Monday, September 19, 2011

The Day My Father Died

I was with him in the afternoon. He was 85 and had been ill but wasn't then, that day. He was the same. His year round Christmas tree was decorated for summer and he was wearing shorts and a loose shirt and was barefoot.

He had hated the hospitalization of a few months earlier. It had meant a recurrence of the German POW camp memories and the PTSD was terrifying but that was behind him and he was the same. Nearly indestructible. He was the same.

I left then and drove the 10 minutes home and took the dog out and then the phone was ringing and it was him and he couldn't breathe and he sounded scared (a little) and he asked if I could come back and I said "Of course" and I went back and when I got there he was in distress and he put it in my hands.

I told him that I thought we should call 911 and asked if he wanted me to. He said that if I thought so then we should. He put it my hands.

I rode in the ambulance, in back with him (man it was so hot and I got so car sick) and held his hand. He put his hand there in my hands and he was quiet, thinking (I think) about being the same, seeking the same (if you will).

I called my sisters and I told them "Lights and sirens" and Mary raced to meet us at the hospital while Jeannie planned for plane fare.

At the hospital, in the trauma bay, the Doc said that a cut down line would do the trick. Put things right and my dad said okay, do it, go for it and we were surprised. We didn't expect the "yes". We watched, we saw bright red blood slip down his coat hanger shoulders and onto the floor and then we saw the change.

We saw his eyes come back to himself. We saw him become the same again. We saw him consider, look around and decide and then...he walked away.

I turned to Mary and said "He's dying" and the surgeon looked back over his shoulder at me  "Oh, no” he said “he's nowhere near death" and a few moments later he looked up and called us to our father's side. "He's dying" the Doc said. "He shouldn't be but he is. You might want to say good bye."

And so we did. I (we) cried because he would be gone from us- not that he was going, choosing. We knew it was his to decide. Only his hand was in my hands then. I told him I knew he was leaving and I said goodbye.

I remember thinking at the time, in that moment, that he had done it on his terms. He had considered the future after the "life saving" and that he had walked away. That he had become the same in that moment of decision.

They offered us time in the trauma bay. "As long as we might need,” they said. But we didn't stay. He was gone; he had left on his terms.


  1. Sometimes I want to punch you when you write these.


  2. You said I should comment (dammit), but what is there to add? He took his funny, goofy, magic self off and we were happy for him and sad (a little) for ever.

  3. This is actually more happy than sad - beautifully described- well done, I'm sure your Dad would be glad you understood.

  4. Thanks for writing this, Cathy. And Happy Father's Day to both him and my dad, two amazing dads who will never actually be gone. Not truly gone.

  5. Wondrous. What a great family. Happy Father's Day to your fine father's memory.