You must understand that taking care of my father who had seven brain tumors, kidney and lung cancer was too much for me to bear. But I had a grandiose sense that I could handle anything at that time in my life. Therefore when my father asked to move from his hospice in Moorpark, CA to my home in Portland, OR . I said “yes” immediately.
It didn’t matter that I had already experienced him having seizures on the street, or being angry that he was told to wear adult diapers. I had taken him to four hospitals in California in only six weeks, one in which he almost blew up the place because he tried to smoke with the oxygen on. It is clear I had no clue what I was trying to tackle.
So I said “yes” and my father and I boarded a plane via wheelchair and flew back to Portland.
Let this be said: even though, my father was neglectful…I know he did his very best to take care of us. He would always make sure we had breakfast and he would often cook dinner if he was home. He spoke to me as if I was an adult and we shared many conversations about life, consciousness, the ego and many other metaphysical ideas.
I quite enjoyed these conversations. But the fact of the matter was I overly adored my father. I was so impressed by his presence that I overlooked the little things like coming home to slamming cupboards and sitting silently for weeks in his chair. Plus he always denied that he smoked but I knew he did and we kept that charade going until his diagnosis.
I spent a lot of time wondering what his mood was going to be. I never knew when he was coming home or leaving and to this day I do not know where he went when he left the front door. I do know he was hilarious, smart and unconventional. He dazzled many who knew him. But I also knew he was very depressed and that he had an angry streak behind closed doors. It was interesting to watch the duality of his personality. And I always prayed he would be happy all the time.
When he came to my home my first husband and I set him up in the spare bedroom. There he remained fully drugged until his life ended.
The problem was I was his nurse. I saw him naked, I wiped his butt, I made sure he did not fall and I listened to him talk to me as if I was a stranger. He would look down my shirt and then realize he forgot I was his daughter. This became the norm in the house and I dealt with it the only way I knew how: drinking Zima and stealing his medicine.
But listen carefully. There is an unspoken secret that caregivers and family have with a terminally ill loved one. The secret is that we all begin to wonder when will it end. When will my loved one die already? This secret induces extremes amount of guilt that becomes suppressed and eventually manifests somewhere else in our lives.
Therefore when he was taking his last breaths and I was giving him permission to go, I was feeling relief. I did not know how much I would miss him everyday and how I would still cry often after a decade. I could not see passed the moment. And when our six-player CD shuffled onto “My Way,” by good old blue eyes himself he died.
I kept his body in his room so family members had time to say goodbye before he was burned to dust. A candle was lit beside him in some holy manner but it began to melt his skin.
And I was in shock. Complete and utter shock.
My dad always promised to make after death communications with me. I truly trusted in that. And the day that he died I walked downstairs to take a bong-hit and the music box he had given me years before played by itself from across the room for over a minute. “It had to be you, it had to be you, I wandered around and suddenly found some one so true….” And I smiled and said hello.
However, that day I broke into 1000 pieces. I would never be the same. Before me laid the work to put myself back together. And when I did something wonderful happened: I found humility. And in humility I found myself.