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Monday, January 26, 2009

Dearest Grandpops


Dad died on December 18th 2008. It is almost February and only now, the memorial service having passed by, that I can bring myself to write about it. I’ve been so thrown back into the day to day domesticity of life, it is easy, infact, to put sad thoughts behind you and not really to dwell on what has come to pass. Esther has given me a bunch of the condolences cards that people have sent and I still can’t bring myself to read them.

It was not an easy departure for Dad. He fought bitterly to the end, still trying to sit up, even stand up, when Esther and I could barely hold him up. The last day we were so tired ourselves, I’d been sick too and with the bitter cold and snow outside we had hardly left the house. I’d been reading The Ancient Mariner and Yeats to Dad, which I like to think he enjoyed. Although at that point he was no longer talking to us and it is hard to say how present he was. We sat trying to juggle the medicines to make him as comfortable as possible, and just when we felt he was, we realized he had left us. The main feeling at that point was relief. Relief that he could go in peace, finally, after a cruel and swift illness that ravaged him so entirely.

Most of the time I feel quite normal. I go about my daily life, there are kids to be fed and dressed, plans to be made… It’s the unexpected moments that hit you hardest. The memories you think to share, before realizing, yet again that he is gone. Christmas morning, birthdays, the children’s precious unforgettable discoveries.

I will miss you Dad. I will miss your wit, your fierce intelligence, your loving enormous heart, your silliness and sense of fun. As someone recalled you once saying, happiness is just a thread of small delights, and you gave us all so very many of them. In your absence we will strive every day to love each other to the point of foolishness. You will always, always be in our hearts.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Last Days

Today I said goodbye to the kids who headed down to Boston with Steven to fly back to LA tomorrow. I’ve come up to Orono to spend some last few precious days with Dad before heading back to LA next weekend for Christmas. We deliberated about what the right thing to do was, to stay or go, who should stay, who should go. But now I’m here I feel certain we did the right thing. We had talked about staying all together until Christmas, I wanted to be here for Dad. But now I’m with him I’m glad it’s just me here.

He is terribly thin and his face now looks sunken. Since I arrived this morning he has only spoken a few words and each interaction costs him dearly. I feel him receding from me, gone is the robust, charismatic man I was lucky enough to have as a father. He’s a shadow of his former self - even he at times is losing track of who he is. Time is passing agonizingly slowly. I find myself feeling bored even, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Even if he isn’t talking, he is listening and I know in my heart how much it means to him to have me here. This is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done, to be with the person you love as they slowly slip away. I’m glad I am here by myself even though I miss the kids and Steven terribly, it just gives me space to process everything.

I do feel a sense of peace though and I think, or I like to think, he does too. I haven’t had a chance to ask him if he is ready for death, I don’t really know where he is mentally. Watching him fade gradually, is hard, but not terrible. More terrible would be not being here, not being able to have the odd joke, or hold his hand. Esther continues to amaze me, she suffers his complaints without offense, just getting on with things as Mainers do. I cannot imagine the burden she is carrying right now.

So in short, I hate what is happening, but I am glad to be here. Some people talk about not wanting to see their loved one “like this”, they want to remember them “how they were”. That just seems a bit of a cop out. I’m glad to see him now, and I will always remember him how he was. That’s what we’re here for with the people we love right? The whole journey.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Oliver & Grandpops


Whilst it has not been an easy visit, there have been some truly wonderful memories. I am so profoundly happy that the kids got to see Dad, and he them, before he really began to lose lucidity and strength. We had one wonderful visit. Even though we only stayed a couple of hours, it was a precious time I will always remember and cherish.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Winter in Maine

We arrived yesterday after an uneventful red eye flight from LA. The kids slept wonderfully, Steven and I hardly slept at all. But we arrived in one piece, if a little tired. It’s been a while since I was in Maine in wintertime and boy its cold. It’s not that bone-chilling cold, where you daren’t leave the house without a hat for fear of your ears dropping off. Nonetheless it is cold and you do need long underwear and hats and gloves to feel remotely comfortable outside. Of course our first day here at the farm saw us all out on the ATVs, Oliver driving the tractor with his grandpa. Craziness. The kids are in heaven. I’ve never seen Oliver so excited, so articulate, just 100% engaged and enthralled.

I went to see Dad yesterday. What to say. It is so wonderful to see him, in many ways he is just the same, but at the same time, he is profoundly changed. He gets tired very quickly and is now pretty much in bed all the time. He looks so different, thinner obviously, but more fragile too. His voice is softer, more tentative. Sometimes it is easy to forget, to think that nothing has changed. Then it hits me and everything falls apart. I can’t imagine my life without him in it.

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