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My father passed away

me, my big brother and my dad. michigan 1959

me, my big brother and my dad. michigan 1959

My father peacefully passed away 12 days ago.  I have vivid dreams of him almost every night.  While my grieving has been quite unbearable and I do not seem to have the energy to answer my phone - I am comforted to know that perhaps my father has finally found my brother. My dad would be so happy to see him again. . . I love you Dad.  I know  you promised that I will be happy again – but I just don’t think that it will be today. . .  but maybe tomorrow. . . 

IMG04047-20131228 Tucson fireplaceAnother late night as it reluctantly creeps towards a dark early morning. I can not sleep. I can not seem to breathe. My loss of appetite is bothersome. My entire body thumps with each beat of my weary heart.

I am well aware that I am not the first to walk in the wake of a loved one fighting to live. Cancer has only one destination in its horrific plan. However, my father has a much different plan. A clever plan. A plan so clever that all of us who are around him seem to be baffled as they watch him walk with out the aid of a wheelchair or a walker. And they watch him gain weight while he can only have nutrition through a tube that protrudes from his belly.  This feeding tube is due to the damage of the radiation – not the damage from the throat cancer. Even with the confusion my father lives with now - my phone rings in the middle of the night and he tells me with his painful sounding voice - before any of the caregivers bother to tell me when I call during the day - that “something is wrong“.  (By the way, I have found even better medical care for Dad!)

If these remarkable things have occurred, then why my bottomless sadness?  Why the isolation? Why the sleep deprivation? Why the private meltdowns…?

Because my father’s soul is changing. His larger than life personality is changing.

Once again it is all about the choices we have to make in life and then learning to live with and accept our choices.  And today – today was the day I saw the true reality that he is indeed beating the throat cancer, but the radiation and chemo treatments seemed to have relentlessly beaten him into becoming another person that resides inside his skinny body.  Quietly I hope this is temporary. It must be temporary.

While I was sitting with my father and holding his hand today, without warning, another piece of my heart broke away and crashed on the floor as if it was an ice glacier slipping into the Antarctic Ocean.

I have never admired my father so much – nor has he ever taught me such an important lesson in life.

As much as I long to sit and spend sweet time with the love of my life who lives in California - I will remain in Tucson to fight for my father so he can be as comfortable as possible for as long as he chooses – because this is the right thing to do.  And because of all of this, I am full of gratitude and I see and feel that God is with us at all times.

I’ve been staying in Tucson longer than I originally anticipated. 9 weeks ago I arrived with endless hope and energy.  As today comes to a close I feel the weight of endless sadness - reckless sleeping has pushed down my weary shoulders and clouded my eyesight. I am amazed at the amount of tears that continue to fall many times a day.  I duck into an empty bathroom or I sit in my car, or suddenly I can not hold myself up as I am standing alone washing the dishes in my father’s empty home.

Is this the way life is now?  I am unable to see out.  Suffering from serious sleep deprivation as I make endless decisions for my father’s care.   I find myself with the suprising and distracting task of convincing caregivers that my father is in their facility to recover from throat cancer and chemo - not die - recover!  I have learned the hard way that because my father is quite thin and is on a feeding tube many false assumptions have been made.  My hope and faith is tested as I take someone aside to explain that my father is already a miracle!  can’t you see that he is walking unassisted?!  He was in a wheelchair only 2 months ago. PLUS he has gained 7 pounds since he went on that feeding tube.  I am quite clear on my hope.  I am quite clear I am spreading a positive force of healing thoughts. I am quite clear as I share my admiration for my father’s unwavering determination.  Yes, his confusion is heart breaking - however - he is tenacious and healing!

Caregivers giggle when he makes a face like a frog with a wide turned down mouth. Then he makes a face like a fish and puckers up.  “Ga. Ga. Ga!” he says with his broken raspy voice. “Ka – ka – ka!” He says with a sly smile and wink.  “Wow! Good ones Dad! You’re really improving!  Keep up the good work!” I tell him with a gentle hug. “Your throat exercises are making a big difference Dad!  I can tell.  I just know it to be true.  I catch a couple caregivers tilt their head with sudden understanding.  They ask questions. So my father teaches them what he is doing to rebuild his throat muscles.  The tumors that were at the top of his throat and airway are gone now.  He speaks highly of both his oncologist as well as his Speech Pathologist who visits him on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Yes, it is another day in the life with surviving throat cancer.  But the good news is, my father’s hard work, combined with hope and my private tears and prayer is paying off in baby steps. The Speech Pathologist gave him 3 sips of water yesterday and then 3 sips of apple juice. He did not cough. He did not choke.  He swallowed – he drank them. It was magnificent.

And the best news of all is that my father’s alma mater, Michigan State, won the Rose Bowl.  All we can do is the very best we can do.  Half measures avail us nothing.  It’s another blessed day in Tucson.  It is the recovery that comes from hope. Tears are allowed with hope. Confusion is allowed with hope.  Sleepless lonely nights in an empty house can still have hope and blessings in every corner.Tucson Sunset

…enjoying sweet memories of simpler times makes todays complications more do-able…

my brother & me in Michigan 1961

my brother & me in Michigan 1961

…I have no regrets, Dad, no regrets…

20110507 missing oak tree

I refuse to react.

I refuse to participate on any level with a bully.

I refuse to allow anyone or anything distract my father from his continued comfort, peace and healing.

Only God will guide me in my decision making.

I am strong. I am tall. I am clever. I am tenacious.

Perhaps I am a daddy’s girl after all.

 

 

 

 

cloud streetWhile my father was resting at the skilled living center as his feeding tube gradually, gently allowed nutrients back into his dehydrated body, my gentleman friend and I went on errands for supplies.  I was grateful to have his hand to hold. . . My body buzzing with anxiety – my mind fuzzy with a horrific sence of urgency – my vision blurry as if someone rubbed vaseline petroleum jelly around the edges of my glasses. . . Clearly it was a good thing I was the passenger and not the driver.

As we drove down the empty road and the sky was jam packed with fluffy Arizona clouds, the GPS seemed to be confusing our sence of direction as we did our best to navigate around Tucson so I could get a couple items for Dad.

“. . . Point 5 miles U-turn . . .”  the automated female robot voice said.

Following directions – we did a U-turn.

” . . . Point 5 miles U-turn . . .” the GPS said to us once more.

“What?!  Seriously?! Stop it!”  Clearly the the gosh darn GPS was more turned around than we were.

“Turn that thing off!”  We said in unison like Bose stereo speakers.

Instantaneously we burst into laughter!  Beautiful, beautiful laughter. My gawd it felt good – a moment in a day where my tears were endless and my heart was broken due to my fear of the unknown with my Dad’s health status.  Our sweet and sudden laughter created a tiny crack in my overwhelming fear and my hope rushed in - as if the laughter had broken a dam of despair.

My father’s strong spirit is inside of his frail body.  And with his whisper of a shredded voice, he softly stated, as if it was a typical Sunday afternoon, “I want to play golf again.”

My father is working with all his might every moment to regain his health. So the least I can do is remain hopeful and carry my faith with all my might.  Together we can do this.  My family is small – but we are mighty.

IMG03689-20131103Another long challenging day in Tucson, Arizona as we all try to do our best to care for my father.  I’m hoping the explanation to his deep confusion is because of the many weeks of meds and no solid food.  He did not feel this sick when he had the beginning stages of throat cancer. Now he is someone recovering from the damaging effects of chemo and radiation. What are our choices here? My father is 85 years old.  Die because we have cancer?  Or die because we are fighting cancer?  Is it just a different journey with the same end result?  But not being able to eat?!  As for me, if I don’t eat I can not function. . .

The the thing that was lovely today was when I went out side for some fresh air to take a moment.  The air so pure it made me feel lighter.  The clouds were putting on a magnificent show of many colors. With a motion of their own, both my arms stretched to the clouds.  They longed to grab on and be carried away into the cold brisk clean air.  What a freeing moment that would be. . .

Turning around I see the doors of the skilled living facility where my father is literally putting up a wicked fight to get his life back and get back home.  In his rough of a whisper agonizing voice he speaks of his cat.  The cat I am taking care of.  The cat he misses that is inside of the home that he misses. . . Perhaps it was the clouds.  Perhaps it was the wind. Perhaps it was because I felt a little cold. But I knew in that moment that this is not my sadness.  This is not my struggle.  This is not my day to be in a wheelchair fighting to stand up.  All of this belongs to my father.  My father the lifeguard. The swimmer at Michigan State. The original lover of dogs and cats. The Sierra Club leader. The tennis player. The single father during the late 60′s and 70′s.  The guy telling a funny joke at the bar while he sips his beer. The golfer who loves the sport so much that he bought a home in Tucson with a view of a Golf Course.  The guy who keeps trying with all his might to stand up from his wheel chair.  He’s frustrated. Confused.  The caregivers and nurses kindly ask him to “please sit back down”. They have to speak over the loud buzzing of the high-pitched bells.  And all I am is the daughter who gets the honor of standing by his side and holding his frail arm and says, “I’m right here Dad, you stand untill you want to sit back down.” It was for quite a few more seconds, but he did it. I kneeled next to him looked up and I told him my truth, “Dad, I admire you.”  And it was good. It was simple. It was empowering.

Tomorrow I get to do it all over again – except tomorrow – I’m going to bring his cat with me.  Let’s change-up this journey a bit. . .

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