibrosis - he took to a wheelchair when he had to, he toted his concentrator. But he lived.

So the day he and mom were alone at the house, and asked me to just come be with them; that was new. He was in bed, and mom had just come home with cell phones; including one for me. Just in case.

Mom's was the FANCY phone. It was a flip. Mine was a little silver sneaker of a thing; rubber buttons, an antenna encased in more rubber. It seemed tiny, and had the brightest blue screen. I figured out how to play with it; producing pings and buzzes and what passed, fourteen years ago, for music on a cell phone. Tinklings and twangs. But it seemed neato.

Dad being a scientist, and just possessed of a curious and analytical mind, he 'gee whizzed' a bit about this new tech, and we spent the afternoon in their bedroom, figuring the little things out.

We spent the afternoon listening to footage and sadness.

It would come as a shock to me, years later, to find that there had been a Space Shuttle disaster just before my dad died. I remembered that day at their house. I had forgotten, utterly, what we'd had on the tube. While we played with the new phones - "just in case" anything happened with dad's condition - we had no idea there would be no condition at all anymore, in just a week.

So that event obliterated my recall of Columbia.

Resentfully, I can relate that I do recall (with painful clarity) the soundtrack of dad's actual final hours. It was Martin Bashir's documentary about Michael Jackson - about which I cared nothing, but which back then was about all there was going, for someone shuttling back and forth between hospital and home, grabbing scraps to eat and scraps of sleep in between thinking "this is the new normal" and ... "this is the last day."

I didn't have cable. Being alone in the house with no sound - even with my Sweet Siddy La there with me; her heartbeat and her sweet face - I could not take it. I would turn on the tube, and there he would be, protesting innocence and normalcy. Seemed to go on all day every day for the sacred time that is Waiting for Death.

The things you remember. Snow in square Xs on the sky lights below dad's room. Moving him to another room. Almost immediately losing his voice, his presence, to morphine. Knowing we'd lose him all the more, never to speak with him again.

Holding his hand. So soft; and that thick, heavy wedding ring, glowing against his grey-mauve skin.

My brother and I had left in the night, mom climbing in the bed to spoon him, as he died. She called us each at about four a.m., and we both arrived back at the hospital at the same moment - having both been listening to the same music on NPR. Something called Autumnal, by Brahms I think it was. It was perfect. Snow and elegiac strains. And holding hands with my brother, possibly the only time in our lives we've ever done that. Walking in through the bewildering route to quiet, and darkness, and mom and dad.

Holding hands. Dad's hands.

The way his muscles tightened on my hand after he had died.

When I was small, dad and I would sit in church, mom in the choir, and he would just lift up one big, warm paw in a gesture so old between us I cannot even place its origin. I would ball up my own paw into a fist, and place it into his. Ball-and-socket dad and kid.

Dad had warm hands all his life, till the diagnosis. Soft, dad was hairy too. Fuzzy Wuzzy was my dad - except, of course, on top of his big round Charlie Brown head. He was warm and reassuringly stocky; not what I can call stout, but solid, firmly on the ground. Not tall, but never a negligible physical presence.

He had this warm, gravelly-gruff voice.

There was a voice mail on that little silver sneaker. I had it for a long time, but after some period they auto-delete. I lost my dad's voice maybe six months after he died.

He was the best.

I miss my dad.

1986, just before the prom
... holding hands ...


Lennon Faris said...

Oh, wow. How beautiful. This definitely brought tears to my eyes. Your dad sounds awesome.

DLM said...

Thank you, Lennon. I can say little more to reflect the man he was than, "He was a teacher."

We knew what we meant to him, and that is humbling to contemplate. This fine man - he made me. He loved me above almost all else. This is the stuff of me; not merely the genes, but the history. It's something to live up to. Maybe one reason I never became a parent; I could not have been as remarkable as he was.

I miss him good. I miss him bad. He never read my first novel. But he helped me to make it.

I used to say, "My dad was the very definition of 'to know him is to love him. Unless you were his student.'" And even some of those did love him. My dentist, who was an advisee, still makes me cry every time I go because he says such admiring things about my dad. His teacher.

Lilac Shoshani said...

This brought tears to my eyes as well, Diane! How beautiful and moving… And your picture with your dad just before the prom is AMAZING. You look like a princess. I send you many hugs and lots of love, and if you ever need to talk, I'm here for you. <3

DLM said...

Haha - would it take the shine off my princess' tiara if I told you that one side of my head was shaved back then? Bit hard to see, but true.

You are certainly an example of love, Lilac. Thank you, as always, for coming by.

Lilac Shoshani said...

You are very welcome, Diane! And cool princesses are the best... ;-)

Troy said...

I only wish I had gotten to know your Dad. He sounds like a lovely man to know.