|My mom and dad on their wedding day|
Dad was finally getting ahead in life. He was 48 and a recent college graduate; leaving school in 9th grade for the school of hard knocks. My dad was a likable individual, he smiled and sang all the time. He had a beautiful voice and would often tell me stories of winning singing contests.
One story he told over and over, laughing while he told it as though it just happened. He was about 12 and there was a talent contest in Chelsea, the city where he lived. He got up on stage, got so nervous that he pee'd his pants. Instead of running off the stage, he began singing, "Give me five minutes more..." He completed the song, got a standing ovation and won the contest.
My dad appeared fearless to me. He taught me so much just by what he did and how he was in life. He worked hard, loved his family and making people happy. Dad was an excellent party host.
One night in January 1979, my dad took us all out to dinner to the Hilltop Steak House. I was psyched. I loved going out to dinner with my family, it was always a big treat. This one night, the restaurant was crowded and we had to wait. We waited in the lounge. I was finally of legal drinking age so I was able to have a drink with my dad. Yay!
My dad took a sip of his High Ball and he immediately became ill. He broke out in a sweat and was feeling nauseous. We had to leave, we couldn't stay at the restaurant, he was sick. I remember coming home with my dad, making him saltine cracker sandwiches with a slice of butter slapped between the two crackers and a cup of coffee. Food that I now know was the WORST food for me to feed him. I was making his situation worse.
Dad went to the ER and he underwent tests and an operation; prognosis was Pancreatic Cancer with 6 months to live. It was crushing news, but my dad, the fighter that he was, didn't let it get him. He knew he was going to die and he felt bad that he was leaving my mom at such a young age. Instead of becoming depressed, Dad prepared my mother.
My dad and my mom used to go for walks along the beach. I'm not sure exactly what my dad was telling my mom, but I do know that my dad was preparing her for his death. It was sad but also sweet to see them drive off for their daily walk along the beach. Their days together were numbered and my dad was going to make them count. He did.
Dad withstood chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Both made him more ill and seemed to piss off the cancer cells; they spread like a ferocious lion eating it's way through a hen house. My dad was fading fast.
His last words to me, which I believe changed the course of my life were, "Susie, you are partying too much. You are going to drop out of school like your sister. Please don't be a disappointment to me. You are better than that, make me proud." I never forgot dad's words. Words that truly saved me. He died the next day.
Dad died after 7 months of suffering; the day he passed was the worst day of my young life. I lost the only person in the world who encouraged me and often approved of me. He left this world disappointed in me; I didn't have his approval and that was crushing.
On the day that dad passed, I promised my mom that I'd take care of her when she became an old lady. Maybe I was trying to seek my dad's approval from the other side? My mom laughed at my promise, never believing it would come true.
I spent my life building a successful career. I became an over achiever. My dream of being a 3rd grade school teacher went out the window because the salary wouldn't afford me the opportunity to take care of my mom. My mother NEVER thought that I would be here care giver, she expected it to be one of my other sisters.
Only when I bought a house for the 2 of us in 1998 did she believe me. Years have passed since my mom and I became roommates. I am now witnessing the slow death of my mother, which is just as heart wrenching as watching my dad die in gut wrenching pain brought on by cancer.
Often, I find myself praying for my mom's end day to come soon, it's horrible to watch her quality of life diminish. Her loss of control over her life is the hardest part of her decline to watch. She blames me for her inabilities and has begun to tell me that she doesn't love me. It used to hurt and make me cry; not anymore.
I have done all that I can do for my mom. I miss her every day, even though she lives in the same house. I miss how she used to help me in the house. How I would come home and my dishes would be done and the sink would be clean. I miss how she used to make me mushroom soup. I'd call her from an airport somewhere and tell her what time I'd be home. She always had something hot and ready for me to eat when I got home after a long trip. It didn't matter if it was 1 AM, mom was always up and greeting me.
I do wish my dad could have lived longer so that I could have had more memories with him. Instead, I got the gift of my mom. We have had some awesome times together and some extremely difficult ones too. I'm sure if there's a life after death, my dad approves.
So... it's not easy watching ones parents die, but what I'm learning is that there's a blessing hidden in every relationship we have with other humans on Earth. You, my reader, you too are a hidden blessing in my life. Thank you for reading my words and encouraging me to write every day so that you can find my prose.