April 17, 2011
This was originally written on January 25th 2011, but I didn't have the courage to share it just yet ... now I do.
Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my father's passing. It is very hard to imagine that a decade has passed. It feels like it all happened yesterday. During the final months of my father's life, I was going through a range of emotions. I remember spending most of my time away from my house and my family. I was really unable to deal with the fact that he was sick. It was a reality that I didn't want to face and honestly I couldn't face it. I have only lost a few people in my life before my father, but nothing could have ever prepared me for losing my dad.
When my father got sick I was still using drugs and living life out of control. I really had no grip on the reality that was surrounding me. I was so wrapped up in my own little world. I ran from my feelings and got high to sweep those feelings under the rug. "Out of sight, out of mind," as they say. Once I realized I had a drug problem I sat my mother down and told her. It was really tough to have this conversation when my father was upstairs in bed with only two weeks to two months to live. I gave myself the role of now being the "Man of the house." I felt in some way I had to fix things. I had the responsibility to take care of my mother and sisters. In my head I put it all on my shoulders.When I told my mom she got me hooked up with my uncle, who introduced me to NA and saved my life. On November 25, 2000 I attended my first NA meeting and changed my life.
I remember sharing my 30 and 60 days clean key chains with my dad. He would smile which meant to me he was proud. Some of the last things my father said to me was "I was always proud to be your father." This is something that every gay man wants to hear from his father. Followed by "I love you very much."
I remember weird stuff like the oxygen tubes that were hooked up to him and the notebook my mother kept as a diary to write down every time we gave my father his medication. My father was in hospice and we had nurses and doctors visit on a regular basis. During his last day, I remember our family doctor visiting and giving my father a B-12 shot. Now he has given these shots to my father before and they actually gave him some energy to do things. It allowed my dad to come downstairs and have Thanksgiving dinner with us one last time as a family. But this time my father's reaction to the shot was different. I don't remember the specifics, I may have blocked them out, but it was different. I felt something just wasn't right with my dad. I immediately thought to call my older sister who lived down the street from my parents house. My younger sister, mother and uncle were already there. So I picked up the phone and said something along the lines of "Dad is acting weird get your butt over here." My sister, who was pregnant, raced over to my parents' house and up the stairs to my father's side. I do remember us sitting around his bed and just staring at him and wishing he would find a way to hold on a little longer. I then remember my sisters and me deciding to go down to the basement for a cigarette. Yes I know it is hard to comprehend how one can still smoke when their father is upstairs fighting lung cancer but I do.
We lit the cigarette and had three puffs before we heard mom screaming our names and the three words -- it was time -- We ran up the stairs and faced the reality that our father had just passed away. I had a huge wave of emotion come over me that is hard to describe. It felt like that moment everything in the room froze, that second lasted forever. Then I grabbed the phone and called 911. I freaked out and could barely speak. I told the dispatcher that my dad had stopped breathing and they needed to send an ambulance. She then started asking me annoying questions like, "what is your address?" I flipped. I screamed back you can get the address from the caller ID I even dropped a few f-notes. I was in a moment of panic and I was so confused to why she was asking me questions when my father was dying. I then remember hearing fire engines and then seeing them outside our front door. I did find the strength to attend a NA meeting that night after my father passed. I even shared about it in the rooms. His viewing, funeral and burial is a blur for the most part. The whole thing felt like a dream. I somehow was able to pull it together enough to read a poem that I wrote as a goodbye message to my father at his funeral.
My father had polio when he was younger and walked with a cane his whole life. He never let that stop him from taking care of his family or stop him from standing on the sidelines watching me play soccer. My father lived each day with his head held high. He never questioned why he was dealt such a difficult hand.
When I look back at it all now I feel a bunch of regret for not being there enough. My father and I didn't have the closest father/son relationship. We didn't really talk about the typical birds and bees that fathers and sons talk about. Most of my memories of my father are more about him showing me how to be a better person. As an example, I remember we used to get mad at my dad for picking up strangers who were stranded on the side of the road. We used say, "What if that person is a killer?" But now I see that helping others in times when they need it is one of the most rewarding things one can do.
I know my dad is still around us and he sees what is happening in our lives, but I still crave the physical part of having a dad. I know that he is smiling watching his daughters become mothers and his grandchildren grow up. I know he looks after my mother and sits on the edge of the bed when she is in need of some comfort. I also know he is proud of the direction my life has taken. I realize the more I look in the mirror the more I see my father in myself.