How often do we use the phrase "end of an era" to denote the passing of something which has been a constant in our lives for a very long time? For me, there truly Has been the End of an Era of my life recently. An Era that I've blogged about in the past has finally come to a close with the passing of my father from this mortal coil.
You never really think, in the back of your brain, that your parents will eventually be Gone. You don't want to realize that eventually, they aren't going to be there any more to comfort you, rescue you, advise you, laugh and cry with you, or rejoice with you in the accomplishments of yourself and your offspring. You learn early in life (at least, if you're lucky enough to have good parents who do what they Should) to rely on Mom and Dad to always be there, waiting in the wings, to pick you back up when you fall, dust you off, tell you it'll be ok, and send you back to try your hand again at whatever it is that you were doing when you fell down.
I've whined more than I should have, about the general hassles of what happens when your parents become dependent upon you, the way you were dependent upon them when you were a kid. I've grumbled and griped, bitched, moaned, and complained about the headaches involved in caring for an aging or disabled parent or other family member. I've railed frequently about how much I disliked having to deal with some of the issues. I've snarled rather bitterly a few times about just how much I hated having to cope with doctors and lawyers and a moneygrubbing sibling who wants none of the responsibility but all of the rewards. I've even surmised a time or two that my life would actually Improve once my father finally got on with things, gave up fighting for life, left his ailing body for the hereafter, and quit being a factor in all my decision making processes.
I'm of two minds about his passing, now that it's actually Happened.
I find that I cannot, for the most part, grieve in the normal sense of that term. I've spent the past 7 Years going through the grieving process for dad, and now that he's finally actually GONE... I've already reached the Acceptance phase. He's been terminal for so long, completely dependent upon full time nursing care, and not a Daily factor in my life, that it was easy to get to a point of no longer thinking about him as my Parent. I quit being able to depend ON him, instead having to deal with him depending on Me, that I had long since lost that feeling that "daddy should be here to pick up the pieces for me - why isn't he HERE when I need him, damnit!"
I haven't actually Missed having him around in quite a few years. After tolerating having him live with me while he was on hospice, and the changes that wrought in our relationship, missing his presence is something I'm pretty much incapable of doing.
Don't get me wrong, he was my father.... the man who raised me, provided for me while I grew up, advised me when I needed it (and sometimes when I didn't think I did) looked after me, cared for me.... when he didn't have any Biological stake in how I turned out, or even whether I survived into adulthood. I will forever be grateful to him for taking in the children spawned by another man, raising them as his own, and doing his best to see to it that we turned into decent, productive adults. (Even if he Did fail miserably with my brother.)
But missing THAT man... the man who raised me, cared for me, and spent his life providing for me and my mother and brother... isn't the same as missing the man who recently died. I've missed That man - the one who did all those great things while I was growing up - since the first stroke happened 7 years ago, and took That man out of my life, replacing him with a petulant, grumpy, overgrown child dependent upon others for everything from his housing to his personal hygiene.
No, it's not difficult to not miss him. It's certainly no loss to me not to have to deal with the issues caused by his plethora of health issues. At the end, those issues ranged the gamut from Emphasymia and Asthma, to brain damage both from multiple strokes and early onset Alzheimer's, to Bladder Cancer and Kidney Failure. According to the death certificate, it was another massive stroke there at the end that caused his final demise. But it could as easily have been the bladder cancer, the kidney failure, or an inability to breath from the COPD and Asthma. It was a race being run by multiple disease processes, and the high blood pressure causing a fatal cranial event was simply the winner of the race.
I was correct those times that I surmised my life would improve when dad finally gave up his fight. He was, even after the initial stroke, a good provider for his family. He always had been during life, and it doesn't surprise me that it didn't change with his death. Dad was pulling a pension for the past few years due to his forced retirement. When he started pulling that pension, he was given the option of naming a survivor to continue receiving those payments (in a partial, slightly lower amount) once he died. With mom long since gone to ashes with her death more than a decade ago, and dad's parents both gone either prior to his first stroke or after he was already laid low by that first one, and his only Biological child gone to the grave before my mom died, that left him three possible choices. The first choice, in my mind, would have been to not name a survivor to receive the rest of his pension payments. The second and third choices were of course me, and my brother. Dad was in one of his more Lucid moments (which, unfortunately, were rather rare the last few years of his life) when he filed for his pension. He even explained to me WHY he filed it the way that he did, though I remain to this day a tad surprised by both his thoughts concerning the issue and his capacity to Have those thoughts despite the brain damage he suffered from the stroke.
He knew that he had become a major pain in my rump by that time. He knew that I was overburdened with having to make difficult decisions, that my stress levels from dealing with everything were off the chart, and that my brother was consistently making things more difficult than they should have been via his intransigence. Dad also knew that my brother would simply spend any funds left to him on alcohol and drugs to feed his addictions, which dad had tried (and failed) to get him broken from. Lastly, he was aware that my own health was chancy at best, since I had long since been diagnosed with Lupus and Fibromyalgia - the very things that put mom into the grave while she was still in her mid-50s - and that I would be exceedingly lucky if the Lupus didn't require me to go on Disability at an age when I would otherwise still be working and no where near ready for retirement. He chose to name me as his survivor, to start receiving half the amount of his initial pension, when he died. He did that so I would still have a means of paying my bills despite my failing health, and ... in his own words... as a compensation for all the hassles he was putting me through by surviving that initial stroke rather than dying before all the money he set aside for retirement got eaten up by health care costs.
No, I won't miss the hassles. I will live better without the headaches and the stress. The insurance policies will pay off a few long standing bills that have been waiting for what seems like forever. (Which should help improve my credit score to a point where it's not in the basement.) The pension will keep the bills paid, and make it possible for me to continue seeing my doctors (since I lost my job - hence my insurance - the day that dad died) so that I might possibly regain something of my lost health. I won't miss dealing with His doctors, or the nursing home, or the seemingly endless bills with his name attached to them that I had to deal with, or listening to my brother whine about how I should have saved 'his' inheritance by not putting dad in a nursing home at all (and therefore not having to pay a nursing home Bill for dad with dad's money.) I won't miss the trips (no matter how infrequent they were, there towards the end) to the nursing home, nor shall I miss having to lie to an ill old man and tell him that life was great and things were going fine even when they were in the dumpster.
What I will miss are the things that I've missed for 7 years now. I will miss our chess games, discussing philosophy and religion. I will miss our debates about politics, religion, philosophy, and life. I will miss his insight. I will miss his sense of the absurd. I will miss the many times, even after I was an adult, when he assured me that no matter how old I got - I would always be his little girl, and could always count on him. I will miss his love, his emotional and moral support through thick and thin, and the various things he did throughout my life to bring a smile to my face even when I would rather have been crying over some hurt.
Rest well, pop. You earned it. And the man you were before the strokes... the man who raised me, loved me as his own, and supported me even when I was wrong.. will be missed for the rest of a lifetime.
In loving memory of Daniel Raymond Williams, 7/21/1945 to 1/6/2013.