I love my family. They’re a freaky fun umbilical cord to my gene pool.
This week my family has been gathering in Madison to laugh, to cry, to share memories and ultimately, to say goodbye to my father. I find it ironic that he was born in Madison and even though he doesn’t live here anymore, he will come full circle by dying here. Life’s little coincidence? I don’t think so.
We had great fun and wonderful memories coming to visit my Grandma & Grandpa and aunts & uncles in Madison. My dad had some pretty incredible parents & siblings. They did remarkable acts of love for each other and my parents did the same for us kids.
By some other people’s standards we were poor. My parents reproduced like rabbits and raised ten kids on a very limited income with help from his brother’s & sister. As far as us kids knew we always had enough. We ate cheaply but we didn’t go hungry. We weren’t the best dressed kids but we had clean clothes. We didn’t have the latest toys but we were quite an imaginative bunch with creating our own fun, especially outside. By a freaky twist of fate all ten of us were born in a different month so at least once a month we had birthday cake.
When they couldn’t cram all of us into a station wagon ‘comfortably’ anymore they bought an old school bus & converted it into a camp-mobile. Our camping trips were epic! Dad playing his guitar & singing around the campfire was the highlight. Our family times were filled with laughter, fun, fighting, humor, cat-fights and just enough dysfunction to keep our bonds of loyalty intact.
My dad gave us unconditional love. He was there for us when we needed his help and he was with us to help celebrate the little stuff along with the big. His caring & giving to people and animals was immeasurable. He had a wicked sense of humor that was passed on to us kids which often bit him in the ass because we gave him a run for his money when bantering back & forth with him. Some people may have viewed it as being disrespectful, instead, my dad enjoyed it and found the humor in it. I could talk about anything with him and often did. Nothing was off-limits.
When I arrived at the hospital on Tuesday night it looked like I would not have the chance to ever communicate with him again. Wednesday morning I was talking & laughing in his room with siblings when I had a light bulb moment & in an excited voice loudly exclaimed, “We can bring Dad to Ireland!!!” (referring to his ashes). His eyes popped open & he looked at me. I was already excited but now I’m thinking, “Holy crap! He’s not in a coma!” So without a beat I said, “Dad. Do you want to go to Ireland with us?! “When?” he said. “I don’t know, sometime in May?” He actually looked like he was thinking and made some ‘maybe’ noises and then went back to sleep. I was ecstatic! I was so going to bring my Dad to Ireland!
This last week of his life has been a truely spiritual gift. When doctors thought he was entering into the coma stage of death, he defied them and ‘came back’ to us for additional days of interaction. Despite the emotional roller coaster ride of watching someone in the throes of dying, my dad’s verbal and non-verbal interactions with us and the hospital staff brought us sweet relief in the form of laughter & words of love. He loved puckering up and giving my Mom kisses.
We’ve brought him to hospice now and he’s in the final stages of life. I curse these damnedable love emotions and the tears they create. I’m tired of crying and yet the tears keep coming and they burn my eyes. Going out to the woods to cry was therapeutic; you can really let loose and Mother Nature is very understanding. I am honored to have had my father’s unconditional love and even though I went kicking and screaming into caring for him, I have learned valuable lessons from the experience. I learned that I have unconditional love for him too.