Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Losing someone piece by piece
I'm losing my dad. The timing is unclear, but the end is not. I'm losing him. First he lost his all-knowing status, when I was a kid and saw him trust this short, old, cigar-smoking guy who called himself "Little Irish". I could tell the guy was a weasel the moment I saw him, and assumed Dad would send him away, but he didn't. It puzzled me that he couldn't read the guy right off. I was 12.
But that was a loss of an ideal, opening the way to begin seeing Dad as an individual--a person, not just my dad.
Several years ago I lost even more, as he went virtually overnight from a strong, active guy climbing mountains with 100 pounds on his back, hauling rock, building fences, skiing in the Alps, to a guy who couldn't climb to the top of his own backyard without stopping, as sarcoidosis grabbed him. Then he lost his sight at intermittent and inconvenient times. Flying back from the Alps he suddenly went blind in O'Hare International Airport while needing to get from one terminal/concourse to the other.
While he has regained his vision, his strength, his breathing, his vitality has never returned. I lost the strong guy who could move mountains (or at least cross them). I lost the hero.
Since then, we've lost him a little bit here, a little bit there, as each health complication says that time is marching on toward a place I do not want to go--a world without Dad.
He has fought diabetes for 48 years, and sarcoidosis for probably the last 10 years, and he is losing the fight. The body seems to have lost the ability to assist him in the fight. Blood sugar drops rapidly and so low that he can be near death with no warning. Hypoglycemic episodes seem to have done some brain damage, and now he is confused by things he would never have been confused by before. So I have lost the abiity to count on his sharp mind.
He has developed congestive heart failure, swelling around his heart making it more difficult to manage each day. He is in pain and discomfort most of the time. I don't want to lose him, but I don't want to keep him, either.
So what do I pray for? I find myself praying for his end to come swiftly, and then immediately take it back, as if my prayers would cause God to take him before his time. I am horrified at the thought that I could want him gone, when that is not at all what I want. I want him not to suffer. I want to know the outcome. I want to know things I cannot know, to prepare for things I cannot prepare for. It's as if I want to hurry along the process, to get it over with and somehow to skip the process of loss.
What I cannot bear, but have no choice but to, is the dragging out of grief. I have always loved the anticipation more than the event, never wanting to know the surprise ahead of time. I was never the kid who sneaked a peek at Christmas or birthday presents. I never wanted to spoil the surprise. But now, the anticipation is awful. Horrid. I want to rip off the bandaid all at once, yet I don't want to do this at all.
Is there a numbing agent that will permit me to continue and never feel this? Ah, but that would take away all the other things. No joy in the bird song in the morning. No peaceful wonder at the daily changing face of Pikes Peak. No curiosity. No happiness. No pleasure. Would I trade all the good things to avoid the bad? No.
I want to keep my father, but at what cost? He would bear all the cost.
I'm so glad that I can't determine the times. What a horror that would be.