It’s my dad’s birthday today. He would have been 73 years of age. But it’s now five months since he passed away, and I’m not yet sure how I am coping with his disappearance from my life.
My mother and I talk about it often. “How should we be feeling?” we wonder. I try not to think about it, or rather I try not to think about him being gone… as if he’s 300km away with mum in the house we grew up in. A luxury she doesn’t have. “Am I in denial?” I worry. “Is that normal?” I wonder, “Is that allowed?”
I can barely picture him without crying and wonder if and when that will change. Of course the ‘him’ at the end wasn’t the ‘him’ we need to remember. The him we need to remember faded away over the six weeks he spent in hospital… although perhaps he’d been fading away before that. Watching someone die over a period of a month was hard, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like when it happens more slowly. Sometimes when I close my eyes I see my father’s skeletal face and can still recall how his once-hidden cheekbones felt as I stroked his translucent thin skin.
I can’t bear to think of that last week, when he didn’t eat, drink or wake… wondering what he was conscious of as the morphine seeped slowly into his system. I try not to wonder if he knew that he was dying in his more lucid moments in the preceding weeks. They’re just things I still can’t think about. I prefer to think our bravado and feigned good spirits kept him unaware and buoyant, eager for the moment he’d be able to go back home with his beloved wife.
So, it’s easier to think that I’ll just see him again someday, rather than think of the ‘D’ word. And I don’t mean ‘dad’.
My mother’s trying to decide what to do with his ashes. The funeral home offered to hold onto them for up to a year. We have plenty of time, but are no closer to a decision. Both my brother and I have told my mother it’s her decision. He was our father, but he was her husband and the love of her life for 48 years. I’ve been honest with her though… I don’t think I’d go to a cemetery to visit him in a wall, or in a garden. I just prefer to visit him in my mind. Talk to him any time. Any place. I don’t need anywhere special to do that.
So, Happy Birthday dad, you know we’re thinking of you!