by Holly Winter
I don’t know when the gray came to visit, but I first noticed it the day after my father’s funeral. I was at the airport ready to board the plane and the gate agent let me know I wouldn’t get the early boarding I’d paid for. In my weakened state, she became the enemy and I hated her so deeply and completely. Then I hated the airline, the airport, and the day in general--in that order.
It scared me that an issue so small could affect me so completely. In my head I raged about this injustice. Scammers. Crooks.. Not my airline anymore.
The woman sitting next to me on the plane worked nonstop on the flight while I slept and dreamed of my father pushing me on the backyard swing. I spied over her shoulder as she tapped at her computer and made lists for projects she dreamed up at some conference she attended. I hated her self-importance, her ability to care so deeply about something that didn’t matter. I hated her for not knowing my father. How could this stranger have missed his stories, his generosity, his--life.
Gray took away my sense of adventure. My friends were dull, all food was bland. Everything was an effort.
I didn’t care about anything.
If I were to write the perfect ending, my father’s would match it. On his last day he ate three meals and a dessert I made, which my family is now calling, “Killer Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie.”. He went to bed on time. In the middle of the night he woke my mother and told her he thought he was having a stroke. He couldn’t move his left side and his head felt funny.
Luckily I was there, sleeping downstairs on the last night of my week long Christmas visit. I called 911, directed the ambulance crew, and assured my dad we would figure this out.
I lied to him in the hospital after the doctor gave him two days to live. He had a bilateral hemorrgenic stroke; it was the end. But I saddled up to his bed in the ER and told him the doctors were so impressed by his numbers. He was ok. They were going to run more tests. Everything was all right.
Though he could no longer communicate with us, his heart rate returned to normal.
He lasted six days in a hospital room surrounded by family and stories and games and singing and the friendliest hospital staff I’d ever known. Slowly his body deteriorated, which was hard to watch, but we had a say in his comfort: no more turning, we didn’t care about bed sores. More morphine, he’s breathing faster, body is in distress.
Everything worked out perfectly, even the last moment when his last gasp scared the hell out of an ex-brother-in-law who was startled and thought somehow we had faked the ending just to mess with him.
“If you say the guy is dead, he better be dead.”
We laughed. And laughed. Even the nurse laughed hard.
Once I returned home, the gray persisted. It may not make sense, but this gray is part of my process and I welcome it. It’s a security blanket-of types-designed to let me process my father’s passing as slowly as I want to.
And at this point in life ADD (after dad died), there’s no rush to be done with him.