365 Days Later

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Today's post has nothing to do with clothes, but everything to do with life. 
And death.
My dad passed away exactly a year ago yesterday after a courageous fight with male breast cancer. He was a brilliant, funny and very stubborn man. He didn't let anything get in his way of living the way he wanted to...including cancer. Even while on chemo, he dug up his garden, hiked, cut down tree branches, shoveled snow, walked 4 miles every day and drove to Quebec (much to our dismay!). I remember getting aggravated with him because I worried he would get hurt and set himself back....but he never did. He took charge of his life, and in retrospect, I admire him tremendously for his strength and determination to live life to its fullest.

My daughter Alyssa has her own blog "Lyss Takes Flight" about her life, every day happenings, and raw emotions. Yesterday she posted about her "Grampy", my dad.  If you've ever lost someone special in your life, the words will resonate. 

You can follow Alyssa at HERE.  Warning though, she doesn't hold back so if profanity bothers you this blog might not be your cup of tea. 

365 Days Later

I’m laying in bed, typing from my phone. Sean and Guinness are both snoring loudly.  The tv is on and Rachel Maddow is discussing Trump’s comments about abortion.  The only window in our room that opens is opened, just enough for the cool breeze to pass through the screen and onto my face.  I can hear the neighbor’s wind chimes; gentle bells.
The air smells clean, damp.  A little muggy.
I’m remembering how it felt a year ago.  
The hospice nurse had made me a bed on the lobby ottoman.  She also made a bed for my mother on the lobby couch, and a bed on an upright chair for my brother.  It was the first night in many, many years that it was just the three of us.  
We spent hours talking about our past lives.  My brother and I talked about our childhood, our successes and failures, our favorite memories.  We laughed, the three of us, and we cried.  
In the room down the hall was the shell of a man we once knew.  His body was quickly failing him.  I believe his soul left hours before his heart stopped.  The last thing he said to me was, “Hi sweet girl.”
I cry just thinking about it.  I can hear him in my mind.
The tv just turned off.  I’m typing and crying in a strange silence.
A year ago today, around 4:15am, my Grampy passed after a three year battle with male breast cancer.  
I remember the overnight nurse, shaking me slightly, out of the first sound sleep I had in 72 hours.  
“He’s gone.”
And just like that… everything changed.
It took our family about fifteen minutes to figure out what do to next.  And forty-five minutes after that the three of us, plus my grandmother, aunt, and uncle, gathered our belongings and exited through the front doors.  We left without Grampy.
The morning smelled like tonight does.  The parking lot was still until a bunny darted out from a small bush and took off across the pavement.  The moon and stars were just about to go to bed.  It was brisk and my sweatshirt wasn’t quite enough to keep me warm.
It didn’t matter.
I took to my car, opened the trunk, threw my duffle bag and backpack in, and closed the door.  I left alone.
The car ride home was the loneliest I’d ever felt in my life.  A year later and I still haven’t felt that alone.
The window was slightly cracked, enough for the cool air to keep me awake.  Traffic sounded strange through the thoughts scurrying around in my head.  I think I cried the whole way home.
The last time I saw Grampy alive… I left the room abruptly.
I held his hand as he slept.  His jaw hung agape as he was breathing through his mouth.  His breaths were so shallow I swore he’d pass any second.  His face was so gaunt, so white, so lifeless.  His once chubby cheeks were now nearly translucent.  His curly gray hair was puffy from the sponge bath he received earlier that day.
I spoke to him in my mind because every time I spoke out loud I wept.
And suddenly, I didn’t see him anymore.  I got scared, dropped his hand, and left the room sobbing.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
The rest of the evening I spent outside his door, chatting with my family, writing on my laptop.  And later that morning, around 1:00am, I fell asleep in the lobby with my Mum and brother.
I believe that Grampy passed when his whole family was sleeping.  Prior to that morning there was always one of us up… None of us slept at the same time.  I truly believe that he wanted to go when he knew we wouldn’t be worrying about him; when we were in another place, drifting off, fearless.
This past year has been so hard.  The pain has grown… Each day forward is another day farther away from the last time we saw one another.  
It doesn’t get easier.  For every person that has said that – you’re full of shit.
The grief does not lessen, but it does take a different shape.
Without my distress I’d never have started writing again.  Writing this year has been cathartic and freeing.  I can feel my emotions so much stronger and so much more honestly.  I’ve learned I am an empath.  And now, through my experience, I can relate to others in a completely different and deeper way.  I’ve come to accept the intense, raw, open wounds on my heart.  They are mine.  They will never heal, but they will be lovingly tended to.
I miss him so much.
I feel him often.  I think about him every single day.  I reference him in conversation at least a few times a week.  
If he were alive today, he’d be appalled that Trump has come as far as he has.  He’d also be saying, “I told you so!” to all of us who laughed when he said that Bernie should be president.  
It doesn’t always feel right eating a hermit or watering plants.  It doesn’t always feel good to play a game of Scrabble or drink a cup of black tea with lemon.  It always feels so very, very empty at family gatherings and holidays. 
I miss our bond, our sarcasm, our playful, fresh banter.  I miss his hugs and kissing his cheeks.  I miss how gross he’d smell after gardening all day in long-sleeved shirts and heavy khaki pants.  I miss getting yelled at for interrupting him.  I miss how he knew everything about everything and he made sure we all knew it.  I’m not sure I can deal with a second summer sans vegetables and berries.  I miss seeing his little Hyundai Elentra in his driveway, his stupid $1.00 spectacles, the pens tucked away in his breast pocket.  I miss the silly puns and jokes, his rhymes, his laughter.  I miss how excited he’d get when he knew there was vanilla ice cream for dessert.  
My whole body hurts.
Sean and Guinness are quieter now.  The wind has lessened.  The chimes have ceased singing their song.  It feels like I should close my eyes and sleep.
Maybe, maybe, we will meet again someday.
Alyssa and her "Grampy" dancing up a storm at her wedding three years ago.

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10 comments

  1. Beautiful, thank you so much for your generous and heartfelt sharing. This resonates with my own Experience of loss when my father died.

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  2. Beautiful post, Susan! Your daughter is a wonderful writer!

    A big hug to all of you!

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    1. Thank you so much for such a sweet comment. Alyssa is a gifted writer and best of all, an amazing woman :)

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  3. What a lovely heartfelt piece, had a few tears when I read this, just so similar when my father-in-law passed..x

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    1. Thank you for sharing your sentiments. Losing a loved one is so painful. XO

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  4. That was so beautiful and so eloquent. I never met your father, but just from what little you have told me of him in the past, I know he would be so proud of you, and that his heart would swell to know what an amazing writer you have become. I never met him, but your words and pictures made me feel as if I had. You painted the picture of a man who made the world a brighter place. And the intimacy of the pictures has me in tears. Thank you for sharing...

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    1. Awe thank you so much for this beautiful comment. XO

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  5. Connected with your post - missing my dad, now gone nearly 3 years. A friend surprised me with an Easter orchid last week that brought floods of sweet memories. He gave corsages to my mom and me every Easter starting when I was a very small girl. Little things trigger memories and then the grief returns in powerful waves.
    As I read your daughters post I realized the photos both show you as mother of the bride. Many times over the past month I have asked myself how would the midlife fashionista guide me in choosing my MOB dress. I am looking for a navy knee length dress with sleeves. Seeing your dress reaffirmed I am on the right path.
    Maybe a possible future topic?

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Mary and for sharing your beautiful memory of your own dad.

      My daughter got married 3 years ago--not only was I the mother of the bride, but also the Matron of Honor! It wasn't an easy task for find a dress that worked for all of my duties :) I actually wrote an article on MOB dressing. Hope it's helpful....and yes, great blog topic. Thank you! XO
      https://www.mvmag.net/index.php/2013/01/14/the-mother-of-the-bride-of-gets-a-makeover/

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