Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Am Very Content To Sit Here And Hold Your Hand

Art work by Jamie of http://inspiredmess.blogspot.com

When I was twelve, when I was thirteen, when I was fourteen and when I was fifteen, when I was twenty two and twenty three and twenty four, I thought I might see my father die. He had congestive heart failure. Sometimes he was hidden away in his bedroom. I remember that I would peek through the old fashion keyhole as a little girl to look at him.

We were not suppose to go in. He was resting. He needed his rest.

One day I realized, it has been four days. I have not seen my own father in four days. This did not seem good. It did not seem right.

I snuck in his room. To sneak in, you have to be very, very quiet. Secret operative quiet. There is a latch on the other side of the door that would open with a “Thwack” and then my mother would be on and up the stairs and I would be yanked back from the thereshold I just wanted to cross. To see my Dad.

Now if I can get in and if I did get in, now I must deal with the floors. Squeaky. It is best to get on your hands and knees. If you can get to the latch hook rug a few feet away, you are half way home.

I’m on it… I can do it. It’s been four days. I don’t see how someone can not leave a bedroom for four days.

I’ve crawled the length of the hard wood floors and I am just under him. Where he sleeps. But he is just a bump under the covers. Not even a big bump. Covers will have to be moved to see his face. I just want to see his face. If I see his face, I can see if he is breathing, if I see that he is breathing, I can believe, at least for a while, that when my mother says, everything is going to be fine, that everything might be fine, even if people are coming over with grim expressions on their face and tight smiles for me and my sisters.

And a priest. He came. He came for last rites. I know that because even though I am little, I went to CCD and had my first communion and I know all about what last rites are and all that.

They are not for people that are going to be fine.

That’s why I have to see for myself. I just see scalp and forehead and eye brows and the start of his nose. But I’ve seen some medical shows and I know I need to cup my little hand by his face and check for breathing.

Please be breathing, Dad.

It’s not there. His breath is gone and he is dead and we are left alone and she cannot take care of us and I don’t want to live anywhere else and they are already talking about splitting us up and he is the fun one and he lets me watch TV and doesn’t yell when he finds me sneaking “Late Night With David Letterman” way, way past my bed time and he gives me pep talks even though I have to wear glasses and I get called four eyes but I know he will make it okay.

He is a good Dad.

He’s alive. I can’t feel it on my hand so I put my face down near his. I can’t feel it on my cheek so I put my face right to his face. And I feel it. If I stop myself from breathing and really concentrate, I can feel it. It’s on my eye lashes.

I put my hand under his. It feels like we are holding hands.

And I am content to just hold his hand.

It’s all these years later and I will tell you, I can be an emotional girl. My sister said to me, “Sometimes, you are over emotional.” I don’t care about that. To her, that is a put down. That is like saying, “you are weak.” That would not sit well with her. To be over emotional.

I feel like if love swells your heart when you care for someone deeply, it will also break it when they are suffering.

I worry more when I’m under emotional. I can freeze and close off and you cannot get next to me. I can be in the most emotional situation but shut down and not be touched.

I can see myself at my boyfriend’s father’s funeral and I can see everything. My outfit, how I wore my hair. Planned my pocketbook… have gum, have tissues, have extra money, in case something is needed. Like ice. Someone always needs to go out for ice.

And still I waited there, in the car, by the car, circling the car because I did not want to go into the Church and I did not want to see and I would sooner end this relationship or make up some small, medium or large lie about why I couldn’t go. I do not want to see grief up this close.

I did do it. But I snuck out right after the service. I was a coward.

Two days ago, I had to go see my great uncle. He is very old. He has lived a beautiful life. In death… in death as it is coming to him, has not been kind. I could feel myself, in the knowing that I would have to visit him and that it would be painful, slowly shutting down. Like in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia are in the trash compactor and the walls are coming in.

I know that this is all from feelings of having just, quite frankly, really have had enough of this. Suffering. I hate it. I hate not being in control. I hate seeing my loved ones cry. I hate from the last time I was there, how my uncle looks at me, a once vital and active man, looking at me, like this will be the last time.

I want to be the little girl who is protected and not allowed in the room.

I made a conscious choice going over to see my great uncle. “This is not about you. Man up. Get it together. Be a grown up. This is harder on him and harder on your aunt and you certainly can grow a spine and sit with a man that you love and be okay. And yes it might be painful but you’ve been through pain. Still here? Yes. Good, then I think you can take it.”

He was not sitting up, as I had last seen him. When he purposely put on a dress shirt and slacks. He did that for me. So I would be protected and not see how sick he was. My father used to do that too. There were so many horrible bruises on his arm from his heart surgeries (I think they take a vein from there and use it in the reconstruction) that he would purposely hide his arm under a towel so we would not see it.

So we would be protected.

I sat by my uncle. He was in a hospital bed though he was at home. He had lost so much weight. “Do not let your eyes show that you are scared, that you are sad. Let only love be here. When he sees you smile you are the little girl he took to the beach. Let him see that. He is remembering you that way and give yourself the gift of remembering him that way.”

And I took his hand. And I held it. And even after an hour and my aunt said I could leave, I just said, “I am very content to sit here and hold his hand.”

I couldn’t understand a lot of what he was saying. And when he stared Heavenward and started to point and then gasped and then stopped breathing, my aunt begged us to all hold hands and say a Hail Mary. And I was sure that he would die.

And I was not scared and I did not want to run and I did not want to not be there.

I just held his hand. And when he took his other hand and put it gently on my face, I did not cry. I smiled. I stayed present. I knew and I know, that was the last time. And if he goes and when he goes, I will be happy that instead of protecting my heart—I walked in there and I sat down and I held his hand.

I know it sounds crazy and I know you would have to know me to know that this is true. But it's the jet skiing that did it. Somehow facing all those fears... feeling boundlessly strong out on that adventure with my sister and dear friend, made this moment with my uncle come together and not break me apart. And now, when he's gone, I will have something to hold and be mine instead of being filled with regret that I walked away.
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22 comments:

Chrissy said...

mmm...I have been through very similar situations...my father died from a battle with lung cancer when I was 6 1/2. I can so relate to the closed bedroom doors...the well intentioned "everything will be fine" comments...the tight lipped smiles from relatives who walked around my house as if they belonged there more than I.

I have watched my 2 yr old niece fight and lose her life to leukemia...I could only watch for so long before I had to shut myself off...my son Cote though did not shut off and was there right up through the end....rattly death breathing and all...this was 3 years ago, he was 17 at the time...he still doesn't sleep at night...he is still haunted by images of her trying to breathe.

Should I have protected my son, Cote from such heartache and reality? I don't know. I'll never know. Sometimes I think I should have, but then I remember how resentful I was that I was so shielded from my father's passage into eternity.

I watched my own newborn son die in my arms...just about 5 months ago...he was born prematurely and lived for 10 days before succumbing to lungs that were just too immature...you never forget the open mouth just left hanging there as if they want to tell you something.

If I could have been that little girl I think for a moment I would have but then again I am reminded that I aspire to treat others the way I want to be treated and if I were dying I would want someone to hold my hand.

Plus how could I just leave my son there without his mother? We had been through so much together and I wasn't about to miss his biggest step in life...his passage into his eternal home. I showered him with kisses and memorized the feel and taste of his salty skin on my lips. Up until then I hadn't been able to hold him because he had been in his isolette all hooked up to machines ...I finally was able to hold him, just him...no machines. I got to feel the weight of him in my hands and feel his squirmy life wriggling in my arms just as he had done in my womb. It was precious and unforgettable and for the 1st time since he had been born I finally had peace wash over me...because we could be re-united...even if for just a few moments we were together again! A part of myself had been returned to me. Placed in my arms. I can't even imagine if I hadn't been there!

If I had shielded my son, Cote there would still be the unknown if I had done the right thing. I think all we can do is love and live and choose in the moment. I find that we humans are so contradictory... and that is okay. It is what makes us so complex and so beautiful and so dynamic.

Freestyle Mom said...

Fuck, man. I have no words. Just know that I read and that your words and your journey and your strength do not go unnoticed.

Michelle/MouseDemon said...

Western society deals with Death in an awful way. It gets hidden away/ignored/sanitised which can make it even more horrific than it needs to be. I am not saying that we need to make it any less than it is, but it shouldn't be so scary.

It took strength to do what you did. And you should be proud of yourself for doing it.

Quinn Hay said...

I might be a little emotional lately, but this was so great. I feel like I could cry for hours. This was beautifully written and really inspired me. Chrissy's comment was tear-jerking, too. I feel like I need to give everyone a great big hug now.

Michelle said...

This is a great, GREAT post. You should be very proud of it. And proud of YOU!

Classy Fab Sarah said...

Beautiful post. I'm weeping.

Erin said...

What a beautiful post. You are so beautiful. People like you make this world such a beautiful place. Thank you so much, because to me, often it doesn't look beautiful at all... but then I read things like this and I realise it really is. It is beautiful. Love is beautiful. Life is so beautiful.

Oh, thank you. I needed this. Thank you so much. I am going to go to sleep and tomorrow I will wake up to another beautiful day, while this crazy world spins madly - spins beautifully - on.

Sherene said...

Strength begets strength. I'm glad you chose to use the strength you've found to do the right thing, rather than do the comfortable thing.

trulytrayce said...

Amazing. Just no words. Look how far you've come...how far we all can go...
much love. xo

anji said...

I have two sayings that I live with...

Waste not a single day...
and
Live life without regrets.

You did not waste that day and you will now never have to live with that regret you turned to hide yourself.

Well done!

HamOnTheSide said...

So inspiring... really beautiful and you are an incredible writer.

Cheese Makes Me Happy said...

When I was 3 and 4, my grandma and grandpa died. I was too young to go to the funerals, I regret it now as a 33 year old.

When I was 9, I went to a funeral and balled like a baby. I swore I would never go to another funeral.

When I was 20, my aunt was dying and was asking to see me, and I was a coward and didn't go. I will regret that for the rest of my life.

My dad had a stroke last year. He is doing somewhat well, but is depressed. He threatened to kill himself last year and ended up in the hospital. There are days when I wonder if he is going to wake up, or if I'll receive a call at work saying that he tried and succeeded to kill himself.

My Irish Catholic family is one of not crying because it is a sign of weakeness.

I cry secretly, when no one is around.

I hope that one day I can redeem myself and be the strong one.

strikegirl07 said...

This post is so moving. I love hearing that jet skiing helped you. But most of all, I am so happy you will not be filled with regrets.

Anonymous said...

As someone who hides from feelings to... I really loved this post. I totally get what you are saying about having to be a grown up - you just have to. For yourself and the person you love. This was beautiful.

Bernadette

BritneyB said...

Hopefully you are feeling immensely proud of yourself, just as we are of you. Take that strength, keep it close to you. Remember how strong you are when something else that's hard presents itself to you. As always, thanks for being an incredible example.

PartyOfTwo said...

While the Adventure Bowl entries are truly my favorite, what I really like reading about is how they are actually changing you. Just think, if you hadn't been doing these, maybe you would not have gone to visit your uncle or face other painful situations. I haven't set one up myself, but this post convinces me, I have to have my own adventure bowl.

Amanda said...

It's okay to be scared around sick people - I'm sure they're scared too. I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and I tell you, I've dealt with all kinds of bizarre reactions, and really, none of them are wrong. Kids seem to handle it best - they are full of questions and some of the questions are pretty damn funny ("Is that worse than TB?") But, let's be honest here. I'm faking that I'm not scared of all this so as not to freak out those around me. If you're already scared and I can see that, at least I get to admit that I am too. Though, I admit, I don't talk about it on my blog because there are people I have not yet told. I don't predict they'll do well with the news, so they can wait until I hit endgame. So far, in my experience, the only thing you want to avoid showing is pity. A little fear is not a problem.

Betsy said...

This is really moving. Good for you.

Angella Lister said...

So beautiful. The end is hard, but it is a little less so now for your uncle because you sat and held his hand.

Anonymous said...

How much that has to mean to him and to your aunt. Good on you! Yes, a wonderful example of love. B.

Quix said...

This is so powerful. You are so strong. I consider myself a very strong person in a lot of aspects but death/illness/etc just makes me SHUT DOWN. No one dies, everyone lives forever *lalalalala*. Like that, right?

I guess we all have our superpowers and our kryptonite. This might seem weird coming from a random commenter/lurker - but I am proud of you. :)

alea said...

It took me a long time to get myself to read this post... i do exactly what you do under extreme emotional situations, i shut down. In fact, so much of this resonated with me , i was really kinda surprised. Down to the 'sister thinks i'm too emotional' ... (have you met my sister? lol)

so i'm sitting here at work and kinda sinffing back tears and my throat is burning and i,m hoping nobody walks by my cubicle...

thank you.