Here is a picture of me and my Dad, taken, well – a long time ago. And here is a brief story of why I consider him a hero.
On December 7, 2010, I had to take my mom to the emergency room, and they told us she had cancer. Both of us somehow knew, even before that date, that something was terribly wrong – it was hanging in the air but had remained unspoken. Until that night of 12/7. My whole world as I knew it just dropped away and fell on the floor that night – never to be recovered…I remember calling my Dad in California and telling him. And I told him I didn’t know how I was going to get through this. I had no other family in Oklahoma; was separated from my husband. It was just me and my mom…
By the next day, he had offered to come out to Tulsa to be with us. He’s remarried – has been for many years . But he offered to leave that life behind for a while, and come help me get things in order. At first he was just going to stay until she could get some treatment for pain and things settled down a bit. But things never really settled down, and 13 weeks later she passed away. Those were the most awful, and longest, yet quickest 13 weeks of my entire life. I can’t even imagine what they were like for my mom.
My Dad essentially put his life on hold for 3 months and stayed with us – first through Christmas and New Year’s, when he was the driver who got my mom to her radiation treatments, doctor’s appointments, and pharmacies, while I tried to work. He then stayed through the blizzard in January, which left us essentially trapped, with no home health care help for a week – just him and me taking care of her in shifts. He stayed once we got her into Clarehouse, an end of life facility here in Tulsa. He stayed when it got to the point where I had stopped working completely because we had to be with her 24 hours a day and we both slept in the room with her – he slept in a chair, I slept on a day bed. He stayed till the very end. Then he stayed a week after her death, to help me try to start putting things back together again.
My parents were divorced when I was maybe 3 – so I don’t really have any memories of us being all together. He and I were never really very close while I was growing up. Maybe there’s been resentment on my part over the years for the fact that he left…but I can honestly say, any issues we had or feelings of resentment are completely gone. When I needed him the most, he was there for me. In a way that I cannot ever repay.
I think all 3 of us tried to forgive each other for any pain we may have caused, although my mom held on to a lot of resentment and anger up till the very end, and we were never able to talk about it. I don’t want to live my life that way – I won’t wait until I’m on my death bed to let go of things that no longer matter anyway. How great to forgive and be forgiven. Now, between me and my Dad, it’s all good. We have shared a pilgrimage.
Buen Camino, Dad.
**note: there are A LOT of other people whom I’d like to thank for their help during this time also, including but not limited to:
M Neil, for letting me borrow my Dad for 3 months
S Torrez, for the late nite shift
J & D Zaremba, for the best last Xmas & New Year
Clarehouse staff, for their patience & calm presence
All the family out there (Tiff, Tanya, Lisa, Bill, Chris, Jesse, the Coppolas) for checking up on me
M McClendon, for listening
T Libasci, for that harrowing ride in the snow
C & T Crowe, for the food deliveries
D Workman, for being SuperDayl
D Workman, for being SuperDayl
K Bates, for the kind words
Y Maruoka for the love, cranes & cookies from Japan
K Yutani, for the present from Berlin
J Umansky & parents, for the flowers to brighten the room
All my mom’s friends & past co-workers who reached out to us to offer support and condolences
Everyone who donated to Clarehouse (www.clarehouse.org)