Monday, March 30, 2009

September to October

Mid-September, 2004.
Mom came over one day, for a reason I don't remember anymore. She was quieter than usual, smiling in almost a sad way at 2 1/2 year-old Isabelle and 7 month-old Lorelei.
I asked her if something was wrong. And there was.

My Dad had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

She explained it in the best way she could, but all I could hear was cancer. Cancer. Cancer.
I've never been so scared in all my life. I stumbled to Geoff's office and managed to choke out, "My Dad....has....cancer....".
Over the next few days, I learned all that I could about the disease. I was encouraged by the many instances I read about, the patients who lived with this for years, even decades.
Dad and Mom asked for a meeting with my brother and me, to discuss things my Dad wanted to talk about. Mostly the land and how he never wanted it split up and sold, estate stuff...that kind of thing.
Even as I talked with my family about the "what ifs", I refused to think that Dad might not win this fight.


October 17, 2004
A cold day found all of us (family, old friends, everyone) at a barn party. Delicious, bad-for-you casseroles, chips and dip, and the ever-present beer. Dad had begun his first round of chemo the week before. He seemed okay.
The chill and the kids forced us to leave before the party wound down. As we left, I walked up behind Dad, squeezed his arm, and said, "Bye, Dad". He half-turned, and said, "Bye, Sue".

October 18th, 2004
Mom called in the afternoon. Dad was pretty ill with a high fever and chills. He and Mom were at the hospital, and they were assured that this was probably from the chemo....that Dad had caught a cold or the flu because the chemo had wrecked his immune system. Mom was going home to sleep...nothing to worry about.
I remember chatting later with my cousin Mary Lou. About Dad. About the Northern Flicker in my backyard.

October 19th, 2004. 2:20 am.
The phone rang.
Mom's voice cracked over the line. "Dad's not doing very good. Can you come now?"
I was backing out of the driveway by 2:23.
The night was foggy, almost impossibly so. An Amber Alert was blaring over all the highway signs. The 50 minute drive took forever.
Steve, my brother, met me at the ER entrance. He didn't say anything.
We walked down dark, solemn hallways to a small room where Mom was.
I sat down and put my arm around her shoulders.
She looked at me, then at Steve. "You didn't tell her?"
Steve looked at the floor.
Mom gathered her strength from somewhere, looked into my eyes and said, "Honey, Dad died."

The world went out, like a blown light bulb.

*Dad's pre-chemo tests had shown that he had at least a few minor heart attacks sometime in the past. The doctor informed Dad that chemo would be a risk. Dad chose to proceed anyway.*

In halting words, Mom told me of the events that had transpired during my 50-minute drive. Dad had gone into cardiac arrest. The doctors and nurses had worked on him for at least 20 minutes. He died at 2:30 am, seven minutes after I had left my house.

The three of us walked deeper into the quiet hospital to see Dad. As we passed the nurses' station, I heard one of them say, "Poor thing. She didn't make it in time".
Dad was in a cold, half-lit room, with a sterile white blanket pulled up to his shoulders.
Steve went in first, and reached back to grab my hand. He hadn't held my hand since I was 5 years old.
Reality was warping around me. But I put a hand on Dad's forehead and leaned down to kiss him.

And a last whisper....."Daddy".


I wasn't going to post tonight, but Mary's post here turned the pitcher of my memory right over.
The ones we love can be here one day, gone the next. Or they can slowly disappear from us over the course of years. Either way, it leaves us an unbalanced equation. The thing that keeps us righted is removed and we stumble.

18 comments:

CatMom said...

Susan, your post touched me deeply. I lost my dad to cancer in 2005. The doctors had said "till Christmas", but he left in July. He, too, died of a heart attack, after his second round of chemo. I have learnt to be grateful for this, thinking of all the suffering he was spared. But it's hard. The main emotion is a selfish one -- feeling cheated out of the many years I ought to still have had with him. And oh, the loss...
Susan, too

Kyle said...

Susan, it's hard to type after reading this, mostly because it brings back such vivid memories of how we lost Tiffany's mom only a couple of years back. And while the pain and the tears seem to slowly diminish as time passes, they always remain only a heartbeat away, ready to surface again at the whim of a memory.

NCmountainwoman said...

I think Mary's post stirred up the memories in all of us. My own father died far too soon when my children were 2 and 4. I felt so cheated for myself, for him, and for my children who would not know this wonderful man.

Reading Mary's post really set my mind to wondering once again. Would I trade my father's premature heart attack death for years of dementia in order to have kept him in my life longer? Every time I come up with the answer, "no." It took me years to come to this way of thinking, but as I get older and see others struggle, I cannot imagine the pain of watching my dad with dementia.

Thoughts are with you, dear Susan. It is so hard.

egretsnest said...

Aw, man, Susan. Way to make me cry at 6:45am. Our stories of loss are so difficult to share but it's important. Of course, all this makes me think of my own father's death when I was 12. Painful stuff, that. Thinking of you and how brave you are to share your story. Off to read Mary's blog, too.

Anonymous said...

The last thing Grandpa said to me was that I was getting too skinny. :) I miss him everyday. I'm sitting at work reading this trying to not start bawling my eyes out.

<3 his little fuzzy

Beth said...

Susan, your post touched me. I am watching a beloved relative die right now. She probably has just days left as the lung cancer takes her from us. It was sad to read of your pain, but I know your Dad was loved and you were loved by him. Hugs.

Beth

NatureWoman said...

Sitting here reading your post with tears in my eyes, as it was two years ago that I got the call that my Dad needed to go into the Emergency Room, and next Wednesday two years ago when he died, so it's at the top of my brain. Now I'll go to Mary's post and probably cry some more.

Lynne said...

"...it leaves us an unbalanced equation. The thing that keeps us righted is removed and we stumble."

Beautifully written, sweetheart.
I'm coming up on one year since Phyllis passed. Not sure if I can write about it though.

I think we might be needing a boo-hoo hugfest at The Farmhouse.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Lynne, Susan, what we need at the Farmhouse is sloppy Chet sneak attack French kisses and lots of loving laughter. And maybe boo-hoos, too. This was powerfully and beautifully written--turn the pitcher of my memory right over--what a turn that is, beautiful.

I join the sad sisterhood here--lost DOD to lymphoma in 1994, coming up April 10 it will be 15 years. And I still hear his voice. And still can't say chemotherapy. I just call it chemo and leave it at that.

Hugs to you tonight, brave girl.

Susan Gets Native said...

All:
You never know what will pop up on this blog.
I tend to lean in the direction of hilarity or throw myself right into a tantrum.
I haven't written much about Dad on this blog, because I never want to open it up, look at it. It was enough to think about the empty slot in my life, day to day, then close my mind to it and go on with whatever I needed to do.
But when strong feelings come on, whether it be pride in my kids, or giddiness brought on by a beautiful bird, we just have to share it. That's why we have blogs.
It felt good to write about Dad. I pulled it out and set it free.
Sorry I made so many of you cry. But it's comforting, that so many know how I feel and wanted to share it with me. That rocks, actually. Hugs to all.

KGMom said...

Oh, sweetie--you are writing about one of the hardest things we have to face--the death of a parent. I still have my dad--he will be 90 in a couple of months. But my mom died in 1991, and it sometimes seems like only yesterday.

Joy said...

Sorrow is so hard. The 29th marked the sixth year of my friend's death. She left me a voicemail around 7 pm and she was gone around 2 am. It still hurts, but I cannot imagine how I would feel if it were my own daddy. I'm sorry he's gone and you didn't have the opportunity for one more touch, one more look. So I'm going to go and cry now. My heart goes out to you Susan.

Kallen305 said...

I am in my office with tears in my eyes after reading this. I lost my father when I was 6 years old. Sometimes I think its better that way so I wouldn't have as many memroies and perhaps not as much pain.

dguzman said...

Big hugs to you, honey. You made me cry at work, you doo-doo.

Mel said...

Dearest Susan,
I'm still at work, sneaking to read some blogs and found this post.
It didn't touch me, it was more like a punch.
I was 20 when my dad was diagnosed, and the next years I became the parent in the house, being the oldest kid.
Mom and dad would spend hours, days, months away in hospitals, even abroad, trying to control what we were told was happening soon.
The first doctor gave him 15 days to live. Over 10 years now. We are still blessed for having him around, always sick and weak, but here.
I remember the first nights at the hospital, my 11 year old brother asking me if my dad was going to die. My heart broke and never fully recovered.
I live in fear, a decade now, with every crisis, every weekly visit to the hospital or test, or treatment... I wonder if each event is "it". It is a torture.
I know I'm lucky enough to have him around, and I thank you for this post, and to remind me of that.
Besos for you my dear friend, thank you for sharing this.
Mel

Kathiesbirds said...

Susan, so sorry for your loss. Your story is bringing tears to my eyes. So sweet to know that you had a "Daddy" with good memories to boot. I'm sure he is watching over you still. I'm sure he can feel your love, for I can feel it through your words and all these miles away.

dAwN said...

Thanks so much for posting this touching story...
I have read Marys post..
Both sad both touching...I need to read this to prepare for the future..the inevitable..My parents are aging...and the day will come when I will have to face the same sadness, emptiness.
Sounds like your girlie get together will be great therapy.

Mary said...

Susan, I'm late, as usual lately. What's worse? The shock and anger of losing a parent so suddenly or watching them die slowly before your eyes... Any way, it sucks.

I want to reach through the monitor and hug you right now because I know you've been eaten up inside about it. You wrote well, sweetie.

Yes, we'll do some group hugs in WVirginnie.

Love,
Mary