Friday, October 17, 2008

I'll always be daddy's little girl or I never really grew up

Fourteen years ago, at the age of 70, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in his intestines. At that time I wrote:

"I don't ever want to go back to assuming that my Dad or my Mom will always be here, because I've been confronted with the truth. They won't. One of these years they'll be in heaven. I hope it's a long time from now."

Well, at 70 Dad had a successful surgery and lived on. Then about ten years later, mom was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth. She had extensive surgery, and radiation. After that she couldn't swallow and had to be fed through a tube directly into her stomach. Dad became the nurse. Mom was very upbeat, looking forward to the day she would be able to eat again. It didn't happen. She left this life just before Christmas last year. By then, Dad was 83.

Half a year earlier, my younger brother Al had challenged my unrealistic little-girl attitude toward my parents, particularly towards my dad. Even though I no longer assumed my parents would live on this earth forever, I did believe Dad always knew best and was totally capable of solving any problem and taking care of every situation. If he said he didn't need any help, it was true.

My brother pointed to the fantasy I was living and consequently I determined to grow up. I began by visiting my dad and mom weekly. If I spent more time with them, surely I would get the real picture.

Consequently, Monday mornings I would drop Elizabeth off at school and head down the highway toward my parents' home in Tillsonburg, just over an hour away. I would change the sheets on the beds, have a visit and maybe even a game of scrabble if mom was up to it. Dad would usually do some errands while I was there. When he got back he would offer me lunch. I would do the dishes, then be on my way.

If dad forgot to turn off the stove, or skipped lunch, or got cranky with mom there was always an unreasoning peace in my heart. Dad let me know he could count on the Lord to carry him through no matter how uncertain the situation.

But now, according to my brother Al, who had spent two weeks with dad after mom died, my dad was absolutely not capable of being on his own. It was my turn to stay with Dad. He did seem very frail. The fight had left him. I hoped he would bounce back.

My first night in the apartment, I was startled awake by a clattering noise. Was that dad? I listened for him to call out. Should I go see? What if he was in the washroom? I couldn't invade his privacy. I listened and waited. Nothing. I fell back asleep.

In the morning Dad remarked, "That was hell last night." He didn't offer an explanation. I was afraid to ask. The nurse came, took his blood pressure and suggested he go to the hospital. Standard hospital tests detailed a physically spent condition. According to the wisdom of this age, it was time for a nursing home. Dad said forget that, he was going directly to his eternal home. That's what he did despite the various apparatus including oxygen tubes designed to keep him here.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26

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