Search This Blog

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Letter to Dad, No. 6

Dear Dad,

Well, it's been a while. I feel sad when I drive near Whole Foods, or North Mountain Avenue--when I pass where you lived at the end of your life.

Dad, I'm so sorry for the pain you went through. I'm so sorry you had to suffer like that. It just isn't fair, that you couldn't get up and walk--walk off to the independent path you had always followed. I wish I could have fixed that, given you a magic pill or tonic. How terrible it must feel, especially for a strong-willed person, to have to rely on others for personal care and helping hands to do the things you had done yourself a million times before. Is there any beauty in that? Any light?

I don't know what the answer is, or how being powerless at the end of our lives can be avoided--whether one has a private helper at home or a rotating staff in a nursing home, like you did for about six months.

I think often of the times at Van Dyk Manor. The holiday dinners, and how pleased you were to have your family around. How much you liked seeing Sissy and Don and me and H. and Fig and Sug. How the woman at the reception desk, Pat, became good friends with you. You made each other smile. She told me. Sissy and I want to go bring a gift to Pat, but Sissy is afraid of her own tears coming on and doesn't want to do it yet. I understand.

I'm always haunted by the last words you and I said to each other. After 50 years of conversations about everything, our momentous exchange was reduced to this in Intensive Care:

"Dad, I better go. I'm sorry. It's just I had to park far away from the hospital and I'm worried about walking there in the dark."

"So go." [Not bitterly, not at all, but with that same selfless father's love, the one that wanted his daughters to be safe at all costs. But the way you said it, with minced words, I could tell you were in bad physical pain.]

"Good night, I love you. I'll be back in the morning."

"Good night." I can't remember if you said you loved me, but it doesn't matter, because I know you did. It just makes me so sad that you then died alone during the night, probably bravely fighting until your last breath. 

I miss you so much. I'm crying now. The world has a big hole in it, and I just don't know what to do or how to do it. Fill it with flowery thoughts, patch it over? Leave it gaping? Wait quietly for nature and time to slowly smooth it? Or will it be the cup for universal new life--a baby bird taking flight, a strong new tree that can withstand storms, a soft rainfall?

I really don't know what else to say. I just know that I miss you terribly and would love to talk to you.

Wait a minute. Have you been looking over my shoulder while I've been working on my writing assignments this week? I like to picture that. I think I will.

Good night, sleep tight. "You better jump into bed," you used to say on the phone when I was tired.

Dad, thank you for all you were--and for all I am, for having known you.

Love always, Alice

  1. Worked efficiently.
  2. Got check, paid off some money owed, and that felt good. Also booked beauty salon for tomorrow.  
  3. Observed portion control with snacks; had one 2-ounce serving of trail mix. [Let's not get into the Peanut Butter & Co. Crunch Time on a few segments of Lindt Swiss Bittersweet dark chocolate bar, okay? Or the garlic knots?]
  4. Walked Sug around block once.


  1. It’s good to think of them (our fathers)… to think of last words, remember them always. It keeps them alive in our hearts. Alice, it does get easier but I still get sad when I pass certain places or encounter things that trigger memories. But now at least sometimes I can smile when I think of them… it has been over 20 years. I also like to envision my dad looking over my shoulder as I go through life. Your letter is heartfelt. Hang in there. Happier days ahead. Love, Lin

  2. Lin, thank you! I am also so glad to have Sis and Will to talk to about Dad, as you must be with Judi. love, alice