who's the mommy around here anyway?

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Dad, My Hero

I just made a reservation for a flight to Fla. to visit my mom. I usually love these visits, catch up with Mom and Dad, get told by loving parents how great I am, visit with their friends and get shown off...

But this time I'm going there to say goodbye. My dad is ill, hooked up to a ventilator. He's had a stroke, his bad heart is failing, and my mother signed the DNR with my brother's and my consent. I hope I get there before Dad passes.

Dad was six feet tall, handsome and capable and smart, and I was his little girl, Daddy's girl. I adored my father, and though he was a man of few words, and none of them emotional, I know the feeling was mutual.

After a particularly terrifying childhood nightmare I would wake up and make my way into my parent's room and sit by Dad's side of the bed and stare at him. I remember doing this. Mom said it was because I favored him over her that I would wake up at night and sit at his side of their bed, but I was there because my big, strong hero of a Dad would protect me and and keep the nightmare monsters away. I was safer at his side even if he was sleeping. If he opened his eyes and woke up, I was untouchable. Even as a teenager, if I'd passed a sleepless night, when the alarm went off in my parents' room and I heard my dad get up to start his day I'd relax, knowing that whatever was on my mind, when Dad began his morning ritual, all was right with the world. I had such faith in him.

I remember being about 4 or 5 when he taught me to ride a bike. He ran beside me, holding me up on the bicycle from which he'd so recently removed the training wheels, and then came that last moment when he let go and I didn't fall, I felt like I was flying and I called out, "Look Daddy, I can do it!" He was proud of me then, as proud as he was over the years when I brought home good report cards, or my first paycheck, or his first granddaughter.

I remember leaving him, leaving home, moving out when I was 21 into a place of my own. He stood in my little studio apartment and looked around, and he just looked so forlorn and sad that I wanted to pack all my things back up and say, "Nevermind, I've changed my mind." If on that day my dad had told me that I was moving into a dump, and maybe I should come home till I found a better place, I probably would have listened...but he wasn't selfish, he let me go.

My heart is breaking. Friends who've been through this offer their support and kind words and hugs, but this is a lonely road to walk. I've always thought you're not really a grown up until your parents are gone, but who wants to grow up if this is the price you have to pay?


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