My dad at age 7

I Needed To Reach My Father Before He Died

The fifties are a decade of loss. Energy and memory ebb. Your body slips into second gear.  Most devastating is the loss of family and friends to age and illness. Sometimes it’s just too much. This is one of those times.

Last week I called my dad and could barely hear him. His voice was as thin as onion skin and his sentences jumbled. Certain he was dying, I flew home the next day. Things were not as bad as I thought. My dad wasn’t dying yet, but his mind had split in two. He was either loud and mean or kind and barely audible. When he wanted my attention, he grabbed my hands and squeezed the heck out of them. I thought he was doing it on purpose when it was the best he could do. He blew me kisses with shaky hands that jerked from his lips to the air between us.

I returned to Atlanta last week and things changed quickly. Yesterday, the doctor told me my dad is ready for hospice. 

When I hung up the phone, I drove to Target for distraction, adding a few check marks to a to-do list that didn’t really need doing. Just as I straightened the wheels of the car to finish parking, Melissa Etheridge started singing Come to My Window from the radio, and I joined her. The song was strangely soothing. I didn’t realize why until I played it this morning over and over, singing and dancing like a lunatic in the kitchen. I listened to all the lyrics for the first time. It’s about loss and heartbreak. The refrain “just to reach you” slayed me. Tears poured because I realized how much I want to reach my dad while he can still hear me. Just to reach him before he dies, it’s all I want. We are all going home tomorrow morning to say goodbye.

My dad had the hard life of an alcoholic with a mental illness, and I resented his weakness. In my adult life we weren’t close. I needed to reach my dad and tell him one more time that I love him and add that all is forgiven. I haven’t told him him yet. Forgiving my father may be as important as saying I love you for both of us.