My Dad died two days after Cora turned 2 and two days before our 5 year wedding anniversary, on a Sunday, at the age of 57. He squeezed himself right in there just so we wouldn’t forget.
We packed up the truck with everything but the kitchen sink, prepared to stay at my Mom’s for a week and headed out. This is the part where I could tell you how the week went. I can tell you how many home cooked meals were dropped off, bottles of wine handed to us, and how many farmers just pulled their combines right over next to my Mom’s house to stop in and pay their condolences on the way to the next field. I could tell you how he looked, how we planned the funeral, the family drama and the off-handed comments that people made. The thing is, I have talked about that over and over. It is what I talked about in passing with only my sister and husband that brings me here.
The thing is I spent a week in that small town, the same place I grew up, the place of country songs. I saw people I haven’t seen in years, friends, family, old neighbors, and the like. A huge line streamed through for visitation and then the next day for the funeral and luncheon. We all stood, hugged people, shook hands, accepted their words of sympathy, and listened politely as they told stories and memories of my father. All those people, hundreds of them, that knew my Dad for one reason or another. They all said something yet not one of them said the most important things. Not one person looked any of us in the eyes and said You know, your Father loved you kids. He lived for his kids. You know, your Dad loved your Mom more than anything. Your Dad was such a family man. Not one person that whole weekend said anything in regards to my Dad and his own family.
What did they talk about? His love for hunting, fishing, and all the times they shared a good beer with him. The beer stories were normally followed up with a story about how they all got into trouble over something.
I hope at my funeral someone says how much I loved my child, how much my husband meant to me, followed up by how I was a good friend. Isn’t that the end goal? Isn’t that the basics? Because isn’t that we walk away with?
To make matters worse for all of us, my mother suddenly turned my father into the picture of perfection. Not a man who never helped her, not a man she almost divorced several times, not a man who drank too much but instead, a man who just loved hunting, fishing and America. She, also, forgot to mention herself and the three kids but I didn’t point that out. She was riding some sort of weird death train.
I walked away, not having shed one tear, even as some stood and sobbed in front of me. It isn’t that he was a horrible man, he just was there and then he wasn’t for me. People don’t have to understand that.
I will say, this new normal my family has, the one that doesn’t have an Alzheimer’s cloud over it, is refreshing. Years of this weight holding us down is gone. Someone at the funeral, who understands this disease, said there are worse things than death. This is so true and we have known it all so well. We can now move freely without guilt and stress. I would say, together, we are all starting a new chapter as a family.
11 thoughts on “When your final day has come”
What a profound post. I’ve been thinking about this all morning, and honestly, I couldn’t imagine when my time ends, my love for my family and friends not being the focus of conversation. And I’m sad for you and your family that you didn’t have that experience with your father.
And I also appreciate how the weird death train makes people turn not so nice people into the picture of perfection after they die. It’s like their real memories just vanish and the vision of the person they always wanted (but never actually had) replaces all those memories. It’s so weird to observe.
But, I also have to add, I think it’s true that you can live freely again, without the cloud of Alzheimer’s hanging over everything. Wishing your family so much happiness as you begin to move forward again.
Thank you so much for your comment. This has been such an interesting past couple of weeks. These are moments when you really dig deep to do a lot of reflection about yourself, your friends and your family.
I loved this, you write so well I feel like I was there with you and that i sorta get the situation like a friend would.
Oh man, I’ve been away from this space and just came back and read this… damn. First off, Alzheimer’s SUCKS. I lost a grandparent to it, and even that was hard enough. A few years before my grandmother died, she got sick, and the doc asked my Mom if she wanted to give grandma a course of antibiotics. She did it… but said many a time later that if she could go back, she wouldn’t have. It just prolonged the years of my grandma walking around in a daze, with no idea who she was or who we were and no real quality of life. So sad.
At any rate, YES. I want to be remembered for my love of my family and my dedication to my friendship and my passion for life… not for my hobbies.
I’m sorry that wasn’t your experience with your own Father, but I’m sure you’re doing things different with your own kids because of it, so kudos to you. xoxo
I totally understand what your Mom is saying. We did absolutely no meds with my Dad and yet he continued on. They do just seem in that daze otherwise. There is just not quality of life by that point.
What a well written piece. You touched on a lot of things that I’m sure many people can relate to. When my Dad’s dad passed away, my Dad was asked to do the eulogy for the funeral. Not surprising given that my Dad is an amazing public speaker and great from speaking from the heart. But our jaws all dropped when he, very eloquently, pointed out that his father was not the man everyone thought he was and that he had his demons which prevented him from being a real father. He didn’t straight up say that his dad was absent, alcoholic and who cared more for the students he taught than for his own kids. But those of us who knew him knew exactly what he was saying. And those who thought they knew him were able to just glaze over that part of the speech and focus on what their memories were. It was ballsy of my dad to do it, but he said it needed to be said. He said the words that it would have been nice for you to hear by at least one person.
I know for a fact that when you leave this earth everyone is going to have incredible things to say about you. I mean, not everyone posts multiple photos a day of their beautiful little girl if they aren’t the most loving mom in the world!! Your words in your blog posts alone show that you will be remembered for more than just your wine nights or boozy golf days! hehe.
I would love to high five your Dad. My Mom asked us kids if we would like to say something. There is no way I could have stood there and said the words that people wanted to hear. I would have wanted to have said what your Dad did. That is amazing.
Thankful you are finding freedom in it. So refreshing.
It’s too bad that your dad was sort of painted as perfection when he was not. I wonder how I would react in that situation, speaking about my own father. I think I might have done what the earlier comment posted about, that he wasn’t the man everyone thought he was. Or, as my dad actually said to me the other day (one one of the first calls we have had in a year), that he knows he is an a-hole but at least he a) knows it and b) apologizes for it (I beg to differ, he doesn’t apologize but I digress). In any case, I am glad you CAN move on, all of you, your mom most of all, and live life more freely and happily. it has to be a really weird place to be in right now, this transitional phase, but a good step in the right direction onward. xoxo
So full of truth and honesty. Thank you for this. Sending love