Sunday, April 17, 2011

Behind the words

When I left for California, I had a lot of people ask me why I was going already.  He had just been put on hospice the day before, and we had no idea how long the final decline would take. 

I just had to be there. 

I knew all along that I'd have to be there at the end.  Not just that I wanted to be, but that he would need me there. 

I knew that once he was put on hospice, it wouldn't be nearly as long as most people thought. 

And I knew that most people couldn't see why.

He'd seem okay for as long as he could manage.  And he was.  His passing came as a shock even to the people who knew how sick he was.

Even living as far away from him for as long as I did, he and I had a special relationship.  He confided in me a lot.  He knew that I could handle the things he told me.  He knew that I was the one that could stomach being in the room with him when he asked the hospice physician what it was going to feel like to die.

After I'd been there over a week and he was still getting up every morning, he started to sense that I missed being home.  That I'd come too early.  One day we were talking and he told me how glad he was that I'd come.  Then he told me to seriously think about going home.  My babies needed me, he said.

I told him that I knew that, but they had some amazing fill-ins.  And as much as they needed me, he needed me too.

I told him that when he was done needing me, I would go home.  I was in it for the long haul.

A nod, a hug and a few tears.

An understanding.

About a week later, Ashley called crying on the phone.  She missed me and she was sad.  She knew on some level why I was gone and what was happening and wasn't sure how to process it all without her mom.  My heart broke.  I knew I'd underestimated my ability to handle being away from them for so long. 

That night after I'd gotten off the phone with her, I was out talking to Dad again.  He tried to make all kinds of convincing arguments for why I needed to go home.  He tried to tell me that he didn't need me anymore.  That it would be okay.  They would call if they needed me. 

His words made these arguments, but his heart didn't.  I could see it in his eyes. 

He had the clearest piercing blue eyes, and they were always better at telling the truth than any other part of him. 

He was gone two days later. 

Even in his last days, he was teaching me lessons.  He was still trying so hard to be the parent and put the needs of his child first.  He didn't want me sacrificing anything for him. 

He reminded me how important it is to listen to the person, not just what they are saying. 

Words can disguise our real feelings, and if you don't pay attention you'll never see the truth.

I miss you Dad.

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