Saturday, February 23, 2008

Happy Birtha-versary

Holidays are particularly hard this year. Especially birthdays. Since my Dad died on January 10th, several birthdays have passed. My daughter Rachel's on 1/16, nephew Josh on 1/19, my aunt's (dad's sister) on 1/14, brother Rob's on 1/30 and even Dad's on 2/14 on which he would have been 72 years old. That day will forever be a bittersweet one for us - chocolate pun intended.

Aside from today being my 44th birthday, it is also my mom and dad's 51st wedding anniversary. So for years and years - I 've always searched for the perfect card that says something about me being the best wedding gift they ever received. Not this year. I am not even sure what the appropriate sentiment is. Is one to acknowlegde anniversaries after the death of a spouse?? I don't know. But I did wish my mom a Happy Anniversary this morning as she is here during my surgery and recovery; here on driving and kid duty.

As I mentioned in my first post, we lost our wonderful Dad after a very long and painful fight with cancer. His was a Cancer with a big C, not the Dumb Ass cancer that I have. He had a double whammy Cancer. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia , for which he lived with with relatively no issues for 20 years - much longer than expected. He finally succumbed to the big C , Merkel Cell Carcinoma - a very rare and relatively unknown form of skin cancer after a year long bout.

The wound is still quite deep for me and my family. I am barely over the mourning. My mom and I refer to this odd sensation often. It is as if a wave starts at my toes , travels up my innards leaving the taste of bile in my mouth. A taste of permanancy. I say ' Shit - this is real. and this isn't going to change'. For months, I shuddered every time the phone rang. Now, I don't. I can't image what my mom is going through lately. Having to retell the tale umpteen times to friends they have had for 'lo those 50 years. She having spent the last year of her very independent life - always tuned into Dad's schedule for appointments, meals, etc....and for the final months , not really leaving the house. Now she comes home , she tells me, not on any time frame anymore and says -"I'm home" . No one answers. The silence is deafening. She turns of lights and televisions just for company. I can't imagine....

Mom and Dad were supposed to come to California for Thanksgiving of '07, but Dad was too sick to travel. Hubby and I decided to go to Florida from Christmas to New Years to spend what turned out to be last good week of Dad's life with him. And, that was so hard. It was all he could do to stay awake and spend some time with us. To see my girls. His grandchildren were the lights of his life. You see, the big C, this type, grew in the form of tumors. Tumors on his bones that hurt so bad he writhed in pain. Visible on the outside, pressing on his brain and other vital organs on the inside. We were lucky to have had about 2 quality hours with him....the last day of the year. December 31st, 2007. Dad popped some morphine and sat outside with us our last day in Florida. We got these pictures that day. He had aged 20 years in about a week. A few years earlier, my niece Danielle had her Bat Mitzvah. Dad was sick then, but we didn't know it. He looked great, sporting a goatee and a tan! His legs hurt so we couldn't dance- but every time I hear "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge or "Celebrate" by Kool and the Gang, I just ball my eyes out. We 'chair danced' to those songs. Not the same as the good ole white man's overbite that Dad mastered, but sufficed -to say the least. My Dad was such a handsome man. He had virtually no wrinkles and you'd never know he was a septagenarian. This past Valentine's Day, he would have been 72.

It has been said that a true measure of a man is can be weighed by how many people come to his funeral. Well, if that be the case, my dad was a really big man. There was easily 350 people there. Standing Room Only - A testament to my parents' 50 years of marriagas well as a testament to my brother and sister and I, and the bonds of friendship we have developed.
He would have been so proud of us. He would have said it was the best funeral he had ever been to. It wasn't a somber, wailing event. Rather one full of love and support. We all spoke - sister Stacy, brother in law Fred, brother Rob, Aunt Alma, and me. Eulogies (that is the first time I have used that word). We all found strength in one another's words to go on without breaking up. There was humor, love, and respect. Daddy would have loved it. We all echoed similarities we found in our dad. His love of sports. His obsession with chapstick. His fastidious manner. His pride. He waited for a man from Hospice to come to the house. For that stranger to give him a shower and change his clothes. Applied a fresh coat of Chapstick. Uttered the Shmah (a jewish last rites, if you will) with his last breaths. And simply went.
I am going to put my 'words' here this posting. For my own catharsis. Afterall, isn't that was this whole blog is about?? My own catharsis.
Here goes:
On Thursday, January 10th, 2008- I lost a true parent, a loving poppie, and a great friend. I remember daddy, over 30 years ago, having told me that if I could count all of my friends on one hand, then I was a lucky person. Today, as we celebrate the life lived, not the life lost, I feel as though I have lost a limb.
I had my 'Tuesdays with Morrie' moment with Daddy when we were here at the end of December. As difficult as that was for him and me, I couldn't bear the thought of not letting him know how much I loved him. I laid on the bed with him, stroked his arm - and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he looked me straight in the eye and said - " I am not ready to say good-bye to you yet." I asked him if he knew how lucky I felt. Lucky to have have had the opportunities that he and mom worked so hard to provide for Stacy, Rob and myself.
My whole life- right up to now- all I ever wanted was daddy to be proud of me,. Proud of me when I achieved success. Advise me when I needed direction. Be strong for me when I fell.
He was the first person I called when something good happened and the first person I called when something bad happened. Always supportive. Never gushing; But you could feel him beaming from across the room when his family was all together. Not a yeller by nature; But one stern Poppie Face would usually extract an admission of guilt from his kids. Not a grudge holder or an "I told you so" kind of parent; Rather one who hoped to teach a lesson from one's mistakes.
My children, Emily and Rachel, were blessed to have spent time with their Poppie. He loved them- and Josh and Will, and Danielle sometimes , more, I think, than he loved his own children. More than he loved a really good scotch, a marvelous meal, a good read, the beach, travel and exploration, great music of all genre, his chapstick, his pink Lincoln Continental and the New York Giants.
My Emily said something so profound the other day. On our last day in Florida, the last day of 2007 - Poppie's last really good day before the end - Emily looked at David and I and said " You know, I am getting used to that egg head of Poppie's." She said we could crack him open and have him for breakfast. "Because angel eggs are better that devil eggs." She knew my somber moods and red puffy eyes that I was sad. And just two nights ago, she asked why. I told her that Poppie was very sick, and wouldn't get better. And, I just don't want him to hurt anymore. She looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, "You mean you just want him to die in peace, right?" Out of the mouths of babes.
I hope you found peace my Daddy. You heard me when I told you from across the country not to wait for me. I am sure one day- although I wil think about you EVERYDAY, I - - we all will find peace too.
I love you.
"I am a part of all that I have met. Yet, through each arch gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades forever and ever where I move."


Anonymous said...

this one always brought me comfort - you can substitute the 'she' for 'he'.

I am standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. I stand watching her until she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, "She is gone."

Gone where? The loss of sight is in me, not in her. Just at the moment
when someone says, "She is gone," there are others who are watching her coming.
Other voices take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

Anonymous said...

happy birthday!!

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KatBouska said...

Ok now I'm crying. This was so sweet and heartfelt and I relate on so many levels. My Dad died of a brain tumor when I was seven and my step-dad died from cancer of the jaw when I was 20.

It's still hard.