Tonight at 6 p.m., it will be a week since Dad died. My brothers decamped Tuesday and I’ve mostly been home alone during the day. Flowers and cards have arrived, a friend stopped by with veggie lasagna. The phone hasn’t rung much; no one wants to intrude. Those I have talked to have suggested, “You must feel numb.”
I think I expected this week would be more dramatic. Instead, I’m aware of so many things I don’t feel or don’t yet understand. I don’t feel lost or at loose ends. I don’t feel destroyed that Dad is gone. I don’t even feel like I need to get out of the house after being very house-bound for the past month.
The medical equipment is gone, and a fresh bedspread is on the queen bed, but when I look towards Dad’s room, I realize I still feel him there. Or wish he was there.
I feel I am quietly, even contentedly, waiting – waiting, maybe, for better understanding of what happened to Dad in his final days, which went so quickly… waiting for a vision of where he is now… waiting for a message about what I should do in this time.
As I wait, I feel no urgency.
When my mother died, I held the after-image of her passing in my head for days. She was in pain at the moment her heart stopped, and it looked like it, brief as that pain was. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw that image. It was not the mental picture I wanted to carry with me forever. Then three days after she died, I awakened feeling completely at peace. I didn’t have a dream about her — I just saw her in her favorite pink quilted satin bathrobe, sitting at the kitchen table. Her cheeks were full, and she looked content, whole, normal. That vision replaced the ugly one I’d been carrying around. It seemed to me that Mom sent me that picture of herself in her version of heaven – complete with kitchen table and pink bathrobe – and I knew she was safe, well and at peace.
I hoped something similar would happen to implant a vision of Dad as he is now. I was not scarred with a terrible image of his death; minutes before he seemed to see someone who delighted him, and he simply relaxed and stopped breathing. But I want to know that he is still “out there” somewhere — happy and whole.
Dreams I have had, fitful dreams. For the first few nights, I fast forwarded through Dad’s last hours, trying to anticipate what was happening and reverse its course. I’d awaken and walk through everything again.
Then something different came into my dreamscape the last two nights. I’ve got to say, they’re not what I expected at all. The first dream was a vivid one about me that had me – old as I am – outsmarting an evil team of competitors from sinking (literally) my son’s team’s chances in a national collegiate crew race. With the help of my trusty friend, Lisa, I performed super-heroic feats, swimming and towing the 8 man crew boat across a cold, choppy channel, and later, finding and rescuing the boat from the bottom of a pool where the evil competitors (a cross between Slytherin and Aryan Brotherhood types) had sunk it. I even sickened the Slytherin’s two duck mascots with olives plundered from my martini.
Last night, I dreamed that I was at home and Dad was still dying. A half dozen caregivers lounged on my living room furniture on stand by in case my Dad needed to be lifted. Among them was a guy in a black swimming cap. His job, he told me, was to swim Dad across the River Styx.
Whether Dad’s spirit is still here, or whether he has crossed over and is at peace with my Mom, I’m still waiting for understanding. And dreaming.