Thursday, October 4, 2007

My Parents

My father's birthday was earlier this week, so I thought I would post about him and my mother. When I was writing this post, I discovered I have practically no pictures of them scanned, so that will be the next winter project. My Dad passed away back in 2002, so he's been gone over 5 years now. He had a hip replacement in December of 2001 and was still recovering, when he began having other unrelated pain. It turned out to be pancreatic cancer, that had already metastisized to his liver by the time they found it. They actually lied to us kids at first and said he was having gallbladder problems, but then quickly realized they had to tell us. Even though we were all adults (I am the oldest, and I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters), I guess they felt that had to shield us from it in some way.

We were fortunate in one sense, that it was a fast illness and he never suffered. But I see the irony in that it was a short illness - we all wanted more time. He stayed at home, and we moved him and my mom into their family room to be their bedroom when he could no longer handle the stairs. My mom did not want him to sleep alone down there, so she moved also. I took a partial leave of absence to help care for him.

He passed away in that room, with all of us around him. To this day, my mother only uses that room to iron her clothes, even though it has been remodeled since. She just doesn't want to spend any time there. It didn't affect me and my siblings quite the same way - I think we just view it as a room, and do not necessarily associate it with my Dad.

His den is the room that bothers me the most. It still has all of his things in it, and my mom keeps the door shut most of the time. She still has an extremely difficult time giving up his possessions. We did go through everything in it after he died, but essentially it's been untouched. His ashes may even be in there. It's very strange to go through a person's personal desk - it makes you feel like you are invading their privacy. There were greeting cards that us kids had given him when we were younger, and my mother, that we never knew he saved.

I never knew my father liked Opera until we found an old reel-to-reel audio tape player, and a case of old opera tapes to play on it. He also collected coins, liked to dabble in the stock market, spent a few years living in Japan while in the army, and built the first television his family owned. He was an engineer and worked on the Star Wars Satellite program. He used to take business trips but could not tell my mother where he was going, since it was top secret. So he would give her a phone number where he could be reached, and she would look up the area code to find out where he was.

The garage is still crammed with junk he didn't want to part with - old TV and radio tubes, radios he intended to fix and never got around to - he liked to tinker with things. Their generation tended to keep and fix things - not like today where everything is disposable and not made to last. For years he worked on an old MGB, that he wanted to restore. It was British Racing Green and when he got it running, he took me for a ride with the top down. It was awesome. He always did the work on all of our cars, until his knees got too bad and he couldn't do it any more.

I regret my Father never got to meet my husband, or our daughter. Although I knew Grimjack for many years, we didn't start dating until after my dad passed away.

One of the worst things about losing my father is what it did to my mother. She had no sisters, and her brothers aren't exactly the comforting type, nor do they live close by. It took her 2 or 3 years to start resuming some of her old activities - singing in the church choir, and going to her prayer group. They did everything together, so she was lost without him. She never really had any hobbies. She likes to read and do crossword puzzles. Her friends are not close by, and she is not the type to pick up the phone and ask a neighbor to lunch, or to go out for coffee. She will go out for lunch by herself though.

She did join a bereavement group for a while, but eventually stopped attending the social functions they organized. We all finally realized that she is not going to be different than she is, her life had changed and I still don't know whether she has accepted that. It is very difficult to watch. My father made all the decisions, and it is still hard for her to make them, she can be very indecisive. She tends to listen to my brother, the oldest of the boys. Or she'll ask 3 or 4 of us for our opinions before deciding what to do.

She is 76 years old, and they were married 41 years. Now that I have a good marriage, I can understand the impact on her. I'm pretty sure she is not going to change, but it seems such a shame to me that she could be getting so much more enjoyment out of life, if she would only bring herself to do so.

1 comment:

RT said...

I hope she finds some personal joy and allows herself to live again. She might feel guilt or feel that she is tarnishing a memory.

I haven't been in my Grandmom's house since January. I can't do it. The last time I was there I sat in her seat and it freaked me out a bit.

Her bedroom is where my uncle died 15 years ago and then where she died last year. I don't want to go near it. In fact, I'll be really happy when my dad moves.

I'm sorry about your dad. I've been at the bedside of two relatives when they died. One after a long battle with leukemia and another that happened quickly (91 year old grandmother) after being placed on life support. Both were hard, but both were suffering, too.