Friday, July 7, 2017

Good Presents

Yesterday I talked to my sister for the first time in months. She'd called from our father's house to say our father is ebbing away: 
he can still hold the newspaper, and wants to--was there ever a day since he was a boy when he didn't?--but not turn the pages. The hospice people can't know, of course, how long his passing will take, but not long now, they say.

I'm deeply grateful that my father is well attended in his home by people who love him, my sister first among them, and his cats, and that his final illness (liver cancer) is not a bad way to go, comparatively.
He asked the hospice nurse (again--his memory is confused) what his final days will be like, and she told him he'll continue to get more and more exhausted and weak, and confused, but it's not exactly painful, and there's morphine standing by...

My sister said our father was greatly calmed by that, and he, who can't speak much anymore, said, "To sleep, perchance to dream..."
It's not like my father to quote Shakespeare; I'm certain he meant that in a comforting way (not like Hamlet).

My father and I are alike in many ways I value––for instance, we share a sturdiness and a love of toys! and an impatience with stinginess––but we have never been close, and sometimes far worse than that. He told me once I reminded him of my mother--not, from his pov, a compliment.

And it's true, I was a million times closer to my mother.
A lot of the emotions I'm feeling are retroactive to my mother's death, and further back, to my loss of a sense of home when she left the family when I was thirteen.

Funnily (or not?), I had a wonderful talk with Sister, who is very close to our father, about THINGS: 
she wanted to know what I might want from our father's house, when the times comes, if anything. 

I said I'd like the few things that survived from our childhood home (my father had later moved)––most had been our mother's.
My father doesn't throw things out, so what my mother left behind is still there. Sister and I had fun talking about what remained: among other things, a couple faded pink, terrycloth towels, (rags, really), monogrammed in brown with the initial of my mother's great great–aunt, "F" for Miss Fern O. Hines (1892–1978).

He has some things I've given him, too. My father has never been one for compliments. When I asked him to name three things he liked about me, he asked for 24 hours to come up with an answer. When the 24 were up, he asked for an extension.
The next morning, he had his answer:
I'm smart, he likes my laugh, and I give excellent presents on a limited budget.

Presents! Good, cheap ones! I love that he admires that about me! It's something we share.
My father, a child of the Depression, loves frugality. I don't know if I've ever seen him happier than when showing off a new item of clothing, and asking us to guess how much he paid for it.
The answer, with a crow of delight, is always something like, "Three ninety-nine!"

Sister gives him big-ticket items, like an electric grill and laz-y-boy chair, and I give him... 
Well, two of my gifts are in view in this photo, from a couple months ago:
a rooster pillow from the old thrift store (he loves chickens), and a Science March button, propped against the lamp (he was tickled, sister told me, to see me and my Spock poster in the newspaper---the actual hard-copy newspaper!). 

Not in view, but also on the bedside table, my sister tells me, are the little stuffed Eeyore I re-stuffed for him a couple years ago >>>
his car license plates read EEYORE
[I added a red scarf before I sent him off],
and the Jefferson nickel I gave him as a spontaneous thank-you present, when I went down in February to say good-bye. 

She asked if I thought it would be okay, when the time comes for cremation, to send Eeyore into the fire with our father's body. She was also thinking, she said, of including another of my thrift store gifts, not, this time, a cheap one: 
an antique Chinese silk cuff, embroidered with butterflies and peonies--our father also loves butterflies, and even went to see the migrating monarchs flocking in California. 

Yes, of course, I said, her choices are perfect: 
the donkey is the body, and the butterfly is the spirit.

Godspeed, I say, and thanks for my life.

My father's left hand, and my right, 2009: 


ArtSparker said...

My father Insisted on watching CNN up to a couple of days before he died.

Your sister will have to deal with not being able to be a caretaker afterwards, this is very hard (my father's biggest issue after my mother died was not having her man needs to take care of).

poodletail said...

thank you for writing about your father, fresca.

Michael Leddy said...

I know this sort of news has been coming for a long time now, but I doubt that makes it easier. I'm sending good thoughts to you and your sister and your father.

Anonymous said...

A very hard time for you and your sister, but a wonderful thing that you had a long conversation. The death of our Dad, my dealing with his estate, my mothers ill health and my brother taking care of that has brought us two together. An unexpected joy for us in our 60s. It is the the childhood items I have kept, a cow bell used to summons us home from the fields is my most treasured momento. I also kept documents and photos to illustrate their lives. I am currently sorting things to create a This is your life book of Mum. That way I select a few things and don't get bogged down with clutter. How good that your Dad likes your laugh and your thriftiness, that means he really appreciates you. xx

Fresca said...

Thank you, everyone: I appreciate you writing.

CATHY: The cow bell!