Death is a funny thing isn’t it.
You know it’s basically inevitable, yet we fear it so much.
I often watch period dramas or Vikings or Game of Thrones and admire the way that they view death. As something that will happen, not pleasant, but unavoidable. They almost welcome it with open arms before they resign themselves to the darkness, their unknown “future”.
A far cry from what happens now. Often we find ourselves clinging to every last option before we reluctantly accept that there is nothing more we can do. And even then we fight it. Terrified of what’s to come.
My father was not quite like that.
Sure, when he found out that he had Muscular Dystrophy he sought out possible cures, or at the very least something that might delay the deterioration of all of his muscles. When all those options were exhausted, we all realised that there was nothing else that we could do, except wait it out and make it as comfortable as we could for him.
Basically it was a life sentence with no definite end. How do you even process that? Can you really process it? Accept it?
It’s fair to say that we were grieving as a family since he was diagnosed. Slowly mourning the “death” of each of his abilities. Being able to bend. Being able to walk. Being able to write. Being able to hold anything. Being able to feed himself. Even being able to turn himself over in bed. Obviously no one grieved these losses of bodily functions quite as much as he did. Obviously. It was not only the loss of movement, but of independence as well.
People tell you to treasure the time you have with someone before it’s too late. To cherish it. Sounds pretty easy to do right?
In fact I found it one of the hardest things to do.
I have the tendency to withdraw from a situation where I know I will eventually be hurt if I stay and get emotionally involved. It works pretty well in most cases, but it’s probably not the best course of action when you’re about to lose some one you love.
Without thinking, I started distancing myself from my Father. Mostly unintentionally – I was in high school, things were crazy and exciting, I met Seth and basically nothing else mattered for a while, we got married, we had babies and more and more my Dad faded into the back ground.
Don’t get me wrong. We’d see him often. But he was just a shadow of the man that I used to know.
It couldn’t have been easy though. To be positive and upbeat when you are basically disintegrating.
He immersed himself in the blogging World and occasionally break for a rugby game or series on TV. Often so much so that it was impossible to have a conversation with him about much else, unless you could talk about sport (which I know nothing about). All of those conversations would only happen if you did manage to draw his attention away from the screen, which was often quite hard to do. I used to resent him a little bit because of it. But in hindsight this was the only place where it didn’t matter that he couldn’t walk or move or write – interacting on the internet is limitless, boundless and free. Something he couldn’t be in person.
I think about him a lot. About being there when he died and how I just can’t get those images of my head. About how I used to panic every time I got a call from my Mom because no matter what, my first thought was always that something had happened to him. So many things trigger little memories. Of his frailty. His disability. Of the bad stuff.
But that’s not what I want to remember as we coming up to the anniversary of his death.
I want to remember my real Dad.
The one that would build us all kinds of crazy cool things from scratch, who would splash around in the pool with us, who would patch up the holes in the porta pool when the dogs had made a hole in it. The one that would fetch and carry me to all the many things that I had to go to. The one who would joke and laugh with me when my brother hurt himself in funny ways, then ask if he’s feeling fine after we’d finished laughing. (It’s easy to see that I get my slightly twisted sense of humour straight from him.) The one who’d help me with my Afrikaans homework and cooked amazing Chinese food.
That’s the Dad that I remember and want to cling to.
Gone but not forgotten.