Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Am Very Content To Sit Here And Hold Your Hand

Art work by Jamie of http://inspiredmess.blogspot.com

When I was twelve, when I was thirteen, when I was fourteen and when I was fifteen, when I was twenty two and twenty three and twenty four, I thought I might see my father die. He had congestive heart failure. Sometimes he was hidden away in his bedroom. I remember that I would peek through the old fashion keyhole as a little girl to look at him.

We were not suppose to go in. He was resting. He needed his rest.

One day I realized, it has been four days. I have not seen my own father in four days. This did not seem good. It did not seem right.

I snuck in his room. To sneak in, you have to be very, very quiet. Secret operative quiet. There is a latch on the other side of the door that would open with a “Thwack” and then my mother would be on and up the stairs and I would be yanked back from the thereshold I just wanted to cross. To see my Dad.

Now if I can get in and if I did get in, now I must deal with the floors. Squeaky. It is best to get on your hands and knees. If you can get to the latch hook rug a few feet away, you are half way home.

I’m on it… I can do it. It’s been four days. I don’t see how someone can not leave a bedroom for four days.

I’ve crawled the length of the hard wood floors and I am just under him. Where he sleeps. But he is just a bump under the covers. Not even a big bump. Covers will have to be moved to see his face. I just want to see his face. If I see his face, I can see if he is breathing, if I see that he is breathing, I can believe, at least for a while, that when my mother says, everything is going to be fine, that everything might be fine, even if people are coming over with grim expressions on their face and tight smiles for me and my sisters.

And a priest. He came. He came for last rites. I know that because even though I am little, I went to CCD and had my first communion and I know all about what last rites are and all that.

They are not for people that are going to be fine.

That’s why I have to see for myself. I just see scalp and forehead and eye brows and the start of his nose. But I’ve seen some medical shows and I know I need to cup my little hand by his face and check for breathing.

Please be breathing, Dad.

It’s not there. His breath is gone and he is dead and we are left alone and she cannot take care of us and I don’t want to live anywhere else and they are already talking about splitting us up and he is the fun one and he lets me watch TV and doesn’t yell when he finds me sneaking “Late Night With David Letterman” way, way past my bed time and he gives me pep talks even though I have to wear glasses and I get called four eyes but I know he will make it okay.

He is a good Dad.

He’s alive. I can’t feel it on my hand so I put my face down near his. I can’t feel it on my cheek so I put my face right to his face. And I feel it. If I stop myself from breathing and really concentrate, I can feel it. It’s on my eye lashes.

I put my hand under his. It feels like we are holding hands.

And I am content to just hold his hand.

It’s all these years later and I will tell you, I can be an emotional girl. My sister said to me, “Sometimes, you are over emotional.” I don’t care about that. To her, that is a put down. That is like saying, “you are weak.” That would not sit well with her. To be over emotional.

I feel like if love swells your heart when you care for someone deeply, it will also break it when they are suffering.

I worry more when I’m under emotional. I can freeze and close off and you cannot get next to me. I can be in the most emotional situation but shut down and not be touched.

I can see myself at my boyfriend’s father’s funeral and I can see everything. My outfit, how I wore my hair. Planned my pocketbook… have gum, have tissues, have extra money, in case something is needed. Like ice. Someone always needs to go out for ice.

And still I waited there, in the car, by the car, circling the car because I did not want to go into the Church and I did not want to see and I would sooner end this relationship or make up some small, medium or large lie about why I couldn’t go. I do not want to see grief up this close.

I did do it. But I snuck out right after the service. I was a coward.

Two days ago, I had to go see my great uncle. He is very old. He has lived a beautiful life. In death… in death as it is coming to him, has not been kind. I could feel myself, in the knowing that I would have to visit him and that it would be painful, slowly shutting down. Like in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia are in the trash compactor and the walls are coming in.

I know that this is all from feelings of having just, quite frankly, really have had enough of this. Suffering. I hate it. I hate not being in control. I hate seeing my loved ones cry. I hate from the last time I was there, how my uncle looks at me, a once vital and active man, looking at me, like this will be the last time.

I want to be the little girl who is protected and not allowed in the room.

I made a conscious choice going over to see my great uncle. “This is not about you. Man up. Get it together. Be a grown up. This is harder on him and harder on your aunt and you certainly can grow a spine and sit with a man that you love and be okay. And yes it might be painful but you’ve been through pain. Still here? Yes. Good, then I think you can take it.”

He was not sitting up, as I had last seen him. When he purposely put on a dress shirt and slacks. He did that for me. So I would be protected and not see how sick he was. My father used to do that too. There were so many horrible bruises on his arm from his heart surgeries (I think they take a vein from there and use it in the reconstruction) that he would purposely hide his arm under a towel so we would not see it.

So we would be protected.

I sat by my uncle. He was in a hospital bed though he was at home. He had lost so much weight. “Do not let your eyes show that you are scared, that you are sad. Let only love be here. When he sees you smile you are the little girl he took to the beach. Let him see that. He is remembering you that way and give yourself the gift of remembering him that way.”

And I took his hand. And I held it. And even after an hour and my aunt said I could leave, I just said, “I am very content to sit here and hold his hand.”

I couldn’t understand a lot of what he was saying. And when he stared Heavenward and started to point and then gasped and then stopped breathing, my aunt begged us to all hold hands and say a Hail Mary. And I was sure that he would die.

And I was not scared and I did not want to run and I did not want to not be there.

I just held his hand. And when he took his other hand and put it gently on my face, I did not cry. I smiled. I stayed present. I knew and I know, that was the last time. And if he goes and when he goes, I will be happy that instead of protecting my heart—I walked in there and I sat down and I held his hand.

I know it sounds crazy and I know you would have to know me to know that this is true. But it's the jet skiing that did it. Somehow facing all those fears... feeling boundlessly strong out on that adventure with my sister and dear friend, made this moment with my uncle come together and not break me apart. And now, when he's gone, I will have something to hold and be mine instead of being filled with regret that I walked away.