Another Hard Good-Bye

I know I've been MIA from her for a long, long time.... Part of it is because I have been insanely busy at work, and that has meant that I've wanted to avoid my computer at home at all costs.  Part of it is because I've been trying to be healthy again, after yet another hiatus, and that means that the time I used to spend blogging is now spent on the treadmill.

And part of it is because I couldn't write a happy-go-lucky-look-at-the-cute-baby blog post without writing this one first... and this one has been so hard to write, that even just thinking about would bring tears to my eyes and a horrible, huge, painful lump in my throat that I can't seem to swallow away, that I just kept putting it off....


DH's dad passed away on March 5, 2013.

A Tuesday night... a mere 19 months after his mom's passing.  His dad's death was so fast, and in many ways so unexpected, that I wasn't able to properly prepare and process in the way that an ISTJ personality (don't know what that means? Read more about it/me here) needs to process in order to truly accept something as fact.

On February 2nd we attended DH's dad's surprise 80th birthday party.  My goodness... what thought and planning went into that event. His family went so out of their way, so above and beyond, to create a truly thoughtful and meaningful birthday that they knew their dad would appreciate, that it makes me cry just thinking about it. DH spent hours and hours and hours - in a way that I believe only he can do - to create a slide show of his dad's entire life, with captivating animation, songs that were evaluated for the level of meaning and emotion they evoked, and - because he always has to outdo himself - an intro clip with the look and sound of the 20th Century Fox movie introduction, but with the words "80th Birthday Dad" instead.  My god, could DH be more thoughtful?

That party was incredible.  His family invited everyone and anyone who had ever played a role in his dad's life - family, current friends, colleagues, even college friends.  And the crazy thing? EVERYONE came.  There were so many people there.. people drove from far distances, on a snowy Saturday night to be there. That's how much he impacted their lives.

My greatest regret? I didn't get to spend enough time appreciating the details, watching his dad enjoy this party thrown in his honor, or even interacting with him much at all. After all, I was chasing around an 18 month toddler who just looooved going up and down the 3 stairs that separated the upper level of the banquet room to the lower level.

And after all, I didn't want to take away any of the time that he could spend catching up with some of his long-lost friends... after all, I would have plenty of time to spend with him in the coming days, weeks, months, years, right?

But it turns out that wasn't to be.  In fact, that weekend was the last time that I saw DH's dad, and it breaks my heart to say that... to realize that... especially when I think about how distracted I was that entire weekend with EH there.

We all knew that DH's dad had cancer, and even though it clearly tired him out, and was causing him to lose incredible amounts of weight, he was fighting it, and he was definitely fooling us.  He looked great and he always put on a happy face when we were around. It was remarkable. As far as I was concerned, he was acting exactly how I expected an 80 year old man to behave, in perfect health or not...

After a few week of a trial study drug that didn't seem to be helping, he switched to something new, and the results seemed to be rather remarkable - all of his test results started showing improvements, and he went from needing to have regular blood transfusions to need to feeling all around improved.  So much so that he and his wife went away that first weekend of March to a bed and breakfast weekend that was a gift from all of his many children from Christmas of 2011. 

That following Monday - March 4th - we received an email from his wife that he had started feeling bad over the weekend, and that she would be taking him to see his doctor the next day for evaluation. 

That next day, March 5th, we all received an email around 4:30 p.m. saying something to the effect of "he's been admitted to the hospital, with pneumonia, and an infection.. the next 24 hours are critical." 

I had a weird, bad feeling in my gut.  I talked to DH a few moment later, who had instantly decided that it was important for him to leave ASAP and I agreed totally.  The only question was whether or not I should join him. There were the obvious logistical challenges, of packing, and packing for a baby on top of that, and traveling with a baby, etc, etc... and ultimately - although I felt so strongly, more strongly than I can even explain that I should go too- it was decided that DH leave by himself, the moment I arrived home.  I ended up leaving work late, feeling that it was necessary to get some things wrapped up in case I was going to be out, and I arrived home about 30 minutes later than usual.  DH left instantly, already packed up, still in his clothes from work, and EH and I went about our night.

Around 9:30, as I was getting ready for bed, I talked to DH on the phone.  He was about 45 minutes away, and even though his brother felt that things were improving with his dad, the doctor's warned them not to be too optimistic.  Around 9:45 - a mere 15 minutes later - my phone rang again, and with a lump in my throat so thick I could barely say "hello," DH told me that his dad had died. 


It happened that fast.


The things you don't always think about with cancer and chemo drugs?  The way that those drugs can destroy your immune system, making even the most common virus a deadly infection.  Because really, when you're battling something as scary and enormous as cancer, who would want to think about the little things anyway?

I believe in gut instincts. I believe in first impressions.  Even if there is nothing there to validate them on, and I believe - quite firmly - that when I have a "feeling," it is often right.  I often wish - in fast, more often than not I often wish - that I was wrong.  This was so one of those times.  I had such a bad feeling about that 4:30 p.m. email. So much so that I wrapped up everything I could at work and told my boss that I might need to be out for a few days, at a critically busy time when - quite honestly - being off of the office wasn't acceptable.

Anyway, I got off of the phone with DH fairly quickly.  What could I possibly say?  What could I do to help take away that pain?  I knew - from cold, hard experience - that there really wasn't anything, I could say or do think or ask for that would help or make it any easier.

So I hung up the phone and sobbed. 

Some of the sobbing was for me - I loved DH's dad and I was sooo.. oh so sad that he was gone. I wasn't ready for it, and an ISTJ likes to be prepared.  An ISTJ does NOT like to be caught off guard, gut feeling or not.  Some of it was because of guilt - if I hadn't stayed at worked late to wrap things up, DH might have gotten there in time to say good-bye....

Some of it was for his dad's wife, who I know was not ready for this day yet either.  She is an eternal realistic but also an optimist, and a fighter to the core - and the hell to anyone who thought this wasn't a battle they couldn't beat together. 

But more so than anything else, my sadness was for DH.

How unfair is it that someone in their early thirties should have to go through the death of both of his parents within the span of 19 months?  How does someone - who has barely gotten over the death of his mom - suddenly deal with the death of his dad as well?

I won't even pretend to understand.  I have two healthy parents and it will likely be decades until I myself have to go through what he is going through now.

For me there are a thousands things that make me sad when I think about this loss, but there are two things that really sting, that really stab at me whenever I think about them....

The first is that is just happened way. too. fast.  I wasn't expecting it, I wasn't prepared, and I think - even  now - I still haven't fully processed. After spending months and months watching DH's mom slowly fade away, fighting as hard as she could but finally succumbing, I thought we would have that sort of warning - or least ANY sort of warning - with his dad. I thought and hoped that this would just be one of those "false alarms."

The second thing that breaks my heart is that even though EH got to know and meet DH's dad, he will not remember him other than through photographs or videos. And vice versa - DH's dad got to meet EH, but he won't get a chance to see all of the amazing things that he is going to become.  That just breaks me into a million pieces. 

We're talking about man who was born in the 1930's, had 6 children of his own and - at the time of his death - 8 (I think) grandchildren, and even so, I was always amazed by how much he loved his grand kids, and how comfortable he was holding them, even when they were teeny tiny babies.

The pictures that we have of EH and his Grandpa will be something that I will cherish forever, and I hope that DH and I are able to help EH know and love the multiple family members that he lost before he was even old enough to realize it...

In loving memory.... EH with his Grandpa

Some of the amazing things published about DH's dad after his death (I'm not sure how long these links will remain active, so I apologize if they're no longer working when you try them):
- Obituary (an incredibly impressive one, at that)
- A feature story, with interviews from his family
- "Our Take: White Roses and Thorns" - "ROSES: Posthumously, to Charles Hartman for his contributions to highway safety. The Lower Chanceford Township man died March 5 at 80."


EH is a full blown toddler these days, always moving, always into something unless he's sleeping or eating.  So much so that it's nearly impossible to photograph him without some degree of blur, even when I use my DSLR.  Getting pictures with my phone camera - which has a shudder speed of about 4 seconds - is completely and utterly impossible these days. Totally out of the question.

But sometimes, when  we're playing outside, it's bright enough out that I can set my shutter speed to something like 1/1250 of a second, which seems to be the necessary speed to catch a toddler in motion.  

"Outside" is a word we can't say too loudly in our house.  EH loves being outside, but it's been so cold and snowy lately that even when bundled up, his cheeks get so red and chapped and his nose runs so much that we try to avoid outside unless it's reasonable above freezing.  I can see why stay at home moms start to get stir crazy in the winter - there's only so much you can do with a 28 pound ball of energy indoors. 

So, occasionally we do decide to put in the time to bundle up and go outside.  Even though we can never tell for sure when we're outside whether or not EH is actually enjoying himself, the meltdown that takes place when we decide it's time to go back in tells me that he likes it. 

EH's snow suit was purchased for $2 by my mom at Goodwill.  It still had the tags on it.  It's slightly small on him but for as much as we go outside, it was the perfect price, and the perfect suit.  Don't spend $50 on a snow suit for your toddler - for as much as he's going to wear it, get something used that is much, much cheaper.  

Same with snow toys like sleds.  EH doesn't actually seem to enjoy sledding.  He would much rather follow his daddy down the steep gravel driveway and then walk back up it, than go sledding.  

We are all looking forward to the spring... warmer weather means more outside time with less layers.  It means getting ready for this years garden, and EH has already been in training for gardening season, practicing with his wheelbarrow.  I can't wait until he can do so without needing 10 different layers on to do so.  

Come on spring!