When does it get easier!??
It was 3 am on December 23, 1997 and there was a knock at our door. I had just gotten home a day earlier from the hospital with our new baby Sam. What I remember most of that night was hollering (or what seemed like it to me) that there had better be a good reason for someone to be at my door at this time since I had just given birth a few days earlier! I am pretty sure there were a few cuss words inserted too. But after I threw open the door I found my dad standing there. He had drove all night (normally a 15hr drive) after work to get to our house (he lived in Alberta and we were in Manitoba) to see his new grandson.
His small car was loaded with giant legos, toys and clothes for Josh, a new oak crib, more clothes and gifts for Sam, gifts for Dennis and I and the best gift of all his time with us for the next 4 days...
That time was filled with laughter, food, memory making and more love than you can shake a stick at! We had a few pictures taken but sadly none of them turned out (that was back in the day of film cameras)
Dad spent the days with us joking, telling stories, holding his grandsons, feeding them. Playing with them, helping me do laundry and cook-- basically anything and everything that needed to be done.
In the early morning hours of the 27th he had his car packed up and was ready to go home and head back to work. I sat up with him as he had his coffee and I had tea (I was not a coffee drinker back then) and we talked, hugged lots and made plans for phone calls (which happened every week a few times and ALWAYS on Sundays!
He got up from the table to leave and after more hugs and kisses he left -- but not before running back to the house to hand me his favorite jean jacket (which I still have) and telling me to look after it.
This was the last time I actually saw my dad. This was the last time he hugged me and I hugged him ... a for real hug. (as opposed to the kind we give him know that are quick as so not to get pinched or 'bit")
I spoke to him every week like I usually did but this was the last time I hugged him and got to tell him to his face how much I loved him and he told me he loved me.
This is also the reason why I have so much trouble with Christmas now...
It was always fun with my dad. He had this amazing knack of making you feel special - even if he had just met you! He always put in such awesome thought into gifts not just for me but for everyone. If he didn’t know you very well he bought you $100.00 worth of lotto tickets and would be genuinely excited for you to not only scratch them but to win! He would give you the shirt off his back and smile the entire time and not let on that he was freezing or that it was his last shirt.
I have tried to do him justice at Christmas with spreading cheer, the message of Christmas, the spirit of the Season but I feel I fail miserably every year. I start each Season with a huge giant sized plan to get it (and keep it)together.
I work hard to make sure that things are great for dad and the family (not just in presents) I plan movie nights, time together baking, visiting others, surprising people that have made me smile through out the year but sadly I keep coming back to praying for it all to be over quickly so I can get back to our usual routine...
I mostly just want to sit and talk with my dad, hug him, have him know me and every year he regresses and gets quieter and more withdrawn. He doesn’t talk much with me, he rarely smiles at me and every time we visit it gets harder and harder to want to come back.
For the most part, I still go every Thursday to see him, but I find my moods get very depressive in December. I want to just crawl into bed and put the covers over my head and not come out until January. I dread the Christmas season. I have tried to do things that I know dad would done and I put love and imagination and creativity into the family’s gifts, I work to make it a season of giving but I find there is still an empty spot in my heart. I sit and cry most days and it saddens me that my kids will never get to know my dad.
This year has been no exception.
And there is a twist this year and here is why:
I usually tear into Jodi Picoult book and find that a day has passed and I haven’t noticed, as I have been lost in her novel. This year for Christmas I received her new book “Lone Wolf” and to say the least it has brought me to tears, butterflies and that empty dropping feeling in my stomach.
I had seen this book on the shelves before Christmas and read the info on it but apparently I never really read it. I somehow missed that it was a novel about a dad who was in a car accident and winds up with a severe TBI.
As in all Jodi Picoult books, she walks you through each character with such bone jarring, breath-taking accuracy. I can only imagine that if someone who has NOT walked this journey would assume it is ‘kind of’ like this...
I can tell you it was and is exactly like that.
I sat reading yesterday and tears would well up and pour down my face. I remember the terminology and predicted outcomes that the doctors in this book tell the family members as if it was yesterday for me. The medicines that they were prescribing and why. The actual physical description of the dad lying in the bed was a kick in the gut as I read it - waxy like skin, a faint smell taht you cant quite place, a small spattering of blood, the tubes, the smallness of your once great, larger than life dad.
I remember that stress and horrible gut feeling of having to decide whether or not to let Dad go. I remember conversations that Dad and I had had before his accident of what I was to do if there were ever a situation like this one. I remember that dropping of my stomach as I had to make that final decision to take him off of life support. I remember trying to explain to other family members what he wanted and actually form the words to tell the doctors what he wanted.
I am well over half way through “Lone Wolf” and had to put it down multiple times yesterday, wondering if I was going to be able to pick it up and finish it. I am struggling right now because of the Christmas season, as I have done for the last 17 years and yet I find I keep coming back to the story. Maybe because even though it is a fictional story, it is nice to hear that someone else gets (to a point) what I went through (since I am an only child and my parents were divorced). I am not sure where this story is going to end up - maybe it will be a sappy ending where the dad pulls through and all is fine (but I doubt it, as I have read almost all of Ms. Picoult’s books). I don’t even know if I will be able to finish it all. I might just put it away and leave it -- but I doubt that too
I just keep wondering when will I enjoy Christmas again? When will I stop feeling like a failure and be able to move on like other people?