Whenever I’d ask Dad too many questions he’d joke “What? You writing a book? Leave my chapter out.”
After Christmas last year Dad had a mild stroke. At the time we took it very seriously. Dad would get so pissed as my sister and I tried to talk to his doctors. We wanted to know everything there was to know. What caused it? What could be done? Was this going to happen again? Within days he made a complete recovery. They told him first and foremost to quit smoking. And much to everyone’s surprise he did. They put him on medications and required regular checkups and blood work and I was amazed he actually kept up with it. And they told him to lose weight and get his blood pressure under control. I was pissed they sent him home with no information on exactly how to do that. I complained to Dad that the hospital really should give him an informative pamphlet on some simple things he could do to decrease his blood pressure and moderate his diet. I bought him a book on heart healthy eating and I’m pretty sure he shoved it in the drawer with the computer for dummies books I bought and he never used. And though he made great strides with some things, his weight increased instead of decreased. He said his medications drained his energy and he therefore got less exercise than he used to, and in quitting smoking he packed on some weight. When I’d ask what his doctors were saying he’d say they were still moving around his medication mix and that his blood pressure was still too high. But the disbelief, the relief that he’d stopped smoking was huge for us all. It made everything else seem like background noise.
And this is what makes me so mad. Blood pressure issues are so common, I never realized it was a real threat. High blood pressure and weight killed my father. Either the doctors never lead him to believe that it was this serious or he never passed that belief on to us. I’m so angry that less salt, more water, more exercise would mean he’d still be here with us. We should have had so many more years together.
And there is so much baggage. Unresolved issues in his own life, and huge issues about what is to happen now. There is a huge dispute rising up about what would be best for my Oma and I just have this heavy heart feeling that she’s going to be gone by the end of this year. I want so much to do the right thing by her, make sure she gets the care she needs but sadly it isn’t my decision. And I know how pissed my Dad would be with what is going to go on – how he’d spent the last year practically trapped in that house because he was afraid to leave Oma alone overnight and now she might end up shoved in some shabby apartment alone with no regular care. I’m at a loss about what to do.
The last two weeks I was in a tizzy of getting things done and taking care of others and now things are settling down and I’m feeling alone and insane. They say it takes a year to mourn and I can see now how that is true. Because at the moment I vacillate between disbelief, desperate sadness and anger. And trying to keep it all in check while taking care of the kids seems like an impossible task. I have problems taking care of myself under normal circumstances – and this, well HOW? I can’t even imagine how to do it.
My Dad had his flaws. He made mistakes in his life and he was often his own worst enemy – repeatedly shooting himself in the foot. But I can say without reservation that he was one of the most loving people. I’d seen him cry so many times – in happiness and sadness. He felt things so very deeply , too deeply in fact. And he hated to see us upset and would be devastated by all this suffering.
We went to a local park near my house on Saturday and scattered Dad's ashes in the Delaware River. It was me, my 2 sisters, my brother, his 18 year old daughter, and Noah. Noah was the only young family member who wanted to come. I asked Noah if he wanted to say anything to his PaJoe and he said "I hope he has a nice trip." And I know from further questioning that Noah meant that twofold - he was speaking of PAJoe's ashes traveling on the river but also of his spiritual journey. Noah is firm in his belief that PaJoe was going some place next and he hopes it is a grand adventure, one on which we can later accompany him. And I hope that too.