My father passed away last Friday. He was the last of that generation of my family… the only person still alive who had known me from birth.
As I write those words, I feel my mind rattling the fibres of my heart and soul It is desperately trying to generate the tears that it knows should be freely flowing. And yet, my tears will not join in the mourning process of life and death that have always defined my being. And so my brain again sends out a demand for the outward sign of sorrow that any child should shed over the loss of a parent. But my heart and soul are hard-headed, Irish stubborn and simply turn their back on my brain’s logical entreaty for their emotional engagement.
In late February, when my father took ill, I journeyed several times to visit him in Florida. Each time it became more clear that independent living would no longer be his life option. So I started taking steps that every child must in helping a parent move through the evolution of their life. I found him acceptable medical care, I monitored his mail and paid his bills, I made phone calls to cheer and encourage him—all from a very frustrating long distance away. Finally, my father and I agreed that it was time for him to come home, with me, to live…and in our unspoken words….to die.
In preparation for the move, I spent a weekend packing my father’s apartment into boxes of “donate”, “throw out” and “send home for dad’s new life”. At the end of the three days, I transported a car loaded with his clothes, personal effects and artwork to a nearby United Parcel shipping store and gave them my address as the destination. I was proud of my sorting and packing achievement and genuinely excited over the prospect of my father returning to my life. I knew that our time together would be shorter than long, but still….it would be ours to share.
Yesterday the 21-box collection of my father’s possessions were delivered to my home. As the brown uniformed UPS man moved each cardboard container into my garage, the feelings of hope I had experienced in packing up my father’s life were gone. They were now replaced with dread at the daunting prospect of sorting through everything again. Only this time the sorting would be into boxes of “donate”, “throw out” and “for family members to keep in memory”.
Finally, with the loving help of my daughter, I set about unpacking those 21 boxes that I imagined would provide my father comfort in our new life together. They now sit sorted and emptied. A few are in the “trash”pile, some are set aside to accept new contents from a proposed “clean out the barn” project, The rest are receptacles for the mountain of pink peanuts that kept every last memento safe and sound in their long distance journey. And while the process was sad, still I have yet to cry or mourn.
I am hoping that these last few months ….years really….have played out in a way that have left me numb. That as I have a chance to reflect and review, feelings and emotions will return to my being and I will grieve as I know I should…. as is my way.
Yet if and when I do, deep down in my heart I believe that my sadness will be as much for what was not, as what was.