Letters To My Dad: J is for Jungle #AprilA2Z #AtoZChallenge

Image by Jolanda de Koning from Pixabay

On January 22, 2022, my Dad died. My theme, “Letters to my Dad” is based on random thoughts about him and the aftermath of not having him around anymore.

Hey Dad,

I was thinking today about how so many friends and family called you an “amazing storyteller”.

You loved telling stories and I love writing stories…

Maybe I got the “story gene” from you? 🙂

I would like to think so.

In a quiet voice, you loved recounting your tales about when you used to visit your father in “the bush”, travelling alone on rickety boats and steamers all alone as young as nine years old.

Your encounters with all sorts of Guyanese wildlife captivated all those who were instead in all things nature.

Arapaima, caiman, jaguars, piranhas, snakes, wild pigs… you had so many stories to tell.

I was never a “nature” girl and as a kid, I would only listen with half an ear, except for the stories involving your dog Satan, your pet monkey and horribly big bugs.

To be honest, I only started appreciating your stories when I got you to join me in the library’s memoir writing class.

Memoir class protocol was for everyone to read their week’s writing during class but it happened more than once that your story monopolized class time.

You didn’t purposely want more attention but it often happened that way – others always had so many questions that you were more than happy to expand on.

And no one ever minded when their own writing was postponed to the following week.

Remember your ant story? They were all so enthralled by it that I still hear about how good it was from the memoir writing teacher.

I feel ashamed to say that it was only after you diagnosis that I truly listened intently with BOTH ears and truly realized the risks you took during your adventures.

How many times did I ask you, “How did your mother let you do that?” and your response would always be, “She never knew” followed by a big laugh.

Even you had to admit that you took some big risks and were very bold, never considering that you should have been scared.

Dad, as soon as things settle down, I’ll take all those jungle stories you shared during memoir class and type them up, “nice and neat” (as you would say) to appreciate them in my quiet time and on my own.

Loving you always,

M

Letters To My Dad: I is for Isolation #AprilA2Z #AtoZChallenge

Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com

On January 22, 2022, my Dad died. My theme, “Letters to my Dad” is based on random thoughts about him and the aftermath of not having him around anymore.

Hey Dad,

We never talked about it but for a man who loved his freedom, the isolation must have been heavy for you. And the constraints of the pandemic truly didn’t help us, did it?

Deciding to stay indoors because you have a choice is much different than being forced to stay in due to illness and a pandemic…

But we did our best to keep you from feeling isolated and alone.

From the moment you were diagnosed, you were never left alone. We made sure of it. You even boasted about it to others about how well taken care of you were. We gladly took shifts and would do it again in a heartbeat if we could.

I didn’t think that it was possible for us to be at the house more than we already were (pre-cancer) but I was wrong – it was more than possible. The house was always our ground zero and it soon became the same for the grandkids who started dropping in so much more, sanitized and masked up, at all hours.

It was sweet, very sweet.

We tried to fill the non-hospital appointment and no chemotherapy time with a bunch of different things to switch things up for you – watching the old movies you love on TCM and Silver Screen, treating you to manicures and pedicures (à la Marquessa), buying all the food stuff you would only indulge in at Christmas and holidays, running out to the corner store to buy your lottery tickets and no longer teasing you about wasting money on them, going for very short walks with your walker and slightly longer rides in your wheelchair for fresh air…

I even introduced you to some of my favorite podcasts and finally got you to understand the difference between a podcast, Youtube and “that google music machine thing”.

Or maybe you were just pretending to understand – hahaha. 🙂

I truly enjoyed listening and chatting about them – you in your Lazyboy and me on the couch – and wished we had chatted about some of those podcasts topics about life experiences long before you got sick.

Better late than never, I guess.

In the week before you passed when you were agited and weak, I loved how you smiled when we took you to the mall where we used to spend so much time. But it was also so very sad knowing that it was likely the last time you would ever visit it again.

Dad, I pray that our best was good enough to take your mind off things, even if it just for little moments of time.

But I know that no matter what we did, the “apartness” of being terminally ill must still have made you feel isolated.

Loving you always,

M

Letters To My Dad: H is for Hurt #AprilA2Z #AtoZChallenge

On January 22, 2022, my Dad died. My theme, “Letters to my Dad” is based on random thoughts about him and the aftermath of not having him around anymore.

Hey Dad,

I know that grief hurts but never in my wildest dreams did I think that grief could like “hurt hurt“.

Like physically hurt.

When I think about how you aren’t around anymore, I get this horribly tight knot in my chest that I just can’t shake. And when that happens, all I want to do is crawl into my bed until it passes but I can’t because there is always “something else” that needs to get done.

At other times…

Well, you know how when it’s winter on one of those -30 degrees Celsius days when you try not to take too many deep breaths otherwise your lungs will feel tingly and on fire? That’s the pain I feel at the base of my throat when anything reminds me of you.

But the worst kind of physical hurt I feel is whenever photos of you from your last months pop up in my cell’s photo highlights. I literally feel naseaous, like someone has punched me in the gut. In those photos, your deline was so obvious yet I guess I didn’t see it as much because I was with you every day.

Then again, maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t notice.

I only learned the word “cachectic” a few weeks ago when I was sorting through some of your hospital reports and now I wish that I could unlearn it…

Whenever I look at your pre-cancer photos, I feel warmth that takes all that physical pain away. I can’t help but smile to myself and even laugh.

So why can’t I spend more time looking at the “before” photos to take the pain away?

Why do I keep lingering on the “after” photos that cause me the physical pain?

What is wrong with me?

Loving you always,

M

Letters To My Dad: G is for God #AprilA2Z #AtoZChallenge

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On January 22, 2022, my Dad died. My theme, “Letters to my Dad” is based on random thoughts about him and the aftermath of not having him around anymore.

Hey Dad,

My faith in God and all things spirituality are at an all-time low.

Over the years, my faith has ebbed and flowed but now I don’t even have the energy to find it.

I’m not even sure if I want to find faith or God again.

You know that I have always been more spiritual than religious.

I miss the comfort of having faith in a higher power. I miss how spirituality used to make me feel grounded, believing that the universe is good, that things happen for a reason and all that other jazz.

Instead, I find myself always wondering why so many nice, selfless, unassuming people get hit so hard with a multiple of bad things while those who purposely create chaos in the world and thrive on nasty never seem to get their comeuppance.

You know, basically, the age old question of “why do bad things always seem to happen to good people?”

I know that you are unhappy with my loss of faith because you keep sending me signs to guide me back in that direction.

The other day, I understood your most recent “sign” loud and clear when all the radio stations in the car went static and the only one that would play properly was this one.

I knew it was you playing tricks on me. 🙂

I mean, a radio station I have never heard before in the old van that has no fancy satellite radio stuff? I am a “radio girl” and know every station in that van.

I sat in the parking lot for twenty minutes listening to the announcers expound on living in faith instead of living in fear.

And because I know it’s you, I haven’t touched the radio dial so that’s the station that greets me every time I drive.

Lots of people would say that now that you’re gone, I’m finding “something” in “everything”.

Maybe that’s true.

But they don’t know about our conversations when I made you promise to send me “signs” after you were gone.

Signs to let me know that you are ok.

Signs that you’ve been following through on like a champ on an almost daily basis in many different ways.

You know what Dad? Maybe I haven’t lost as much faith as I thought. But what I have left to find I will slowly find my way back to, even if it’s just for you.

Loving you always,

M

Letters To My Dad: F is for Funeral #AprilA2Z #AtoZChallenge

Image by keesluising from Pixabay

On January 22, 2022, my Dad died. My theme, “Letters to my Dad” is based on random thoughts about him and the aftermath of not having him around anymore.

Hey Dad,

As the self-appointed “gatekeeper” of the family (or as you always called me, “Miss Fix-It”), I ended up planning your funeral.

You and I both know how good I am at being organized and thinking 20 steps ahead, not because I am perfect but because it reduces my anxiety levels. But under these circumstances, I wish that I could have delegated your funeral arrangements to someone else.

I’m not sure that I would have been able to cope if we hadn’t agreed to pre-arrange your funeral with your personal involvement. Yeah, it would have been too overwhelming for me but I would have found a way to deal with it while pretending that I was fine.

Your funeral.

It was barely a week after your diagnosis that pragmatic youngest bro suggested that you have an active role in the arrangements.

I won’t fool you. The suggestion to pre-arrange hit me harder than I thought, which was weird because I had pre-arranged my own funeral the year before and was very cut and dry about it. But then again, I wasn’t dying when I finalized my plans.

Deep down, I knew that youngest bro was right. Whatever you would want is what we would want to do for you.

But I can’t imagine how you must have felt, knowing that you were actually dying.

“Marq, you pre-arranged your own funeral last year, right? Why don’t you call the person you signed with and ask them if they are open to coming to the house?” That is what littlest bro said and when you agreed Dad, that is what I did.

So there we were. A bright and sunny Saturday morning in the month of May at 8h00 in the livingroom with all us, including oldest bro who travelled down, and the funeral home rep. Over Tim Horton’s coffees and doughnuts, we tried to make the situation as light as possible. So light in fact that I think that the funeral rep was a bit weirded out by being outnumbered and our attitude..

A viewing or no viewing? How many viewings? How much chapel time? The funeral home officiant or own our officiant? Cremation or no cremation? The type of urn? A smaller keepsake urn that could be taken to Puerto Rico to toss in the ocean you loved so much and another for Guyana to bury with your parents?

After that meeting, all that was left was for me to do was to make a follow up appointment to finalize and prepay for all that was decided that early Saturday morning in May.

May…

June…

July...

August...

September...

October…

November…

I kept dragging my feet, foolishly hoping that my procrastination would keep the inevitable at bay.

And I think you knew it.

“When are you going to go pay for the funeral thing?” You said it once and only once.

It was your way of letting me know that it was time for me to get it done and relieve myself of that heaviness on my shoulders.

And so at a 6:00 pm appointment on a November night, I got it done.

But I was more worried about the corner we had turned towards the inevitable. 😦

Loving you always,

M

Letters To My Dad: E is for Existence #AprilA2Z #AtoZChallenge

A very early morning walk with my Dad…

On January 22, 2022, my Dad died. My theme, “Letters to my Dad” is based on random thoughts about him and the aftermath of not having him around anymore.

Hey Dad,

Remember this photo I snapped of you a few years back?

Now when I look at it, I envision you walking off into the happiness of a better place where you will be waiting for me when the time comes.

A peaceful and gentler place far way from this messy world of pain and entanglements.

When I took this photo, I never thought that I would be looking at it with a totally different perspective – a time where you would be existing elsewhere.

Dad, I know that life goes on.

I mean, bills don’t pay themselves, houses don’t self-clean, other people’s health issues still have to be addressed and estates need to be settled.

In our case, loaned hospital beds had to scheduled for pick-up, feeding pumps had to UPSed back from where they came and an entire duffle bag of medications had to be triaged and returned to the pharmacy for proper disposal.

Actually, I’m lying about that last one – it was only a few Sundays ago that I forced myself to sit on the livingroom floor and sort through that duffle bag of trial and errors.

That duffle bag brought me back to giving you post-chemo injections. Juggling pain medications to maximize relief yet minimize their build-up in your system. Medications every 2 hours, some every 4 hours, others every 6 and the rest every 8 hours.

Most days I feel like that ’round the clock care never happened, like it was just a dream that never really occurred.

And it irks me that, as time marches on, it’s like YOU never existed.

Like you were never born.

Like you were never even here.

When a funeral is over, there are a few check-in phone calls from less immediate family and friends. Then, those calls become more sporadic, sprinkled here and there until the phone no longer rings. Your existence begins to fade for them as they get on with the business of life and that is understandable.

Very understandable.

I often think, is this what we as humans are all eventually reduced to?

Fancy suits and dress pants left hanging in overstuffed closets. Boxes full of Father’s Day, birthday and Christmas cards tucked safely under a beds. Boxes of trinkets and dollarstore items we teased you about for “collecting” but never using. A bunch of “stuff” that will need to be sorted through when we feel strong enough to tackle that mountain.

I’m a little ashamed to say it but…

Just the other day, I noticed a family taking a walk together, smiling and laughing so louldy that I could hear them through the closed window. And you know what I thought? What I actually said out loud to myself while I stood at that window?

“How dare you guys look so happy when my Dad is dead.”

I know, I know…

It’s plain old jealousy mixed with envy because I remember when we used to laugh and talk so loudly that others would give us those “why are you being so loud” looks and we didn’t care.

I was looking at that family thinking how unfair it was that life happily goes on for others while I’m erasing your identity and existence via endless paperwork and phone calls to authorities, organizations and establishments. Some days I don’t even want to get out of bed because I don’t know where I left off the day before.

Dad, as you would say, “One day at a time Marq” and I have no choice but to approach it that way each and every day.

Loving you always,

M

Letters To My Dad: D is for Death #AprilA2Z #AtoZChallenge

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

On January 22, 2022, my Dad died. My theme, “Letters to my Dad” is based on random thoughts about him and the aftermath of not having him around anymore.

Hey Dad,

Thank you for deciding that passing away at home was the only option.

Fifty-four years in the same house is a long time and we didn’t expect you to want it any other way.

You were able to be at peace in the house you made a home, where we have so many memories. We were able to continue coming and going as we pleased with little need to juggle too many covid concerns and pandemic protocols.

Remember when I taped this sign I found on the internet to the front door to remind everyone to be extremely careful around you?

You had such a good laugh at this graphic that I posted a second one near your Lazyboy chair. 🙂

Early on in your diagnosis, you professed that you weren’t afraid of dying.

In your words, “Dying is like going to sleep and simply not waking up”. You said it time and time again to others when the topic came up.

I know that you meant it but deep down, I also know that you were putting on a brave face for the “others”.

In the quiet times, sometimes late at night, it was with us, your kids, that you broke down. And when you broke down, we put on our brave faces to comfort you.

Remember how I used to suffer from insomnia as a kid and had such a hard time falling asleep?

How it was so bad that oftentimes biggest bro would do his high school homework at the desk in my room just to keep my company until I did eventually fall asleep?

What I never told you was that I dreaded going to sleep because of a recurring nightmare I would have – where I would wake up to find out that you, Mom and the boys were gone and I was left alone by myself in the world – a world I already knew, even at that young age, didn’t favor little girls who looked like me.

To fall asleep, I would often pray that I could die first so that I would never have to experience that kind of aloneness and loneliness.

The thought of my own death has never frightened me. Even when the doctors thought that I had a cancerous tumour as a teenager, I wasn’t afraid. Not one bit. I remember telling you that and you being surprised.

My fear of death has only ever been related to my loved ones like you. And with you actually gone now, my insomnia has reappeared.

Don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. I’m taking steps to deal with it.

Don’t you fret Dad. I’ll eventually be ok.

Loving you always,

M