18 February 2011

Vecchio Venerdì... My daddy

Eighteen years ago today was the last time I saw my daddy.

I said "good-bye" and that I loved him.  And I told him I didn't want to leave, but it was time to go.

He nodded, wide-eyed.  He was able to hug me back. But he couldn't say anything.  Seven weeks earlier he had suffered a massive stroke that affected his ability to speak and see and write and walk.  He could lift one hand.  He could hear.  He was completely coherent and fully aware of his surroundings.  But he couldn't tell us what he wanted, what he needed, what he knew.  He was unable to write us a note to those ends either.  He could nod and shake his head... that was pretty much it.

He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor about a week before he had the stroke, right after Christmas.  At first, it was deemed inoperable, then they found someone interested in trying.  A glioblastoma roughly the size of a golfball positioned behind his left eye, it was blown to smithereens when he had the stroke.  This happened the very day I had flown across the country to be with him.  He picked me up at the airport; we went to lunch; we went to the house; he had a headache and went to lie down.  I held him while he convulsed and vomited, and we waited for the paramedics to arrive.  

While the resulting emergency surgery did remove much of the cancer, this type is so aggressive and the bits were so invasive that his prognosis remained very, very poor.  I stayed in town with my stepmother and her family (she and my dad had been vacationing to visit the in-laws when this all happened) for 10 days while he recovered from the stroke and was determined to be in stable condition.  At that point I went back to grad school nearly 3,000 miles away, with the plan of returning for a week or so of my Spring Break in March and then spending the summer vacation with him.  

In February I got a call.  "Can you come now?  I really need you to come now."  It was my stepmom.  The next morning I was on a plane.  We had set my return for two weeks later; that was about all the school I was comfortable missing.  Why did that seem so important?

A lot happened in those two weeks.  He should have died before that time was up.  That sounds horrible, but it's true.  He had made his peace three days after I had arrived and had opted for no more food or water.  I was there holding his hand when he let the doctor know that was his choice.  She said he had 10 days ... at the most. He held on for 14.  

I wasn't there at the end.  I left three days before he passed.  I felt very comfortable with that at the time.  But I have grown to regret it ... not entirely sure why.  I did have closure.  I did get to leave with a living memory of him before things got really bad.  He was still able to sit up, and his eyes were still bright, and he still looked more or less like himself...  There is a bit of feeling like I wimped out.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I was glad that my ticket was when it was.  I didn't want to see my daddy actually die.  Or dead.  I know he is... but I didn't want to see it.  

He was 51.  

Love you, daddy.  Always and forever.  


  1. Oh man Marj. After spending the previous evening watching video of children with terminal illness I thought I really didn't think I had any tears left. You proved me wrong. It sounds like your dad was surrounded with love and that you had his blessing. Grief has a funny way of making us feel questioning all of our choices no matter which choices we make. Hugs to you.

  2. Wow. My writing is getting progressively worse. I hope you figured out what I was trying to say.

  3. Awww, that was so heartfelt and I thank you for sharing. Your dad is looking down right now and smiling brighly at his daughter! How proud he is!!

    ((big hugs))

  4. Thank you for this. What words. You have definitely touched me. I'm a little embarrassed that I'm over here crying in my living room. I can only imagine the day I have to say goodbye to my mom and it breaks my heart to even think of it. Such a sincere and touching post. Thanks again. And thanks for your sweet and thoughtful comment on my SAHM post today...meant a lot.

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  6. I'm sorry ((hugs)) He was so young.... Glad you got to be there with him for a while at the end. Though I am sure it can't possible compare to a parent, I often think of my grandma's last few days a couple of years ago. It's interesting how feelings change over time on thing like those last days.

  7. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt post. I'm glad you had the opportunity to spend some time with your dad. I don't think you should ever have regrets or feel like you "wimped out".

  8. 18 yrs ago today. Miss you, dad :)
    love you.

  9. So I wasn't following you when you wrote this, but wow. My dad died suddenly about 17.5 years ago, and we had just talked on the phone a day or two before he died. I was very sad I hadn't been able to see him but very glad I'd told him "I love you" and heard it back. His sister, on the other hand, passed away after a brutal 4 month ordeal with pancreatic cancer. As hard as it was to lose my dad so suddenly, I can't imagine having to watch him suffer like my cousins watched their mom. That waiting, it's awful. I totally get where you're coming from.

  10. Such a moving post. I lost my father unexpectedly 9 years ago when he was 46. It changed my perspective on everything. I wrote this 3 years ago: http://racingwithbabes.blogspot.com/2008/05/six-years-ago.html

    Your post reminded me of it and made me feel like we share a common, yet unfortunate bond.

  11. Well I was poking around your blog trying to get to know a little more about you and came across this post. I'm so glad I read it. It is so powerful it brought tears to my eyes - for you and for your lovely dad. And that picture of him holding you at the beginning - so so beautiful. It is SO INCREDIBLY AMAZING that you got that last regular day with him - he got you at the airport and you had lunch and had a day - and then you were there with him when 'it' happened and that ambulance came. Your presence was the biggest, best gift to him on that day and for those weeks afterwards, and then to be holding his hand and communicating for him to the doctors those last 14 days - you = big, big gift. I hope you know that. Wow - what a beautiful post about dads and their daughters.

  12. I am just coming across your blog today as I am a newbie blogger...and I am feeling very close to you in that i too, was with my mother in her final days living away from home...However, I did stay until the very end. The day after christmas...

    I will forever cry on that day...can't quite get the picture out of my head, but strangly on the otherhand...it was so peaceful. And, I am grateful that I had a life with her...and I only hope to be half the mother to my boys as she ws to me!

    To our parents!


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