It all started with "the call."
And then the surgery. You poor guy, you lost your toe. And although it was tough to get around, we secretly schemed to get you a scooter.
Later, you would wrestle with the challenges of considering dialysis.
Even when you were in the hospital, we had a chance to reminisce about earlier times. That was so great to stop, reflect, share. And I'll never forget that day I came in to see you in the hospital to find you had won the turkey bowling championship! Damn that was funny!
Later, I'd kick myself for not recognizing your heart failure. You became weaker and your hands told the story as you continued to wrestle with the decision for dialysis. You finally went through with it, but you never felt better. You stayed weak, immobile, dependent on others to get to dialysis. It made you crazy. We talked again, and I suggested another option: to stop. You agreed.
Now our whole philosophy shifted. From trying to cure you, to trying to care for you. We knew the outcome, but you were miserable.
I looked for things to ease your mind and let you escape, if for a bit, from the everyday world of illness: I played guitar for you. You smiled. Later I would write the story, tears in my eyes. God, it was hard.
Your condition grew more grave. Mom got concerned. I ran to the house to find you resting in your chair watching that stupid show, remember? You looked so exhausted then.
Some days later, things got to the point where you just wanted to die, but couldn't. We thought you might die that night. Mom read us a story from a clipping she had saved for all of these years, one heard by many. We found it hard to believe the dates in the story were so close. As though He had a plan all along. Amazing.
But the next morning you awoke and asked, "I'm not dead yet? Damn it!" We laughed nervously. You were so frustrated and your breathing was much more labored. Against the wishes of others, I called the priest. He arrived about 10 AM and you seemed glad to see him. You cordially said, "I think your timing's just about right." He played a soft song and said a prayer. Your eyes closed. Your hands became flaccid as I watched the subtle fasciculations beneath your skin. We never heard from you again.
Later that night, about 5 PM, you touched down, making your last landing here on earth. I watched your face turn white as you sat in your mechanical geri-chair, and knew you were at peace. At last. I was relieved.
That night I went home and tried to sleep. I remember stopping at a stop light as I drove home and easing my foot off the brake so the car would gently glide to a stop, rather than jerk. You taught me that. Tears welled up as I thought about that moment many years before when you were helping me learn how to drive.
Later that night it rained like crazy. You used to love thunderstorms. Loud claps of thunder rattled by bedroom, and I remembered smiling and thinking you were buzzing the tower one last time while rocking those wings to and fro, just to say goodbye. Sleep came easy.
Now I look at my living room. A tree stands proudly in the window, glowing with multi-colored lights that lend a warmth to the remainder of the room. The dog sleeps quietly on the couch. The kids are excited yet again and life moves forward much too fast.
In this brief moment of silence tonight I couldn't help but reflect on this past year. Although it was tough while we were in the trenches, I was glad we could spend that time together. I wouldn't have traded it for the world.
Merry Christmas, Dad.