My father was placed in a wall today. Or rather, an urn carrying the “cremains” of my father was placed in a wall today.
I’m angry. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m in the Anger stage of my grieving process, moving towards Depression and eventually Acceptance. Actually, I might actually be straddling all three stages right now. If you don’t want to hear about it, click the little box that says “Next Blog”. This is my therapy, and you’re welcome to get up and leave.
I didn’t speak at the memorial service. I could have. And I probably should have. All of the eulogizers (eulogists?) were eloquent and poignant and semi-composed. I would have seemed a raving lunatic next to them, ranting and pounding the podium. And I would have been venting my emotions and feelings to a bunch of people who barely knew me. I just wasn’t comfortable with that scenario.
Some background: I am a training manager, and I’ve been speaking in front of groups, large and small, for much of the last fifteen years. My style is more John Madden than college professor. I pace when I speak, I use humor frequently and inappropriately for rhetorical impact, I pound on tables, throw pens, and stand on chairs. More background: I’m Japanese-American and my family is really set on traditional Japanese stoicism. So I really didn’t feel my normal speech pattern would be welcome at my dad’s funeral. And I didn’t feel I could deliver a proper eulogy without it. Nor would my dad want me to stand up there and be a talking head. He deserved more. So I sat.
Dad was one of those “cool dads” who swore and played cards and ball with my friends. I was lucky. He helped coach my baseball teams, we played in golf leagues together, we bowled in the same leagues, we played cards (poker and bridge) with my friends and a couple of other dads, we watched the Giants, 49ers, and Warriors together. All of our time together centered around sports and games. And we always had a good time. He was younger than most of the other dads. He was only 22 years old when I was born, so he was able to dominate me in most sports until I was in my 20’s.
All my friends thought he was great, mainly because he would burp and fart and swear whenever they were around… actually he did it whether they were there or not. He was the kind of guy who would flirt with every waitress, secretary, stewardess, or checkout girl. And he would double the flirting if the girl was homely, probably because they enjoyed it more. Maybe he was doing it just to make their day, I never asked him. He was loud and boisterous and politically incorrect to the nth degree. But nobody ever seemed to take offense, maybe because none was intended. He just WAS.
He also yelled a lot. At me, at my mom, at the dog. My older sister seemed exempt from the yelling, which led to a lot of rebellion on my part, which led to more yelling. He taught me to swear (which I’ve picked up expertly), to spit (ditto), to project my voice across three blocks, to grit my teeth when yelling at someone up close. I was his greatest disappointment. See, at a young age (five or six), I was tested out to be a genius. I was skipped past first grade and was taking sixth grade math classes at age seven. He equated that standardized test score with unlimited potential and expected me to rule the world by adulthood, forgetting about one big thing… I didn’t want to. This started a long dispute over my seeming lack of ambition and his expectations for me, which weren’t smoothed out until Trevor was born and my dad realized that I just wanted to be a dad. Just. Like. Him.
I don’t even know if his mind was there at the end. That’s one of the insidious things about dementia; you never know if the person is still there. His body failed, and we’ll never know whether his mind was still railing against his fading lungs, trying to speak, desperately trying to find a way to communicate with us. Or if his mind had slowly faded days or weeks earlier, leaving behind a crumbling body for us to try and beat back into life. I do know that the last word I heard him say was my daughter’s name. It was his birthday, October 8th, and he was paralyzed from the Haldol and various other drugs and couldn’t even stand. His eyes were unable to focus and I don’t know whether he heard us enter. I leaned over him and told him “Trevor and Brianne are here to see you, Dad.”
He stirred slightly, still unable to move, and haltingly whispered “Bri… anne.” That was the last thing I heard him say. Someday, I’ll tell her that. Right now, she’s only ten, and I don’t know if she’s ready to hear that.
My eyes are so filled with tears right now, I can barely see the screen.
He died a week later.