Several years ago, my Dad tried to leave this world, but a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, along with some medical intervention, wouldn’t let him.
And then, on January 5 this year, Dad slipped away from us.
Few people know the rest of the story that took place during my Dad’s first death experience. I wrote about it in this post here and shared some of the details. I left out a few that to this day still make me cringe a little and laugh a lot.
My siblings are planners, arrangers, organizers and schedulers. We have a chromosome that drives us to spring into action whenever a crisis arises. We don’t fall down, find a corner, and mewl like baby kittens. As my oldest brother says, “You show us the hill; we’ll figure out how to take it.”
When my Dad tried to leave us the first time, all his children were there to mourn and support our mother. I must emphasize: We were trying to be helpful for our Mom. This meant cooking meals, cleaning the kitchen, repairing things, and sorting out her finances. But helpful also included dispensing with my father’s belongings, distributing them, and doing other things we thought would pave a gentle path for a widow.
In a few days, we covered a lot of ground. His credit cards and driver’s license were cancelled, bank accounts were closed—all the things one should do on the practical side of a person’s passing.
But, as you know, our Dad survived. He rallied. We were joyful. It wasn’t his time.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t spend any money, drive his car, or wear any of the ties, shoes, or belts we had given to the local thrift shop.
He also couldn’t tell what time it was, given that his two watches had disappeared.
And, so, for the next year, whenever I spoke to my parents on the phone, the conversation would always start this way:
“Jean, do you know what happened to my gold watch? I can’t find it.”
“I used to have a brown watch, but it’s not in my top dresser drawer. What did you do with it?”
“Jean, your father can’t find his watch. I can’t remember what you kids did with it.”
Well, of course, like any sensible, resourceful daughter with a keen sense of survival, each time I’d reply,
“I think [insert sibling name here] has it. You should ask him.”
I honestly didn’t know what had happened to his watches. I knew I didn’t have them. I had his cowboy boots.
In the year that followed, we reinstated his driver’s license and insurance and got a new credit card or two for our father. He even got his watches back. The ties and belts were a lost cause. My mom and dad eventually moved next door to my oldest brother whose family visited every day and whose support was appreciated beyond measure.
Dad and mom collected a few new things and we collected some more memories.
Most of us won’t be given the opportunity to decide when it’s time to leave this earth. Some planning is necessary to make it easier for the people you’ll leave behind. But you have to accept, as painful as it can be, that you might be stuck a thousand miles away, unable to get home to say goodbye for the last time.
The most important and lasting possessions we can have of our loved ones are the memories you keep close at hand. My dad lives on forever in those memories. No one can take those away.
A huge thank you, to all of you who left me your condolences and kind words while I was away. I won’t be able to reply to them but please know that they meant so much to me.