The Organizer

That’s what I am.

It’s now a week since my brother made an awful international call saying dad had gone down and probably wasn’t going to come up again.

My first thoughts through a veil of tears were:  Oh God, what will I do without my father; who will fix things for me now.   Even though he hasn’t “fixed”  anything for me in a long time, I’ve been calling him once a week for ages – sometimes the calls would go 40 minutes and sometimes only 5, depending on how well he was, but each call was precious to both of us.

Swatting away the tears I got my grown-up gear on and scrambled to get flights, booked a rental car and arranged travel insurance.  Important things like passport, Australian sim card (for mobile phone) and credit card went into my handbag along with some Aussie dollars I keep on hand.  Then I selected one sombre outfit and laid it with care in the bottom of my suitcase.  I stood back and thought “I need more than that” …..  Upon arrival I found I’d packed 17 pairs of panties, one bra, 2 skirts and 3 tops.   For some bizarre reason I also packed 4 pairs of shoes.   I had no laptop and no manservant.  It’s the first time I’ve flown without getting an email or message from dad telling me he was sending a fairy to sit on my shoulder to keep me safe  – he used to call it the “love fairy”.   I think she flew with me anyway.

I arrived on Tuesday –  it was more than 40 hours since I’d last showered (a working week!)  but my teeth were clean.  It was another 3 hour drive from the airport to the nursing home.  I’d rung before leaving San Francisco – “no change”  – but then there was phone silence for about 16 hours and one’s mind can be very cruel during all those hours.

As soon as I could in Sydney I’d rung again –  “no change” .  Then it occurred to me that they might be lying to me because they wouldn’t want me sobbing as I drove for 3 hours. God, I was tired  –  the last sleep I’d had was Friday night and the last food was a slice of pizza on Saturday evening.   As I drove away from the airport I did wonder how I was going to stay on the road for 3 hours …. those Stop:Revive:Survive  stations suddenly looked very attractive.

Dad knew who was with him as he became a little more alert during Wednesday but by Friday breakfast Max was gone. His nightshift girls stood around his bed in tears and told me what a wonderful father I’d had and how he’d taught them a lot of things about how nursing should be done.

Then the phone calls had to be made.  I got better at it as I went along though that probably meant I also become more robotic.

Mum and I were sitting here with glasses of red wine when a neighbour popped in.   It was after 10am somewhere in the world.

After Jane arrived we went to the supermarket – it was weird to be strolling around selecting what we’d have for lunch –  we bought smoked salmon, avocados, tzatziki, turkey, tabouli, and a very big box of tissues.   It almost annoyed me that everyone looked so happy – didn’t they know that the best father ever had just left.

The checkout lady said “good morning, how are you?’   by rote you answer “good thanks”  though really you want to say “well, actually I’m feeling really crappy because my father died a couple of hours ago”.

It helps that they live in a seaside village – red eyes are not abnormal.

After lunch it was back to just mum & I  – mum gave me what she calls her “memorial book” (as most of the contacts in it have died)  and asked me to go through ringing more people.   I also called the solicitor (lawyer) and the funeral director who said that the limo had just picked dad up.  (well, she didn’t actually say “limo” but I like to think he was taken out in style even though I suspect he was not).

I had to go through dad’s precious tin chests looking for papers needed for the funeral home;  I had to go back to the nursing home to pick up what we thought he’d like to wear for his send off.

I thought I was having a heart attack through Friday night  –  I sat up and raised my arms above my head (I’d read that somewhere) wishing the tightness away and wondering if I should go and press mum’s medic alert.  I thought how awful it would be for her to find me like that but then wondered if they’d stick me in the same casket as dad.   The mind is a strange thing.

Yesterday the funeral director came with the little photo album of caskets etc.  I wonder if they’re trained to have those softly modulated voices.  The family sat in a circle with her and chose what we thought he’d like.

After selecting the casket (majority ruled on that one) she asked:  how many handles?   Oh – something we hadn’t discussed – pall bearers.  Well, there are 6 grandsons so let’s go with that ….   a weird image popped into my head so I asked:   are adult coffins all the same size?   She explained that they tailor them to fit the deceased so dad’s would be on the small side.  “Oh, I said,  well we have 6 really burly pall bearers – I don’t think 3 of them will fit along the side of a small coffin” .   Everyone sort of laughed (probably uncomfortably) but this is really worrying me now  – I’m sure it will turn out on the day –  the manservant says I just “like to find things to worry about”.

I’ve spoken to the caterer about the sandwiches and tea for the “after refreshments” –  after getting all the prices and options on those my brother asked “how many slices of bread do we get – like, do I get two triangles or four?”    And yes, I did call back to ask – he will get an entire sandwich if he wishes.  It’s going to be difficult catering for the right number – given he was 80 there are not many old buddies still around or capable of driving.   There are 22 family so I will tell them they can’t eat if it looks like food’s getting short  LOL….   actually I did ask what happens if we cater for 30 and 50 turn up and she said they just cut things in half.    I don’t want things to look as though we’re being scabby but equally how sad it would look to cater for 50 and only have 25 show up.

Tomorrow the celebrant comes to talk about the order of the service.  She will want to know what music we want (3 pieces) and needs photos for the programe guide.   Last night mum and I looked at photos she had while Jane emailed me back and forth with some photos and a little presentation her son is going to give at the service.   We selected two photos.  I think we’re going to argue over the music……

As we were going to bed last night mum said:  “you’re just like your father you know.   He was a great organizer.  When he saw that something needed to be done he would just dig in and do it”   I hope I’m as tough as dad too.



33 responses

  1. My Dad passed 18 years ago. I hadn’t turned 40 yet. I miss him to this very day. Please know that I will keep you and your family in my prayers. You and Jane have my sincerest sympathy.

  2. That is so sweet about the ‘love fairy’! You are so lucky to have such a wonderful family and such a great dad. It makes it harder when he’s gone but it’s a comfort knowing how lucky you are, how well-loved he was, how much he loved his family, how well-respected he was, and what a tough guy he was to the very end. My thoughts are with you. Rest in peace, Max. You earned it.
    (what is this salty discharge coming from my eyes?!)
    (and I’m glad you packed enough underwear.)
    Take care, Emjay.

  3. I think your dad would probably laugh at the fuss over the caterers and pallbearers, but those things seem to grow in importance after a death. You want it to go right, even if your loved one was not big on ceremonies or religion or even tea and sandwiches. Your father would also be proud of your ability to carry it all off with red eyes. Pack lots of tissues in your bag for the funeral, and keep a crate of wine for afterwards. ((Hugs)) for you and Jane and all your family. My heart is with you in Australia.

  4. Dear Emjay,what happened is very sad … despite your Dad was so ill and prisoner in his poor body as Jane wrote on Friday … He yearned to leave and for sure he did’not want to go before you come back near him … He waited for you …I offer you my condolences. Many loves for you and your all family.

  5. Emjay, My Dad died just over 2 years ago, he was my best friend, the person I confided in constantly ~ I miss him so much. My prayers are with you and Jane and your Mother, there always has to be someone who is strong it looks like it’s fallen on your shoulders lean on me if you want added support.

  6. What a strange and Sad blessing that you are able to be the one to dig in and get things done. And that you were able to be there with him for his transition. I’m so sorry you have lost your Dad and that you have this pain for now. I wish you much comfort. (Be careful with the 17 pairs of panties!)

  7. My condolences too on your loss. Funny, but it seems within any group of siblings, there one who’s the alpha child, the organizer. I too have had to pack for travel, a dark suit in the knowledge that the relative I was going to see wouldn’t be around for much longer. Very surreal that.

  8. (((hugs))) I’m so sorry, Emjay. Sometimes the numbness comes in handy. So surreal that the world rolls along, oblivious to the loss of one so special and you have to float through that somehow. Warm hugs and soft thoughts from this piece of the planet. My world is changed even if the rest can’t tell.

  9. My heart is heavy for you and for your family. But, your dad’s love fairy is still and will always be sitting on your shoulder. And you are tough. To be able to laugh, although your heart is broken, and to carry on and make the decisions…even to be able to look out at the world and say “how can all of you people be smiling?” these are all signs of great toughness and bless your dad for handing them on to you. I am so happy that you had such a dad as you did and so sorry he is gone from here. Big hugs and many peaceful thoughts coming to you and the whole family.

  10. I am so sorry to hear this. Your dad sounded like a great guy who was a father to a fabulous woman – you. Since I’m also the doer/organizer/strong one in my family, I hope you’ll find some quite time alone to let your emotions out. I’ve long since found out how important that is.

    Hugs from the US.


  11. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss Emjay – wishing you peace and serenity to help you through the next few days. xx

    We’re the same you know; just roll up our sleeves and get on with it – it’s our way of coping. Take time to rest and reflect when the things you have to do are done and you can take a breath – your father has gone on to a better place, with no pain or suffering, and he will be watching out for you. (((hugs)))

  12. Oh, my dear friend, I am so sorry for this to happen. You are such a lovely person and I send faeries from the UK to sit on your shoulder. You as always being a bit of humour and the panties part is cute. I look forward to your post when you can share things about your dad with us and hope that writing it will make you smile.

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