Saturday, January 02, 2010

Reflections.....


I'm not sure if it's because I'm not feeling well, it's the new year, it's coming up on the anniversary of my dad's death or I'm in the middle of some life changes right now, but I'm feeling quite reflective and this may bore you....but whatever, it's my blog.


My dad died 21 years ago right around the beginning of January, I was 19. He was living in New York and I in Denver, we met for Christmas in Washington DC that year. I had suspected he had been sick for quite awhile but he looked horrible when I saw him. I didn't want to tell him though or even mention illness. We pretty much just danced around the issue because diseases like that weren't discussed then, it wasn't really heard of much, and no one knew a lot about it except it was something that struck gay men. We had a good Christmas, my sister was there, my brother was there too (back round here, this is my brother from my dad and a friend of his, I also have two brothers from my mom and my step-dad -- my sister and I share both parents --- not your typical family structure). We all had a good time, hanging out, seeing some sites, shopping. The day after my brother flew back to Denver (I can't remember how old he was, but little, I'm not sure he was even in school yet), I saw my dad, on the couch, having a hard time catching his breath. I took a deep breath and said, "I know you're sick, I think you know it too, I think we should go to the hospital" (Um, this would be the WASP side of the family, if you couldn't already tell) He looked defeated at that moment. It's a hard look for a man who was 6'3, normally robust and full of life to pull off, but defeated, worn down and frail is how he looked. The friend with whom we were staying took us to the hospital. My dad was whisked behind the double doors and I filled out some paperwork. Except for a brief traumatic moment in the ICU, I never saw him again.
What seemed like an eternity and yet also seemed like just a few minutes....in some weird time stands still but speeds up kind of thing that you can't explain but some of us know what I mean....the doctor came out, hugged me (not a good sign) and told me that my dad wasn't going to make it. He needed to be vented. The doctor wanted to know if I knew what my dad would want in this case but his opinion was that there was no hope of recovery. At 19, I had to fill out the paperwork to pull the plug on my dad (FYI, way too young to make that decision!).


We went back to the friend's house and made calls. Family flew in from all over the country and my dad passed within a couple of minutes of his last visitor.


I spent the next couple of years being really angry at him. Angry at his being gay, angry that he was dead, angry at what a mess his life was, angry that he died of AIDS, something so dark and sinister (it was the 80's and I was 19, I would pause stutter and blurt it out, confused and embarrassed every time anyone asked what my dad died of, because the next question was always, 'how did he get AIDS?'--- I so know it wasn't PC to feel that way, but I did).


Now? Well now I just miss him.


I wonder what he would have thought of my becoming a nurse, it's so far out of the range of what we ever discussed. What would he think of Jason and would he be proud that Jason and I have worked so hard in having a strong marriage. Would our marriage be so strong if I had had a father to run to when things got tough? I am saddened that my children will never know him. I am saddened that he never got to be a grandfather, he would have found so much joy, pleasure and wonder in the presence of his grandkids (he has five and one on the way --- according to my brother's Facebook page). If he was around, would my sister have made some of the harebrained decisions she made in her life? Would his influence have helped her in any way? My sister and I would have known our brother, instead of just having an another 'friend' on Facebook, we would have funny stories to share about our shared parent. He, most likely, barely remembers our father or us. My memories are just of annoyance (I was a TEENAGER at the time), so we never got to know each other. Frankly, it was when we became adults that I developed a relationship with my other brothers.
What would life have been like having a father during my adult years?


I'll never know.


I have lived more years without him then with him. I have lived more years with my husband that I have had with my father.


And even so, I still miss my dad.


17 comments:

OHN said...

How poignant. Back then there was such a stigma with AIDS. I worked as part of the infection control committee at the hospital where I was working and there was so much we didn't know and almost all in the hospital would freak out when someone with AIDS would be admitted. Out came the full body suits, face masks, double gloves, and anything else they could think of at the time.

19 is so young to have to make decisions like that. I have a 21 and almost 20 year old (along with the 15 year old) and I simply cannot imagine them having to make such a HUGE decision. What a horrible memory you have had to carry.

I hope you know in your heart that your father would have been very very proud of you, your choices and the woman you became. You had to grow up pretty fast and that isn't always easy.

ganelle said...

What a beautiful post. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been - on so many different levels.

I'm sure you're dad would be proud - look at yourself, how could he not be?

terri said...

Boring? No. What a heartfelt post. You were faced with decisions at such a young age that most of us never have to face.

Life is strange. Most of us have an expectation of normal and what life should be. The thing is, life doesn't care what we expect. We get what we get, and I think you've done pretty well with what you got.

Not your average Jennifer said...

Beautiful. Having worked at an AIDS nursing home, I have a vivid picture of what your father might have gone through in those last days. I'm happy that the bitter taste has left your mouth and you are now able to only miss your father. He'd be proud of you. I promise.

Dodi said...

OK, after seeing the topic I waited to read this until I thought I could get through it... nope. Still sobbing. I'm so sorry you lost your dad when you did and how you did.

To throw in my two cents... He would have been SO proud of you - your accomplishments, your family, the life you've made for yourself. You are the success story that a father hopes for when he first sees a baby girl in the delivery room - that any parent would be proud to say, "Thats my daughter. Isn't she amazing?"

Rock Chef said...

Wow, I can't imagine having to make a decision like that at 19!

This time of year tends to focus our minds on those we have lost - I hope you have good memories of him too, not just this final meeting. It is those that keep me going.

Martha said...

Aw Tracey...how does one comment about such a heartfelt post? I've struggled with what words to offer. I'm sorry your dad isn't here to tell you about how proud he is: but I am...and I am very proud of you indeed.

Now girl, we need to schedule us an evening trip to Carinos for some real time chick chatter!

Colleen O said...

Wow - when you post you post! I frequently have the strange dread of loosing my parents and I can't imagine the sadness you feel about the lost time. That was a lovely reflection. (He would probably tell you that you are right ALL the time!)

Karla said...

You are so stong. I'm fighting the tears now. We've never met, but with the amount of love and reflection that you wrote this with I can only imagine your parents being very proud of you.

Scott said...

Wow, Tracey, that's so touching. I'm sorry for your loss.

Teresa said...

I read this the other day and didn't know what you say...I wanted to make sure it was heartfelt and sensative and after I read OHN's comment...I realized she took the words right out of my mouth. How young you were...oh my...girl...that is tough...and yes I do remember all that stigma attached to that disease. At the end of the day he was a man who loved you period. I KNOW he'd be proud of you...who you married...your beautiful boys...your decision to become a nurse and I'm sure many more things that are awesome about you! Thank you for sharing that peice of your heart w/ us.

33 said...
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林宥嘉yoga said...
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言承旭Jerry said...
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Rumour Miller said...

Proud of you, no doubt.

Meghan Moran said...

this just made me cry, it's the worst losing the ones you love

Elektra said...

i admire your courage to share your real feelings about ur beloved dad. pain really knows no time that even its long time, a dad's passing away can nver really that easy...i understand the loss.. keep the faith!