Dad, a New Life

21 January, 2019 Ken ChroniclesFamily & Personal

It’s been over a month, but I still don’t know where to start. So many things. So many feelings. My Father passed into Eternity, and my faith and memory of him brings me a peace in this, but it’s still hard, so hard. I have to keep reminding myself that Jesus wept, too.

Anyone who knew him asserts without doubt that Heaven was made for people like him. And it’s a place he’s been before. He was dead for a few moments during a surgery earlier in life, and it was so peaceful he didn’t want to leave, but he still had things to do. In a conversation about this last time we visited him in Arizona, he said there were three particular things he intended to do, and had done two of them. I didn’t ask because I figured if he wanted to share them he would have. It’s at the top of a list of things I will always be curious about in this lifetime. But between his first experience and this last was a span of the whole lives of my estranged brother, myself, and my step-family. I am sure what needed to be done was done.

Living so far away for so many years made him a supportive background to my life, and I can look back and feel his prayerful, supportive presence throughout the years he raised me. In some ways, none of this changes now.

I’ve been mindful of mortality, with my Wife’s Mother and one of our dear pets having passed in the last year. As the years progressed, I have been mindful of my Father’s age — he would have been 84 this last Christmas Eve. I have tried to speak with him about anything and everything, much like I had done with my Grandparents. But larger regrets all avoided, small things keep kicking me in the soul, little things about my childhood only he may have known, for example. (I still want to call or text him on my everyday experiences and achievements, or get help while at Home Depot, the dual purpose being to make him feel valued as a parent and the obvious value of his advice in the first place.)

We didn’t have an Advent. We went through the motions, with my Wife decorating early because “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute”. My Mom-in-Law’s birthday is Christmas Day, so with that and my Father’s being Christmas Eve, it made for a somewhat solemn but still warm holiday cherishing those who are still with us. It was just different, like life itself now.

It’s like I’m in a new era personally. I have trouble describing it. It’s like the mantle has been passed to me and I can neither rely on my Father nor concern myself with approval, although I thought of getting “WWJD” shirts for the family, meaning “What Would Jerry Do?” I feel … free — but not in a way that suggests I was being held back by anyone other than myself. It’s a strange sense of “Okay, I’m done playing around. I’m ready to enter the ring and make it count.” It’s not that I didn’t take life seriously, but it is all relative, and now it seems even more real than before.

Not being much on specific New Year’s resolutions, I still use this time of year as a reevaluation and reorganizing of my life. I archive old things (and decided that I will either finish digitizing my life’s worth of files by my 50th birthday in April or toss it all out); I close out my year’s photos and videos after Little Christmas, and finish up financial matters for taxes. And doing my travel expense report I realized I was spending almost FOUR TIMES the miles on not-for-profit purposes than business. I won’t apologize for it, but maybe I should — it’s time I come to grips with my family’s financial security and future rather than eking by on bills. My Masonic lessons teach me to do better in this, and as such I am trying to organizing set times (generally) for paying business and personal affairs.

Back to the narrative of early December, I received the call my Father was just set up for in-home hospice on a Monday. (He had battled throat cancer and had to put off a second series of chemo rounds because the radiation treatments took too much out of him. He couldn’t talk most of the weeks previous and we talked on the phone sparingly on and off. I had hoped we could text more often, but this wasn’t his thing and he was just too tired.) I set up plane tickets to go out Wednesday and spend the rest of the week with him, possibly longer. It was one of the roughest times in my life setting this up.

Just the next day, in the middle of a Lodge officers meeting, I got the call from Kathy he had passed. I cancelled the trip so I could reschedule for a time better for the family and myself. Besides, I couldn’t afford to go twice, even on credit, and it was a fortune on short notice. This is where divine serendipity kicked in. Had I been on a plane that Wednesday morning, I likely would have been at a hospital in Denver or wherever the layover was for the plane trip — that morning, my speech was slurring and I couldn’t move the side of my face.

Mimi, my chiropractor, noticed it when on the phone with her. I called Merry, who was with her Father, and she rushed over to take me to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital. (I would have gone to Sisters based on past experiences, but time may have been crucial and the service turned out to be very good this time.) I started texting her things like “my ID is in my right coat pocket” in case I was unable to speak.

Based on mobility issues limited to my face, Merry (and everyone at the hospital) assumed it was Bell’s Palsy, which I never heard of before (but is apparently so common almost everyone tells me they or people they know have had it). I had neck pain and a bad taste in my mouth days earlier that likely was a jaw infection. Nonetheless, they had to check for a stroke, so I spent the day at the hospital, mostly waiting for an MRI. It was my first time — I tuned out my restrictive, narrow environment and imagined the loud noise as industrial dance music, though it was mixed with oldies on a set of headphones. Everything checked out, except for an anomaly in my brain we will eventually take a closer look at.

Which circles me back to a deep sense of mortality. If I knew the length of my days, what would I do differently? Shouldn’t I be doing that anyway? I still love playing Minecraft more than I probably should, and get more sleep than I need (maybe), but I just can’t get enough of time with Merry, and want to tell my story through various books before I’m gone. I also see my role for my daughter being more clearly like my Father was to me — at a supportive distance but always open and close to heart. Her telling me I was continuing his legacy was the ultimate compliment.

He who gave me life in the most meaningful sense of the word begins his new life, and I begin a new life of sorts myself.

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