When my dad and I worked near each other a few years ago, we would have lunch together a couple of times a week. At the time, taken completely for granted. In hindsight, cherished memories of insights into my dad's mind and life.
The days were never set in stone when we would go, but since he worked for the State, and they were sporting the 4-day work weeks, we would almost always have lunch together on a Thursday.
Now, every Thursday, as my kids are throwing their pb & j on the floor, and smashing their crackers into their clothes I think about lunch with my dad.
This morning the boys and I loaded up and went down to see him. It was hands down the most difficult trip I've had there. During my ride, I think of all the things I would tell him if he were alert enough to talk with me. So, I gird (old pioneer-ish word that makes me feel like a strong woman with guts and fervor) up all I've got and decide I'll do that thing they're always telling people to do to their loved ones that are in a coma. Just talk to them --they'll hear it. Only, he's not in a coma. Is that more difficult? I wonder that often. He opens his eyes, but doesn't respond to anything I'm saying. I'm not sure if he's "hearing" me or understanding me. I'm not even sure he knows who I am anymore. I ask him, but he just shuts his eyes again.
So, I march in with all my strength, all my courage. Only, when I turn the corner into his room, I see the most shocking thing I've witnessed to date. There in the middle of the bed is the smallest feeble little man I've ever seen. Only it's not just some man, it's my dad. My daddy. Of course I'm aware of how small he is. He weighed about 190 just 7 months ago. Now he's closer to 135. He's just skin and bones. That old saying means something so different when it's your dad you're staring at. Today was a different circumstance, I saw just how far he's fallen.
My strength and courage were out the tiny window. So, I just sat on the edge of his bed and looked in his eyes for the few seconds he opened them.
I couldn't get out a single one of the words I'd planned to say to him. Not one. I scolded myself for being so weak. Just tell him. Just talk to him like you always have. Do it.
But I couldn't.
Instead, I started writing a letter to him in my head.
It went something sort of like this:
I was thinking that if we were having lunch today I'd tell you about all the dreams I've been having about you lately. Still sick, but not like now. Maybe how you were say two years ago. I don't really dream all that often, but the last week or so it seems like it's every night. You talk to me in my dreams. You give me words of advice and encouragement, all of which I can't remember when I wake up. What I remember is you opening up your arms to me, and me running to you, and you saying, "hey girl." You used to always say that to me when we would see each other or when we'd talk on the phone. My heart rate raced so quickly that it jolted me awake. I really miss hearing your voice.
I find myself grasping at every memory we've ever had together, but I'm trying so desperately that I feel like I'm blocking many of them.
I did remember the other day all the years you worked so far away, driving such long distances so we could go to good schools and live in a good neighborhood. Every night when you'd walk in you'd shout out, "daddy's home." I loved that. I can still hear it in my head.
If we were having lunch today I'd tell you how much I love you, how much you mean to me, and what an important part of my life you are.
I'd tell you that today when I was leaving, I said "I love you, dad." and you nodded your head at me. That was enough. Thank you for giving me that.
I love you, Daddy.
Seems like a simple enough conversation, so why is it so difficult when I'm staring straight at him?
I'll keep working on it. In the meantime, I'll keep writing my Thursday Lunch letters to him.