For the longest time I said I was ready when it happened. It wouldn’t hit me. I was prepared for it. I honestly believed that. Even when I look back and want to yell at my younger self for being a neglectful son and not taking more time or trying to establish better ties with my dad, I think I’d still see a young man prepared for the fact that he’d be without a father before he hit 40 years old.
My mother had lost her father before she was 30. Grandpa Saperstein died of a brain aneurysm while giving a speech to a group of colleagues. He was dead immediately.
My father’s dad died shortly after I was born. He was in his 70's. My father was almost 39 at the time.
With that subconsciously in my mind and my father diagnosed with Parkinson’s since I was younger than 10, I really felt prepared. Yet, I still feel regret and I realize that I wasn’t ready, in the least.
In 2003, when my father went into have a kidney removed because of cancer, he seemed so spirited and alive, that my exuberant younger brain felt it’d be okay if I avoided the hospital as much as I could and focused on my life, only visiting on the day of surgery so there would be someone there for him while my mother earned money for the house. I wish I visited him more though. I wish I took advantage of the chance that on possible last ropes we could've truly talked... and I wish that it would've been a wake up for me in the years after to try and get life lessons from him.
My father was always a very private and quiet man. Neither my mother nor I know much of anything about his life prior to meeting mom. We know the particulars about his childhood, going to SVA, dropping out, living with an alcoholic girlfriend for 8 years, moving to California, moving back to NYC, but the details, the lessons, the things he could pass on to me? I never learned any of it. I never pushed for it, because even though I was prepared for him to one day pass and soon, I still always felt I had time. I had till 40 at least.
When he went into the hospital earlier this year I was scared, but I visited him and he seemed fine. Everything was going to be okay and he came home and all was well. It was just a mild scare. Everything would be okay... I still had time.
Until a few months later when he got put in again. This time it was serious, he had tubes, a breathing apparatus. It was really hard to see. I did though and I struggled have a true conversation with him. While all the signs were there that we could be nearing the end, he still seemed strong and even said
“I'm not going to die”.
It was a strong statement, one he really seemed to believe. I felt well in the fact that it was true, that I still had some time with him. He gave me other words of advice at the time, some of it I struggled to understand and the last bit I am still unsure upon, but most of what he said came through loud and clear and I'm working on it everyday. I had no way of knowing it would be the last time I would be able to get any advice from him.
The next day I had planned to visit again, but mother had told me he was asleep all day and was being moved into hospice care the next day. Once again I felt, while time would be short, I still had time.
Then on September 11th, 2008 I was in a meeting with my boss. We keep our meetings casual, so all our cellphones are on during them and we're free to answer just in case. We're having a regular work conversation, just going over certain new protocols and reports we wanted to get started.
The phone rings, a number I don't recognize. I always answer my cell though, just in case. The voice on the other end was very hard to understand, a thick Indian accent stating without any apology that my father had expired. Confused I walked out of the office and into an empty one. I asked him to repeat himself, completely not believing what I had heard and when he did I dropped the phone and crashed. I went back into my bosses' office and let them know I'd have to be going for the day and rushed to the hospital.
Every day since I realized how unprepared I was for this. Yet, as unprepared I've been able to be a rock for my mom, but in quiet moments alone I still find myself breaking down.
It amazes me that as much as someone can try to brace for impact, it doesn't mean you won't come crashing hard, breaking inside and taking a long time to recover.
You will recover though, but you just won't be prepared for it either, how can you be? Luckily I have a recovery team in place, helping me every day with what I might need. While it's not everything I could hope, and I was quite a bit unprepared for that as well, it's strong enough and loving enough to support me when I can't support myself.