I had a whole day of knitting planned for yesterday. Dale was going to be leaving first thing in the morning to go to a living history in Connecticut. Hannah was still on Martha’s Vineyard and I was looking forward to a day to myself so I could knit, with occasional breaks for spinning and perhaps even blocking the Adamas Shawl.
And then my phone rang at 7:30 am. And it was my stepbrother’s wife, calling to tell me that they were at the hospital with my dad and it looked like he was nearing the end of his life. One simple phone call and everything changed. Not just my plans for the day or my plans for the next few days but really for the rest of my life.
I was able to reach Dale on the road (what did we do before cell phones?) and we were at the hospital at 8:45. We had a visit with my dad, he was awake and talking, but he continued to grow weaker and less responsive as the day went on. The family gathered: both my stepbrothers and their wives as well as their children, my stepsister and her family and stepcousins and basically anyone who wanted to be able to say goodbye was able to do so. There were stories told and there was teasing and sharing and not just a few tears. Just about the time we were wondering if perhaps we should make plans for leaving and taking turns being in his room my dad’s breathing changed significantly. And at 7:30 pm, right after the Red Sox game ended, my dad quietly passed away.
Ours had been a complex and sometimes difficult relationship. Technically, he was my stepfather, but he had been in my life since I was 4 and married to my mother since I was 6, so that term seems inadequate and disrespectful for someone who always acted just like a “real” father. I adored him when I was a child, couldn’t stand him when I was a teenager and young adult, and quite frankly resented him when my mother died 8 years ago. Somewhere over the last few years I accepted him for who he was, faults and all, just as he accepted me and all my faults many years ago. Isn’t it funny how life comes full circle?
And now the business of death takes over – the arrangements and plans and ceremonies that serve to distract us for a few days – while we learn to cope with the loss. This wasn’t really unexpected as he had been in the hospital for the past several months and he lived a full life of 83 years up until that time. But even so, it’s life altering.