Approaching the anniversary of my father's death has me feeling like I haven't done "my work." Having come from a Social Work family, you would think I had enough loss and grieving charts and books to sail right through this process of dealing with the loss of my favorite handyman.
However, I am writing today to try and sort out what comes next. I don't feel guilty because I mended past issues with my dad when he was still here, but I guess I feel a little jipped. I guess that is natural, but being in the "jipped" mind frame really doesn't get you anywhere productive. A valuable place to visit when you need to feel pity, but an awful place to live.
I mostly like to remember the good times, the bonding moments. My brother was never real interested in talking shop about cars and home improvement, so daddy's rough and tough stepped up. I knew more about car models and the years they were built than any little girl should know, but it is the way I connected with him when I was young. As I got older, I bonded over home improvement projects. And it all started when I bought my first condo, and it was in dire need of a face lift!
My dad and I laughed a lot (humor always got us through the rough stuff), and we continued to plug along on my laundry list of improvements. I learned a ton in that few months. He started to complain about his back, and he seemed to be quickly fatigued during our project days, so I told him to rest a lot. However, nothing more came from that other than a couple doctors visits and pain killers.
I became engaged within the next year. My husband had asked him for his blessing and his reply was "Jill hasn't asked me for permission to do anything since she was ten," which was evidence of our relationship before it was mended. But both he and my mother walked me down the aisle later that year, which was very special since they had divorced 5 years previous.
After the wedding, my dad moved 500 miles away. He retired, bought a restaurant with his new wife, and built a house. Then they discovered in a CAT scan that he had a tumor that embodied his pancreas, which was pressing against his spine. A few short months later (on my birthday), they diagnosed him with terminal precreatic cancer, which had spread to his liver. He traveled back to the area to receive chemo treatments every week, but he was losing weight rapidly.
I know that he understood his chances weren't good, and by Christmas he may be either in the hospital or dead. He was a proud man, and I knew he wanted to die with some dignity left. So I started to deal with the loss (reluctantly).
Although I wanted him to remain hopeful, I didn't have much hope in the situation. But how do you face your father, who is 48, and explain to him that you don't have much hope? You don't! I remained loving and supportive, remembering to always tell him how important he was and how much I loved him.
The kicker is that he died in a tractor accident before his 5th chemo treatment. He was so proud of his little beater tractor, showing me pictures of his treasured find. He was clearing a lot for a shed, and he caught a small tree with the log he was pulling. It ended up hitting him across the shoulder and snapping his neck, throwing him from the tractor.
I like to think he died instantly, not knowing what happened--lights out, before he even had a chance to think "that's it." It was a blessing in disguise. He died on his land, doing what he loved to do, while preserving every last ounce of dignity he had left.
I am glad I don't have the ever-lasting hospital memories to share, that has probably helped me more than I will ever know. So my story is a one of bitter sweet conclusion.
I feel I had time to prepare, yet only 5 weeks after he was terminal, he was just "gone." And I know he's not gone because he is with me every day. He still talks me through a ton of projects now that my husband and I are homeowners. But I wear the tool belt now!
After feeling sad these last couple of days because my dad isn't here to call up on the phone, I wanted to concentrate on the positive memories.
So even though I feel "jipped" some times, I also feel very fortunate to have had my dad touch my heart so deeply. I miss him very much, and it isn't without sadness that I write my story.
The phrase, "you have some good days and you have some bad days," is true. I just always like to turn my bad days good when I can. It's just hard to know what direction to head in when your bad days just don't want to get better. So honor the process and remember there is no time limit to grieving.
Always hold your loved ones dear to your heart, and remember to cherish every moment (even though it is hard to do some times).
Thanks for reading my story, I can only hope it helped others to sort through the positives and negatives of their loss.
Ode to the Handyman!
I love you, dad!
Love, Jilly Putty