It’s been over a week since my dad died. I couldn’t go to the funeral so instead sat at home and cried while looking at photographs. Mom went in my place and I asked her to see if she could collect some photos from his brothers for me. I’m not saying I don’t have photos, I am saying that I emigrated and only brought with me what I could carry. More photos would be nice.
Mom rang me after the funeral. She said Dad looked great. Everyone in the family said how big he’d gotten but Mom didn’t see it. Bless. She always was very tactful but I knew he was large, even by American standards. She recognised most of the family but had to be re-introduced to a few. Bearing in mind that she was divorced from Dad over 35 years ago, I’m impressed she recognise anyone as I’d have thought they all would have changed a lot. She said the service was lovely. She took a couple of pictures of the gravestone and of the flowers that I’d sent – carnations and roses. It was a beautiful bouquet.
What made Mom and me laugh was that a couple of Dad’s ex-girlfriends went to the funeral to pay their respects. I think that Dad would have liked that – family, friends and a harem of three attended his funeral.
The day after the funeral I went back to work – as I only got two days compassionate leave. I worked Thursday and Friday this past week. I struggled but was, in some ways, relieved for the distraction of work. I’m working on finishing a huge filing project so all I did for two days was archiving. OK, I stopped for a cry from time to time but I made the effort and that’s what counts.
Thursday morning I was first in the office. There was a small bouquet of pink roses and carnations from one of the girls and, of course, all I could do was cry – especially as those were the flowers that I’d sent to pay my respects. At least I was in the office alone and had enough time to pull myself together before everyone else arrived.
Dad had Parkinsons Disease from a shockingly early age. It must have been awful to be diagnosed with something that will kill you slowly and remove so much of your mental capacity. For a few years we hoped that medical science would come up with a cure but stem cells haven’t yet yielded successful results.
The first symptom was a tremor. He said he felt it in his left (he was left-handed) thumb but I first noticed it when his left hand was incapable of stopping. You know how ice tends to stick to the bottom of a glass? He could shake that stuff loose without any effort at all! At one point we went to one of those professional portrait people, I remember it clearly because I had to hold his hand to keep it still. Parkinsons crept through his body steadily: his right hand began to shake, then his feet and legs and he began to have problems walking…
One of the side effects of his many medications was the faces he would pull. I’m sure part of the reason I have such an expressive face is because I used to mimic him. I stopped mimicking him after he said “Are you making fun of me?” He didn’t understand that I was trying to be like him.
Parkinsons not only made Dad shake. He had dementia and paranoia and regularly hallucinated. In the end he suffered more than anyone ought to – more than my worst enemy ought to. He had Parkinsons for over half his life. He was only 66 when he died.
I’ll try to remember the good times. When I was young he used to take me to McDonalds of an evening and, when I’d call him “fatso” he’d never got angry, he’d just call me “skinnyso”. I’d mock his thick 70s moustache and laugh at his platform cowboy boots. Despite my scorn, Dad never got angry. He’d just come back with a silly retort – “Shazam!” and I knew he didn’t take it personally. It was moments like this when he’d say “I love you” not by saying “I love you” but by calling me “Daughtershine”.
I was a bit older when I arrived at his house to find that he’d taped the college basketball game on the TV – “you have to see this”! I was grateful he’d taped it. We’d won the game in the last seconds when our player threw the ball from the halfway line – a successful last-ditch effort. Dad and I shouted and punched the air together.
Thanks for everything Dad. You may not have been able to give me monetary things but you gave me the ability to laugh at myself. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better daughter to you. I know you wanted grandchildren. I know I was a disappointment. I’m sorry for that. I miss you.