I’m trying to cope with my grief, and in doing so I am writing out my journey. It’s cathartic for me and I am hoping that it will help clear my mind.
Friday February 27th 2015 10:30 am
“Steph, the Dr was just here. How fast can you fly home? Your father isn’t expected to last much longer and we need you to get here as fast as possible.”
I got the call. The one that you know is coming, but don’t want it to. I hung up the phone and my whole world had tilted on its axis. I was standing in our bedroom, clutching my phone screaming and crying and struggling to breathe. This was it, my father was dying for real this time and I had to go home.
I wasn’t rational, I went online to try and find a flight or a bus for that night. Flights were stupid expensive and there was no way I was going about this alone. I had Nick up my ass and in my face to go pack; he would book my ticket and meet me in Ontario.
No. No. No.
What I needed was for him to just go away for five minutes because my world had just spun horribly out of control and I needed to hold onto some semblance of such. He meant well, but it wasn’t what I needed right then and there.
I’d never flown before, which throws a lot of people off. However I didn’t have the luxury of travelling when I was a child and as an adult when you choose to be a Chef, you never have the time or the money simultaneously to go anywhere good.
It wasn’t enough that my father was dying; I also had to fly for the first time ever.
Fuck you universe. Seriously, fuck you.
Phone calls were made, tickets were bought, transportation arranged. I was flying to Toronto the following morning. I talked to my dad a few times that day. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it was time. He sounded so jovial and happy. It was his last hurrah and he made it count.
I had gotten into the habit of calling my dad every morning in the past few weeks. Our conversations weren’t riveting in any means, mostly small talk and an excuse to say I love you, just in case. Every time we would hang up, my father would cry. He tried to hide it, but I always knew.
Saturday morning in the cab, it was early 6:30 am, I called my dad.
No one picked up.
The flood of guilt hit me like a truck. I thought that my father had died and I had missed it because I didn’t go home the night before. I could have but didn’t because I wasn’t ready to face it and a million other things.
Enter my second panic attack in the last 24 hours.
I sat in the cab, shaking the whole way, willing myself not to cry and freak out. We just managed to grab the airport shuttle from Lionel Groulx metro and halfway there, I tried my dad’s cell again. Marilyn (his caregiver) picked up. I stopped breathing, I thought he was gone forever and I never got to say good-bye. Turns out, she was about to call me.
Dad was still with us but he had a rough night. His all day/night crown royal bender had caught up with him. It affected his medication and he was in rough shape because of it. The Doctor had offered him something stronger to keep him comfortable but he refused.
Because of me.
He was suffering and in pain because of me. He wanted to be alert when I got there. He didn’t want to be out of it.
I didn’t find that out until later though.
We made it to the airport in plenty of time, my anxiety was all over the place and that got kicked up a few notches when it was time to board. Thank god I got assigned seating so that Nick and I could sit together. We flew Porter since they go right downtown. My cousin had offered to pick us up at the airport and I gratefully accepted.
Nick made a point to tell our flight attendant that it was my first flight. She politely inquired as to why I was flying that day. I debated lying, why ruin her day? She had a genuine smile. I found myself telling her the truth however. My father was dying and I was flying home to say good-bye. She didn’t miss a beat, and looked me in the eye and said “well I’m happy that we’re able to get you home quickly.” Me too I said. Thanks.
She was so kind. Our flight was short, just over an hour but I could see her looking at me from time to time since we were only in the second row from the cockpit. In spite of the circumstances, my anxiety and a million other things my first flight was one of the most wondrous things I have ever experienced. I was so fascinated to be soaring so high above the clouds. I can’t describe it, but it was awesome and for a moment I was able to forget my reason for flying in the first place.
My cousin arrived just as we got out of the airport and we were making the final leg of our journey to my dad’s house in Cambridge.
I called my mom to see if she needed/wanted anything and she told me to hurry. That changed the mood exponentially. One minute we were driving along and the next the true realization really started to sink in. That’s the funny thing about shock, there are moments of clarity and moments when you are just stunned stupid.
I rushed to my dad’s bedside; he was in rough shape, shaking so badly. You could see that he was in pain and I just wanted to do anything I could to make it stop. I started bawling immediately, I tried not too. I wanted to be strong for my dad but I couldn’t stop crying. He knew I was there, he kept asking for a pen and a piece of paper. Which his caregiver refused, she said that there would be time to talk later. She would give him his meds to help slow down his erratic breathing and then we could talk. He insisted and I felt guilty because I didn’t speak up. Even if it was just a scribble, it would have been something. Yet I kept telling him that it was OK. The pained and panicked look on his face was more than I could take. He closed his eyes and seemed to relax a little.
I sat on his bed beside him, talking to him and stoking his hair. They had bathed my dad that day in anticipation of my visit. I remember how nice it smelled, it was comforting.
I was telling my dad about the flight and how magical it was to be soaring above the clouds. That was the last time he looked at me, knowing he was still conscious I told him about Nick and I getting married. Nick really wanted to ask my dad for his blessing but we got there too late and he wasn’t really able to communicate much.
At some point I grabbed my camera, I wanted one last picture with my dad. It as one of the most awkward images I have ever taken in my entire life. It’s now my most treasured possession.
Waiting for him to go was agony. I kept telling him that it was OK to go. My cousins said their good-byes, as did my mom. My aunt, who is a hospice nurse held his hand. Thank god for her. She knew it was almost time; we called my aunt and my sister. This was it, it was almost over. He looked so peaceful. My sister arrived and said whatever it was that she needed to say. Just as she finished saying I love you, he was gone.
On Feb 28th 2015 at 1:21 pm my father was finally called home.