My Dad is a Titan. A warrior. A fighter. Even now in this shriveled state I sit here with his warm hand on shoulder as I am writing this. I stop now and again to cuddle it with my head. He is laying in bed breathing his last breaths. I have wept. I have prayed. I have reminisced, I have photographed, I have massaged his feet, I have drawn happy faces in his edema, I have mindlessly facebooked and surfed the internet to check out, I have even gone online shopping. I have eaten comfort foods till it wasn’t completely comfortable. I have listened to the Tibetan book of the Living and the Dead. I have barely left his side except to pee and eat.
His heartbeat is no longer strictly rhythmic, his face is taking on the shape more of a skull. His eyes are partially open but are gone…it feels as if no one is home. Not in the body per se…he might be in the room…hanging by a rapidly fraying purple thread. His breathing is like that of a latte machine. When there is a longer pause in the rhythm I look back.
I don’t know why he is continuing to fight. Yes I do. It is his nature. He will chose the time of his passing and he will confound until the end…it is his way. To be contrary. To be challenging. To be in control. I wonder if he is afraid. If through the haze of Morphine if he is worried or does the warmth of my skin on his hand bring him enough peace.
I love his hands. I have always loved his hands. Huge. Bear paws. Things that can pound people who threaten him and his. But the grace, skill, and delicacy of them. The ability to move so slowly and carefully. To fillet a fish and leave nothing for the birds. These are my memories. The juxtapositions. The protection and the fear. He never hit me. Never once in my life. But one look could stop me in my tracks. I lived in fear of a raised eyebrow.
He got louder as he got older. When he was younger people instantly cowered and checked themselves when faced with that level of MANA. He was the youngest Green Beret Instructor in the Special Forces. All it took was a look and people backed down. But as he got older he was challenged more and he did more of the challenging. He carried a weighted cane. Would drive his electric souped up wheelchair around making people jump off the sidewalk to get out of his way. He named it the Toe Crusher and would announce it and its name before the bus stopped so people would know to clear out of his way. He even mounted an airhorn on it just to really screw with people.
When a lady gave him lip about his little dog (his constant companion) being off her lead he chased the woman down the boardwalk…her shrieking and running, blond pony tail madly swinging, expensive pumps pumping. He was the defender of the weak even when they didn’t want to be defended. But it was his way. It was always his way or the highway.
When I was told he was sick. I came. It had been years. I entered his hoarders paradise and could barely move through the sea of “treasures” The kitchen was full of worm bins and compost and plant clippings. He later admitted he didn’t even like plants…he just liked giving them to people. But he would defend them and waged war on the other residents of the building who would take his tomatoes before he could gift them to his special friends.
He disrespected women and thought them genuinely incompetent most times with the only exception being his daughter who he could easily seeing running the free world. He was a lady killer. The most handsome man alive…and then he got old. And then he got lonely. He longed for his one true love Sharon. Not my mother, not the wife before her. But a girlfriend…I vaguely remember as a wee girl. He even spoke of her recently. He loved her deeply. She got wise to his ways and did not stay on the scene.
He would drink Dewers on the rocks until late and then stay up shaving his dog to look like a lion and telling me stories of his Alaskan adventures until I was falling asleep on my feet.
He was contrary, he was angry, he was homophobic, he was a racist, he was loud and aggressive, I learned to smooth the waves that he left in his path. To be the soothing presence when he had ripped open the scene. He was manipulative, he was a bull in a china shop, he was an alcoholic, he was a old school salesman that would tell you what you wanted to hear for the sale. I promised myself I would never go into business after being dragged to meetings and knowing the truth but having to keep my mouth shut.
I went into business. I created a business that was transparent, a business that healed and never hurt.
I learned what to do. I learned what not to do by example. I learned persistence and charm from my father. I also learned to not take no for and answer and to look for creative solutions to any problem. I learned that we only have one earth and it needs defending. I developed a frighteningly accurate bullshit detector, and a complete lack of shits given when I walked away from said bullshit. I was a spade caller. I just tended to do it with a little more diplomacy.
I learned more than anything that when people get belligerent. When they get angry and frustrated…if that is their nature that when they get sick that shit is going to get worse. Much worse. But that is the thing. It teaches you. It teaches you compassion if you let it. It teaches you that responding to frustration and anger with frustration and anger leads to guilt and shitty feelings on both sides.
The news of the Dallas Police shootings has just entered the bubble of my vigil. The world paralleling my father. Fear and frustration and anger. I can see it so clearly. Fear and ego. Ego and fear. The rot of the human race. But wash it away. Wash it away and you have the achingly beautiful humanity. You have the father that calls his daughter Kitten. You have the father that fought against me coming because he was afraid it would hurt my business. You have the father who protected his nurse who had looked after him for 9 years by promising that he wouldn’t die in her presence (she had been forced to watch 5 family members pass and it was her worst fear)…kept his word. He waited until I arrived to let the real decline happen so that I could relieve her. I needed it. She had looked after him for 9 years. Letting me build my dream business. Letting me create my dream life with no parental responsibilities. Wash my hands. Keep the pain away. Keep the frustration at the empty bottles away. Continents moved to keep the pain away. Without facing it…with him dying with no resolution…that would have been too much to bare.
Fear, Ego, Frustration. I was terrified to come back for the third time. I had every reason not to. Even his permission. But I am so glad I chose to come back one last time. He was too weak to growl. Fear, Ego, Frustration…they were pussy cats underneath his weakened voice, his sunken eyes. I had one conversation. I said I was sorry for having growled back at him last time I was here. He answered “you know…I drank too much.” That was all that was said before he slipped away in to the land of no communication possible. That and I love you. That was all that was needed. Forgiveness cocktails all around.
Forgiveness and compassion. This is what my fathers dying has taught me. That my fiery temper my desire to fight for the oppressed. Good qualities when ego is removed…when loving compassion is all that drives the ship. That the pain of the world…it was boiled down in the microcosm of my fathers passing. The killer cops…they were frightened, egos colour blinding them, frustration guiding their hand…the cop killer…frightened…ego colour blind…frustration guiding his gun. Underneath it all are good beautiful hearts that are scared, terrified, frustrated, acting out, causing pain in the wake of their egotic confusion. But that is not who they are. That is not what they really are.
Nope. I can see it in my dad. He had the guff. The layers that would frustrate a saint but underneath it all… A beautiful beautiful beautiful soul struggling to be seen even by himself. But I see it now. No more walls. No more frustration. Just my beautiful, beautiful father of a sad sad sad little kitten..who knows more than anything that she is loved and worthy of love because she finally learned to unconditionally love her own father.