March 15, 2022 – the Ides of March
Two years ago today, my dad died in a Denver hospital.
I’ve shared a few posts about that event, and about the aftereffects of losing him so suddenly and unexpectedly. As you all know, he had a heart attack, and bypass surgery in Billings. That went well and the day before he was to come home, he had a massive stroke and was flown to Denver.
Three weeks later, he was gone.
And I’m still processing that loss. I still have his cell number in my phone, under ‘Dad’. Mom uses it now, but I can’t change the contact name. It’s silly. I still find myself reaching for my phone to call him for advice or tell him something that happened that day.
We didn’t really ‘mark’ the day in any way. Last year, I invited all the kids to come for dinner, so that we remembered Grandpa’s passing. At that point, she was still pretty fragile, and that dinner was the best solution to her sadness. This year, Mom and I talked about him for a little bit, and that was ‘enough’. It isn’t that I think about him any less than I have during the past two years. It’s just a matter of moving forward with life as it is now.
He’s always in my thoughts. I wonder a lot how he would advise me on what I need to do at this point in life.
I think he would be tickled to know that I’m pursuing a CDL license. He had one. He never used it, per se, but he had it if he needed it.
I like to think he’s looking over us all from his vantage point in the ‘beyond’. I like the idea of him keeping us safe, while still letting us move through some rough patches of life.
I still talk to him. Usually in quiet moments, or when I’m conflicted about decisions or situations. I wear my ring whenever I go out. It has his thumb print on the band, and it makes me feel like he’s with me. When I took my written tests a couple of weeks ago, I remember spinning it on my finger while I was thinking about what answer I wanted to choose.
And I think a lot about the relationship between my dad and my mom. After having her live with me the past year and a half, I feel like I have a better understanding of their dynamics. I didn’t always understand how they interacted with each other. But I think I understand better why my dad acted the way he did with her.
My mom has begrudgingly settled into life without him. Some days are better than others. But she’s gotten past the phase of seeking attention for herself and using her grief to pull sympathy from others. I know that sounds a little harsh. But for at least a year, she would be overly dramatic when other people were around. She could pull up tears pretty easy and talked about how tough it was on her to lose him.
And I know it has been hard for her to adjust. But it made me uncomfortable to watch the manipulative way she would bring up my dad, for the sole purpose of extracting sympathy from people. She doesn’t do it as often now. And although she will never be over her loss, she’s finding a way to live without his presence.
I’ve had to shift my role in her life over the past two years. When Dad was first gone, she became fully dependent on me. She couldn’t take care of her bills or any big decisions. She was frantic if the smallest things went wrong. For the first few weeks, I took care of everything. And that’s the main reason we decided she should move in with me.
But gradually, I made her start taking care of herself. She had to make her own phone calls. Pay her own bills. Drive herself to the store and appointments, if I had a conflicting schedule. She had to start fixing her own food. We had made an arrangement when she first moved in that I would cook and she would do dishes. After a few months, we agreed I would fix one meal a day. Beyond that we were each on our own. And although she tried to make me feel guilty about the tough love, she’s at a point where she’s much stronger mentally.
We’ve talked about moving away from Whitehall as some point. And we’ve talked about how our living situation will need to change, especially if I do find myself in another relationship. I really think we need to have separate living places on the same property. That way we both have some privacy but I’m close if she needs something. She’s ready. And we could plan on – maybe – a meal together each day.
I think Dad would be pleased with her transformation. And happy that she is safe. For a lot of years, it was his job to take care of her. She’ll never be able to fully live alone. But she’s become much more independent of me than she was two years ago.
Two years. Seems like just yesterday. And it seems like forever ago. It will be interesting to see what happens this next year.