It hardly seems possible that a year has come and gone. I remember that night so vividly like it was just yesterday. But at the same time, it seems so long ago. When my dad passed away last January, quietly in his chair in the living room, it came as a surprise. It wasn’t like I thought he was going to miraculously pull out a victory over the pancreatic cancer that he was diagnosed with just two months before. I just thought we had a little more time with him.
In fact, the nurse that came to the house that day told us that she thought he had a few more days, so I was prepared to start calling family and letting them know that the end was near. Instead, we had to make phone calls that night saying that he had passed away.
Since I was unemployed, I came down on most days to stay with dad so my step-mom could go to work. We never talked about his illness, never talked about what he was thinking or about life once he no longer would be with us.
Instead, we usually watched TV, talked about nothing important, and every once in a while, he would throw in a comment like, “All you do is sit with that blankety-blank computer.” It was obvious that he was doing a lot of thinking and wondering. He never let on, but you could tell. Through it all, his mind remained sharp and he remained stubborn. That was the dad we all knew. A man with a life experience that many would rather not want, who was far from perfect and had his own demons, yet was very likeable at the same time. As hard as this whole experience was for him, he did his best to mask what he was truly feeling, as he did not want us to worry. We did the same for him.
When it came time for me to head home that night, I didn’t go. I seemed to find excuses to hang around, as if something was telling me that I needed to stay.
January 31, 2011…..8:15 pm.
I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. We were all sitting in the living room, with dad, who had been in what seemed like a deep sleep for much of the evening. My brother Tim approached Dad, took his hand, and let him know that he was there. A few minutes later, Dad was gone. I later told Tim that Dad must have waited for him because he was the favorite child, after all.
All kidding aside, it was obviously a difficult time for us all. This past year has been hard. But as they say, you sometimes need to get through that first year, hit the milestones, holidays, birthdays, etc. But for me, other than Christmas Eve, my moments of grief and sorrow came at odd times, mostly out of nowhere.
I withdrew into my memories at times, remembering things about Dad, comments he would say or reliving that last day with him. I laughed, thought, pondered, shared, and cried. I have cried a lot. I miss him telling me to get my oil changed, talking about our favorite reality shows, and watching him with my daughters. It just isn’t the same not seeing him in the garage after walking us out as we prepared to leave. Most of all, I just missed picking up the phone to ask a question or just to say hi. For years I hated that voice at times. Now I miss it more than I ever imagined.
One day I took my daughter Hannah to the cemetery to “see” Grandpa. As we got out of the truck, she asked me if Grandpa was going to be dead forever. Tears in my eyes, I answered yes. She looked at me and said, “It’s okay, Dad, because Grandpa is here and here,” pointing to her head and heart.
Amazing how a five-year-old can put it all into perspective. But still, his loss looms large for many of us.
The words below were printed in the Three Rivers Commercial-News in remembrance of my mother Judy, one year after her death. My mom passed away on December 2, 1978. These words echo true today for my father.
“In tears we saw you sinking, we watched you fade away. Our hearts are almost broken; you fought so hard to stay. But when we saw you sleeping, so peacefully from pain, we could not wish you back to suffer that again.”
We miss you, Dad.
Raymond E. McGlothlen
November 24, 1929 – January 31, 2011