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.